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Nine People Whose Lives Were Shaped by JFK’s Assassination

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For a few people, Kennedy’s assassination was more than a story to tell – it profoundly impacted their lives.

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 was one of our nation’s most tragic moments. It also became a cultural touchstone that’s endured for decades. Those who were alive on that day can almost invariably remember the details of where they were and what they were doing when they heard the president had been shot. They tell the story when the subject comes up — maybe sharing memories with others old enough to remember the day, maybe passing it along to younger generations. 

For a few people, Kennedy’s assassination was more than a story to tell — it profoundly impacted their lives. These were the people who had bigger roles to play on the day of the president’s death and the days that followed. Some were in Kennedy’s motorcade; others were at the hospital to which he was rushed in an attempt to save his life; others were a part of his funeral service.  

Two prominent figures of those days died in 2019. Robert McClelland was a surgeon working at Parkland Memorial Hospital when Kennedy was shot. He was part of the surgical team that tried to save the president. And Jim Leavelle was a Dallas Police Department homicide detective who was escorting Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, when Oswald was fatally shot by Jack Ruby. 

There are other recently deceased people who played a part in those days who didn’t make headlines, but they did tell their stories often enough that those stories were included in their obituaries. Here are a few of them. 

Bill Flynn: "In 1948, Bill joined the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in Corsicana. He quickly advanced to management and was transferred to Dallas in 1952. In Dallas he rose to the rank of District Marketing and Accounts Manager. While working for the telephone company, Bill was often assigned to help coordinate communications for visiting officials. One of his assignments was to drive a car in the motorcade when President Kennedy visited Dallas in 1963. When the president was shot, Bill drove his passengers to the hospital and later drove the car onto the runway so they could board Air Force One." Read more 

Gerald Cashion: "Jerry, being a talented bagpiper, was awarded the opportunity to play for the United States Air Force bagpipe band. He traveled the entire country over his four years of service, playing for large crowds, as well as White House guests. …Jerry will always be remembered as one of the Pipers who played President John F. Kennedy’s funeral. Jerry was very proud and honored to be selected for such a historical event." Read more 

Betty Jarratt: "Betty decided to return to academic life, choosing to study the Dallas Police Force for her master's degree thesis. She also collaborated on a project to gather psychological profiles of such nationally prominent figures as Richard Nixon; and she began teaching to nurses at Parkland Hospital.  

While driving to work on Nov. 22, 1963, hers was the first car stopped by the Secret Service near Dealey Plaza, where Betty's hero, President Kennedy, had just been tragically shot. The next morning, she was sitting in the Irving, Texas, living room of Marina Oswald, sipping tea and beginning a psychological profile that would be cut short by the FBI the following day." Read more 

John Frair: "John began his career as a United Press International photographer state manager in Austin and New Orleans. …He had a great love of photography and for news journalism, which allowed him to photograph and cover many historic events including the Kennedy Assassination and Warren Commission report, New Orleans Mafia, Civil Rights Movement, President Lyndon Johnson Secret Service and family, University of Texas Tower Shooting and Hurricane Camile." Read more 

Kenneth Bloomfield Jr.: "Ken was accepted to the United States Military Academy and in 1960 entered, to become part of the graduation class of 1964. His experiences there gave him a lifelong love of West Point and friendships that would last his entire life. His time there was well spent, with many events of import and special remembrance. His experience marching in JFK's inauguration parade and JFK's funeral procession, one of only 15 cadets to do both." Read more 

Virginia Waddle: "Virginia was the attending nurse in the Parkland Hospital emergency room the day President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot." Read more 

Stephen Landregan: "In November 1963, Steve was Assistant Administrator at Parkland Memorial Hospital and was one of the many members of the Parkland staff involved in the aftermath of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. In testimony that was included in the Warren Commission Report, Steve recalled the important role of the Parkland staff during those tragic days following the assassination: 

'What is it that enables an institution to take in stride such a series of history-jolting events? Spirit? Dedication? Preparedness? Certainly, all of these are important, but the underlying factor is people. People whose education and training is sound. People whose judgment is calm and perceptive. People whose actions are deliberate and definitive. Our pride is not that we were swept up by the whirlwind of tragic history, but that when we were, we were not found wanting.'" Read more