Many things remain after assassination

Published 12:07am Friday, November 22, 2013

“That day changed our lives forever,” my mother said on the phone.

For my generation, that may best describe the tragic events of Sept. 11, but for my parent’s generation those words also describe Nov. 22, 1963 — the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

The Natchez Democrat, the next morning, devoted almost its entire front page to the horrible events of that day, which, not unlike 9/11, started as a beautiful sunny day and ended in tragedy.

And like 9/11, Kennedy’s assassination is a day that left an indelible mark in the memories of most living Americans.

As it happened in the days after the World Trade Center buildings collapsed in Manhattan, America joined together in grief and patriotism as LBJ was sworn in and JFK was buried at Arlington.

But had the world truly changed? Maybe it did for a few days, months or even years.

A recent look at the headlines from the morning before JFK was shot shows that as much as we Americans said we desired true change, much remains the same fifty years after the horrific events in Dallas and 12 years after the Sept. 11 tragedy.

One might think Washington’s current squabbles over the debt ceiling are a recent obsession. The bold face type written across the Nov. 22, 1963, edition of The Democrat tells another story.

“JFK Gets Bill to Raise National Debt Ceiling to $315 Billion” read the top story’s headline of that morning’s paper. Like today, Republicans and Democrats were arguing about how much money the government could borrow before the very foundations of American government crumbled.

Now, the debt ceiling is more than 50 times higher than the limit agreed to in 1963, and politicians on both sides of the aisle are still making the same arguments.

That same front page also featured another article that might have be ripped from today’s headlines. With the headline “GOP says Kennedy Program in a Mess,” the article quoted Republican lawmakers as declaring the Kennedy presidency a failure and in complete shambles.

The Natchez Democrat editorial of the day warned that the federal government under Kennedy’s leadership was headed to nothing more than a “privileged aristocracy.”

It seems not much has changed in local attitudes when it comes to the federal government. A couple of pages into the front section, another article heralded the first reported cure of a leukemia case in the world.

Fifty years later doctors and scientists are still fighting leukemia and other forms of cancer.

Locally, the Natchez Chamber of Commerce retail division was asking storeowners to contribute money to buy the city new Christmas decorations.

The Christmas parade was  set for Dec. 3, The Natchez Democrat asked readers to donate to the Poor Children’s Christmas Tree and the women of Kingston Methodist Church were planning to have a cake sale downtown. The civilian workforce in Natchez rose to 20,230, the paper announced. Fifty years later the workforce has shrunk to 12,720.

As much as Americans vowed to change, it seems in many ways the country hasn’t. In many ways, things have changed greatly. But politicians still squabble, doctors still look for a cancer cure and local residents continue to prepare for Christmas.

The memories may be etched in our minds forever and we may see the Kennedy assassination and 9/11 as marking great social and political change, but the last 50 years are a reminder that as much as thing have changed many things remain the same.


Ben Hillyer is design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or