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JEAN SHEPHERD — KENNEDY assassination Part 1

jfk-assassination-two-new-york-newspapers-11-23-63_290494559026

N O V E M B E R  1963

coffin in rotunda

A close friend and I took a train from New York to Washington

and stood in line overnight to walk past

Kennedy’s coffin in the Capital Rotunda.

jfk jr.

JFK Jr. saluting his father’s coffin.

___________________________

Then my friend and I stood on the side of the street and watched

with  thousands of others

as the Kennedy family and foreign dignitaries

slowly walked by in tribute.

Afterward, the public then dispersing,

I removed one of the no-parking signs

from a street-pole along the route.

I have had it

hanging in my workroom for 50 years.

no parking 11.25.1963

_________________________________________

Shepherd’s style the week after the assassination was not typical in that, instead of his usual engaging in an apparent,  informal dialog with listeners, he spoke as though delivering a heartfelt lecture. He suggested that the recent ferment of student unrest, the civil disobedience, demonstrations and riots in the streets, with the America-bashing of those days, probably contributed to the atmosphere that led to Kennedy’s killing. He commented that there was a trend of righteousness in the country, “a super, hyper-thyroid Holden Caulfield.” Shepherd admitted the problems in America, but said that other countries had more problems. He recognized that America was not living up to its ideals.

His somber tone that week was underscored by his comment that he did not play his usual, pompous, musical theme music at the program’s beginnings and endings.

________________________

During the eulogy is one of the rare times

that Jean Shepherd is known

to have expressed in public, a political notion.

Stay tuned.

________________________

JFK photo

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

________________________

Yes, it has been fifty years.

I still can’t think about it or see documentary footage of it

without my eyes welling up with tears.

I can’t watch that footage–I have to turn it off.

__________________

As the 50th anniversary of the assassination approaches, increased interest takes place in the media. I was interviewed by an NPR station regarding Shepherd’s broadcasts about the event.

Here is the information about part of the interview (heard in the SEG2 portion 3:02-5:40), and the entire Jean Shepherd eulogy about Kennedy. The  info also includes the schedule for the live streaming of the interview that will occur on 11/25. The last line has the Internet address for the  Shep eulogy. Below is the info from the broadcaster, Mike Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio News :

<The Jean Shepherd JFK show is in the can and ready to air at noon CT on Monday Nov. 25 on Minnesota Public Radio’s news station. You can stream it here when it airs: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/radio/services/nis/listen/live/ It’ll also be archived here: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/radio/programs/mpr_presents/

 I also produced a national version for other stations to air, but so far nobody has picked it up. You can hear that here:

http://www.prx.org/pieces/105637-jean-shepherd-remembers-jfk  >

_____________________________________________________________________

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6 Comments

  1. Frank in NC says:

    The comment about Shep noticing the grave digger is fascinating. He anticipated Jimmy Breslin’s famous gravedigger column (http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/digging-grave-an-honor.htm) that didn’t appear until the following morning.

    • ebbergmann says:

      Thank you for this. I was unaware of it. Breslin has somewhat the sort of recognizing-the-common-man’s-view that is not too dissimilar to Shep’s.

      I quote from Shep’s eulogy regarding the gravediggers in PART 4 (to come) of this series on Shep and JFK.

      • Frank in NC says:

        I believe that the Breslin gravedigger column is still cited in journalism schools as a way of pointing out how to take a different angle on a story. Breslin is also a funny writer at times as in “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” However, he was someone that Shep seemed to disdain, like many of his peers. On some later shows Breslin’s voice is on advertisements for one of his books or maybe his columns and Shep would make fun of his accent and mannerisms.

  2. Shepherd’s comments about the political polarization in America are prescient. He said “I get the feeling that the liberals and the right wingers just read the headlines, except they read them from different newspapers. And nope of them read the story.” How true that is today. I also think his perception of Kennedy as a “realist” is a view I did not appreciate, but now see as true. Shepherd observed that Americans were laying the responsibility for everything that happened at the feet of the President, as though we did not have a democracy that limited his ability to do what he or they wanted. There are few commentators or talking heads today that come even close to the clarity and insight that he brought to this monologue. Remarkable.

  3. I too cried when watching a documentary earlier this week and the killing was reported and shown. The hurt I felt then is still inside me, though I have no idea why. I was 23 years old, newly married and beginning my adventure into the “adult” world.

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