JimWes Thinks

November 22, 2019

When John F. Kennedy was Assassinated

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimwes @ 6:05 pm

It is hard to believe that 56 years have passed since that shocking day when the President was killed in Dallas. I was 29 years of age and had been a Georgia State Senator for eleven months. It was a time when youth in politics was flourishing led by President Kennedy. My future looked great.  I had read of Kennedy’s new White House Fellows Program and was thinking about applying for it since as a teenager I had worked for three years as a Page in the House of Representatives. I was on top of the world at that time, heading my own CPA firm with five offices in Georgia and serving as National Treasurer of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.  Suddenly for me the political world ceased to revolve.

Many folks look back to remember what they were doing on that sad afternoon. I was alone in a very tiny office of my biggest client, DeKalb County, Georgia, a major suburb of Atlanta.  Our firm had been provided the office, a desk, chair and secure filing cabinet during the time we conducted the annual audit. One of our guys had placed a small radio there and I was working and listening to music until the news broke.

As an auditor I had learned never to believe unlikely surprises until proven. Nevertheless I did not want to believe it and could not concentrate on working as I sat transfixed by the ever certainty of the piecemeal news coming forth from the radio about the President’s condition.  It took a while for his death to be confirmed. I just sat there alone. Nobody called or came to the door. My staff, working in different county offices may not have even known I was there. I just sat there and sat there and sat there thinking alone, praying, hoping it was not so, but knowing by now that it was.

I didn’t try to communicate with anyone and no one communicated with me, I just sat there for two or three hours unable to think clearly or work. Finally I decided to go home. It wasn’t yet 5:00 PM but I was useless there and could not charge the county for my time. Strangely, as I left the building I saw no one. I crossed paths with no one. I just went to my car and drove home. Once there I just sat in front of the TV and hardly spoke to the family. The shock was mortifying. It was unbelievable. It was totally demoralizing. 

The next few days were likewise unproductive. Finally the depression wore itself off and things began to normalize…but they were never again the same.

I have often wondered if that day was the real beginning of the end of my political career.

My father was a great comfort and inspiration to me and many others during those days. His dynamic charisma never faded.  Here is the sermon he gave at a memorial service two days after the tragedy:

UNITED STATES SENATE
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1963, Page 23230
>>> MEMORIAL TRIBUTE TO PRESIDENT KENNEDY <<<
Mr. TALMADGE. Mr. President, on November 24, on the eve of the late President John F. Kennedy’s funeral, Dr. James P. Wesberry, pastor of Morningside Baptist Church in Atlanta, delivered a heart-warming television message dedicated to the memory of our slain President. I ask unanimous consent that Dr. Wesberry’s message be printed in the RECORD. There being no objection, the message was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

MESSAGE DELIVERED BY DR. JAMES P. WESBERRY, PASTOR, MORNINGSIDE BAPTIST CHURCH, ATLANTA, IN MEMORIAL SERVICE ON EVE OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY’S. FUNERAL, SUNDAY NIGHT, NOVEMBER 24, 1963.

The heart of our great Nation has been broken by a deep sorrow. The body of our great President, John F. Kennedy, lies in state under the dome of our Nation’s Capitol. Multiplied thousands of people have already passed in review and will, and tomorrow, the day of President Kennedy’s funeral, has been declared a day of national mourning.

How quickly and shockingly momentous world events take place. Little did any of us think that we would come to this Thanksgiving Sunday bowed in grief over the untimely and tragic death of our brilliant and gifted leader.  Full of life and completely dedicated to the service of the Nation and to the freedom and peace of the entire world, the President of the United States was cruelly and brutally shot and killed by an assassin in Dallas, Texas last Friday, and now the assassin is dead. It is as unbelievable as it is shocking and yet we know it is true.

How hard it is for us to believe that such a thing could happen in so-called Christian America. We find it so difficult to believe that we are living in a land where such a thing as burning churches, bombing a synagogue or church, and murdering a President could happen. To think that he who gave his life so freely and who carried within his office the greatest power on earth could have his life snuffed out in such an atrocious way.

This sadly reminds us that the awful sins that helped to crucify the Lord of glory on Calvary over 1900 years ago still lurk in the human heart, and there are yet evil forces that would tear down and destroy everything, for which Christ stands and upon which America was built.

President Kennedy commanded the respect, love and admiration of the world. His was a great faith a true profile of courage. His sacrificial death has a sobering effect upon our Nation and our world. America can never be the same after such a tragic, staggering blow. Whatever comfort there may be in it, God is great enough to make the wrath of man to praise him–out of evil good can come. As great as President Kennedy was in life, he is many times greater in death. This is a better world today because of his life and death and America has been brought closer to God.

Senator Wayne Morse was right when he said just before the Senate was recessed Friday: “If ever there was an hour when Americans should pray, this is the hour.” This sort of thing humbles us all and causes us to hear again God say, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Only time will reveal Mr. Kennedy’s contribution to the unity of our world, of the nations, of religious denominations, to brotherhood, justice and peace. The universe is full of vicarious suffering. One thing lays down its life for another. This is true in the vegetable world as well as the animal world. Everything is bought with a price.

Men lay down their lives sometimes in single heroic acts of martyrdom, sometimes by years of patient, sell-denying service–the physician, the school teacher, the engineer, the statesman. Only God knows the price many pay to serve–mothers and fathers, husbands and wives. Oh, what a price they pay as they suffer and sacrifice for the well-being of their children. This is the nature of atonement, and in every corner of the world it is spelled out like a dim and broken inscription on the fragments of human life.

Everywhere this vicarious principle is at work. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” We find this at the very summit of all being. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” We do not expect our great Creator to ignore this vicarious principle with which He has filled the world. He, too, suffers and sacrifices for his children.The throne of God is one of self-sacrificing love. “The Lamb is in the midst of the throne” is a “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” There is the blood of the Cross. There is a voice saying, “Father, forgive them.”

Father Damien, at the age of 18, joined the Society of the Sacred Heart. When he finished training he asked to go as a missionary to the Hawaiian Islands. Deeply moved by the sad condition of lepers on the Island of Molakai he went to live among and minister to them. “No matter,” he said to those who opposed his going, “it ‘is the call of God and of human need, and I am going.” He lived with those unhappy people the rest of his life, contracted the dread disease and died from it, disfigured almost beyond recognition, after 26 years or devoted service. Like his Master, whose spirit he had caught, he gave himself for lepers through long years of faithful and loving ministry. So it has been with many others, such as, David Livingston, giving his life to Africa; Wilfred Grenfell, of Labrador; Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and now John F. Kennedy.

Nothing short of this experience of earnest service and unflinching sacrifice for the triumph of God’s will can interpret to us today the meaning of the sacrifice of Christ on His cross. Every man or woman who has ever tried to do these things in any measure knows only too well that there can be no salvation, either from sin or from the misery sin entails on guilty and innocent alike save by the vicarious sacrifice of some brave, generous servant of righteousness and benefactor of his fellows. This great doctrine of vicarious suffering is self-evident to every man who ever fought entrenched and powerful evil or sought to rescue the wicked from wickedness. To those who know nothing of giving themselves for others this doctrine, like all deeper spiritual truths, remains an unintelligible and impenetrable mystery.

The first man I talked to after the tragic news that our President had been shot said, “I feel guilty myself, as if I had a part in it.” Don’t we all? For we are all responsible citizens or should be.

This is not the only crisis our Nation ever faced. There have been many others. It was a sad day in America over a hundred years ago when a troubled minister wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States and suggested that the recognition of our undying faith should be printed in some form on the coins of our Nation. “This,” he wrote, “would relieve us from the Ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my heart I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.” Upon receipt of this eloquent plea the Treasurer wrote the Director of the Mint in Philadelphia saying, “No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in his defense. The trust of our people should be declared in our national coins.” The Director of the Mint ordered that a motto be prepared expressing in the fewest words this national recognition. Several mottoes were tried, but in 1864 there first appeared on a O.S. coin, a 2-cent piece, the words, “In God We Trust.” These immortal words symbolize the faith and righteousness that exalts a nation, and have a ring of timelessness as though they had been given to our Founding Fathers upon tablets of stone. Blind indeed are they who would pull this standard down. It must be maintained at all costs.

The ancient landmarks for which we are most grateful, and for which our Nation stands and which have made America great, must never be removed: The Bible, church, home, Christian schools, the Lord’s day Sabbath, prayer.

No people ever suffered greater hardships than our pilgrim fathers. Of 102 immigrants who landed on that bleak, rocky, storm tossed shore of Cape Cod in the winter of 1620, almost half of them died during the first year. They built seven times more graves than they did homes. Only God knows what they suffered during that cold, hard winter. There was sickness, hunger, depression, death, bitterness, sorrow, loneliness, and separation from native land. But of all that history records regarding them, there is nothing written more indelibly than their faith in Almighty God.

For many this may seem like a midnight hour, but let us, like the Psalmist say, “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of Thy righteous judgments.” And remember, as long as our trust is really in God, all things work together for good and as He has blessed our Nation in times past, so will He go with us as we face the future, for it is He who says, “Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31: 8).

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