Thousands turn out to honour John F. Kennedy
CBC's Washington correspondent Knowlton Nash files a report as the president's funeral cortege travels from the White House to the U.S. Capitol Building. Thousands line the streets to see the procession, and more queue to pay their respects where Kennedy will lie in state tonight. An emotional eyewitness also describes seeing Kennedy shot twice. "The shot rang out and he slumped down in his seat...and the second shot went off and it just knocked him down."
• Kennedy's political career began in 1946 when he was elected to the first of three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. He became a senator in 1952 and almost won the nomination for vice president in 1956.
• Kennedy wrote two well-received books before becoming president. Why England Slept, an examination of why the United Kingdom was vulnerable before the Second World War, was based on his university thesis and published in 1940. Profiles in Courage was written while Kennedy recuperated from back surgery in 1955 and garnered him the 1957 Pulitzer Prize in biography.
• The news of Kennedy's death came as Canada's House of Commons was sitting for its afternoon session. Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson made an announcement that the president had been shot before receiving a message from a parliamentary page. Pearson said: "I was about to add that with this sympathy went our fervent hope and prayers for his recovery. But I have just received the message that President Kennedy died at 1 p.m."
• Pearson went on: "Heartbreaking tragedy has occurred. The world can ill afford at this time in our history to lose a man of his courage, which he displayed in war and peace; it can ill afford to lose a man of his wisdom; his determination to advance the cause of freedom in his own country and in the world."
• The Commons adjourned early to mourn Kennedy's death, and Pearson paid tribute to Kennedy in a live television address later that night.
• Flags at public and government buildings in Ottawa flew at half-mast in the days following the assassination.
• The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa opened its doors to visitors who wished to sign a book of condolences. Governor-General George Vanier and Prime Minister Pearson paid a visit to the embassy.
• Vanier also sent a note to the new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, conveying "on behalf of the Canadian people a message of friendship, goodwill, and confidence."
• The leaders of 92 nations attended Kennedy's funeral service on Nov. 25, 1963. One million people lined the route from the U.S. Capitol Building to St. Matthew's Cathedral where a requiem mass was held. Millions more watched on television.
• Prime Minister Pearson, his wife and external affairs minister Paul Martin Sr. attended the funeral on behalf of Canada.
• Canadians of all kinds reacted to the news of Kennedy's death with shock and sadness. John Latremouille, interviewed on the street by the Toronto Star, said: "I was thunderstruck. He had the love and admiration of all Canadians. He was one man who stood up to Khrushchev in the Cuban crisis. He was a square shooter and stood ace-high with me."
• One week after Kennedy's assassination, President Johnson ordered a commission, headed by Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, to investigate Kennedy's assassination. Its report, filed ten months later, said Oswald was a lone gunman and that there had been no conspiracy to kill Kennedy.
• Conspiracy theories continued to circulate. In 1979 a House committee on assassinations concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald had likely been part of a conspiracy that also included elements of organized crime.
Program: CBC Radio News Special
Broadcast Date: Nov. 24, 1963
Host: Bruce Rogers, Lamont Tilden
Reporter: Knowlton Nash
Photo: Duncan Cameron/National Archives of Canada/PA-154665
Last updated: November 25, 2013
Page consulted on December 6, 2013
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