Exactly 50 years ago today, former Cullman mayor Don Green was just a young teacher leading another day of science classes at Cullman High School. That is, until his schedule was interrupted by news that U.S. President John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed in Texas.
“I still remember, I was walking from the gymnasium to the lunch room, when someone came up and told me that it happened,” the 78-year-old retired educator and mayor said. “Just like everyone else, I was in complete shock. It was hard to believe our president had been killed.”
It was Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, and Green said he and other teachers spent the rest of the day counseling students and trying to process the events of the day, which would live on in infamy a full half-century later.
“If I remember correctly, I think we tried to keep our routine as much as we could, and spent some time talking about it,” he said. “We talked about the things he had done and things we’d remember about him. Of course, some of the kids were shocked, as well as the adults.”
Fellow retired educator Andy “Coach” Page, 73, said he remembers sitting in a calculus class at Jacksonville State University as a student when news of Kennedy’s assassination broke.
“We were taking a test, and then the teacher came in, interrupted class and announced it,” he said. “They just dismissed us for the day then.”
After that, Page said he joined the rest of the nation in front of the television to follow the aftermath for the weekend.
“It was just everywhere at the time, and with it being a weekend, we watched as much as we could,” he said.
Current Holly Pond Mayor Herman Nail, 68, said he was working on a road crew paving Interstate 20 near the Coosa Bridge when he heard about the president’s death. He finished out his work day, then headed home to follow the news.
“That was my job at that time, and I was running a machine that had to heat up the tar,” he said. “While I was there, my boss came by an told me Kennedy had gotten shot. Once I got off, I went home and followed all about it.”
Though the nation mourned its president when Kennedy passed, retired Cullman attorney Tom Drake also mourned a friend. Drake was close friends with John’s brother Ted Kennedy, and said he was devastated to hear of J.F.K.’s death.
“I just remember it upset everybody I know, to hear it, and that’s the main thing I remember,” he said. “Everyone was in a deep sorrow and it really hurt me because his brother [Ted Kennedy] was a very good friend of mine. It was a sad, sad day.”
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 134.