‘What was going through my mind was that shot was coming right over the top of our heads’

Gayle Newman, left, and Bill Newman in Dealey Plaza on Nov. 21, 2013.

I was in Dealey Plaza yesterday and I saw Bill Newman talking to a TV correspondent. On November 22, 1963, Newman and his wife Gayle and their young two children were among the people closest to President Kennedy when the fatal shot rang out.

I recalled my own conversation with Newman seven years ago. We spoke in the lobby of the hotel where we were both attending a JFK research conference. A plumber by trade, he struck me as a down-to-earth man who accepted the accident that delivered him into one of the most decisive moments in American history, and he lived with it responsibly.

Here’s what Newman told me:

Bill and Gayle Newman in Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963

Newman: “You could hear the parade coming down Main Street. You could hear the cheering of the people and I could remember seeing the president’s car turn right on to Houston Street and go that short block and turn left on Elm. His car was out the width of one lane from the curb. He was not right against the curb….. We were, of course, looking at the car coming towards us and it was a hundred feet, or more maybe, from us, and the first two shots rang out, kind of like a boom … boom, like that. At the time I thought somebody throwed a couple of firecrackers beside the car, and I thought, you know, that’s a pretty poor trick to be pulling on the president.

“But as the car got closer to us you could see the blood on Governor Connally, you could see the president, he had a … he was sort of turning his head in toward the crowd, and you could tell something was most definitively wrong and just as the car got straight in front of us, in the back seat of the car where he was sitting, ten or twelve feet from us … the third shot rang out. Of course, I knew most definitely that was a gunshot and the side of his head blew off, you could see the white matter and the red and he fell across the seat over into Mrs. Kennedy’s lap and she hollered out ‘Oh my God no, they’ve shot Jack,’ and turned to Gail, I said ‘No, that’s it’ and I hit the ground because at that moment, what was going through my mind was that shot was coming right over the top of our heads.”

Morley: And what gave you that impression?

Newman: “It was a visual impression that I had from seeing him go across the car seat. Now when I’m talking with people about it, I say I thought that shot came from behind. And at the end of it people always say, ‘from behind where? From behind, meaning the sixth floor, or from behind meaning the picket fence, and I just leave it with ‘behind’ because it was a visual … it wasn’t the noise I don’t think, it was the visual impact of him, as if you just pushed him across the car seat ….”

See also:

21 cops who heard a grassy knoll shot (JFK Facts, Sept. 24, 2013)

Was there a gunshot from the grassy knoll? (JFK Facts, March 20, 2013)

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21 comments

  1. Fearfaxer says:

    The Newmans were never interviewed by the Warren Commission. I’ve been reading through the WC testimony of several witnesses the last couple of days. I’m currently reading the testimony of Mary Bledsoe, who apparently rented a room to Oswald for a week in early October 1963, and claimed to have seen him on a bus heading for Oak Cliff just after the assassination. The Warren Commission relied heavily on her testimony to figure out Oswald’s route back to his rooming house. She was, to say the least, a very poor witness, so much so that I can’t believe she would have been allowed to testify if Oswald had been brought to trial. You can read her testimony here:

    http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=35&relPageId=410

    Pretty chilling to realize this is the sort of witness the WC was interested in hearing, while the Newmans were completely ignored.

    • JSA says:

      Interesting to see how McAdams deals with the Newmans. He claims that they only said what they saw in a Texas Monthly interview, 35 years after the fact, so of course, their memories “can’t be as reliable as contemporaneous testimony.” Yet, they NEVER got the chance to give “contemporaneous testimony” to the WC. What a circle jerk of an argument!

      See the clip from his site, pasted below:

      Texas Monthly Witnesses

      On the 35th Anniversary of the assassination, the Texas Monthly interviewed several key witnesses, and published the unedited transcripts on their web site. The witnesses are Bill and Gayle Newman, Pierce Allman, Bobby Hargis, Rosemary Willis Roach, James Leavelle, Waggoner Carr, Nellie Connally, and Red Duke. Interesting material indeed, although 35 year old testimony can’t be as reliable as contemporaneous testimony.

      • Fearfaxer says:

        Although the WC never heard them, I believe they did give their version of where the shots came from to the Dallas PD. So they are on record, contemporaneously.

      • jeffc says:

        The Newman’s appeared on WFAA-TV with their eyewitness report about 20 minutes after the shooting. The description of the sequence is essentially the same as repeated in later years, and the source of the shots is specifically identified as “behind”, from the “hill” or “knoll” area.

      • JSA says:

        Thanks for the replies. Somebody should tell John McAdams about these interviews with the Newmans. He needs to update his site!

      • Mitch says:

        They were also on television that day, I believe within an hour or two. That’s about as contemporaneous as it gets.

    • TLR says:

      Most of the WC witnesses were “pre-interviewed” before they went on the record, and then the staff lawyer frequently went off the record whenever the witness wandered into forbidden territory. The coached testimony and leading questions produced results that would have been torn apart by a good defense attorney.

      • Jason L. says:

        If you read the executive session transcripts, this couldn’t be more clear. There was a pre-determined conclusion, i.e. it was not really an investigation at all.

        After the death of Oswald, the standard went from “beyond reasonable doubt” to a much lower “colorable argument” standard, a standard which is employed by propagandists, such as those who created the notion that there are “two sides” to the global warming “debate”. This is something that Rankin and the staff lawyers were very open about. Wesley Liebeler in particular thought they should have been more honest about this.

  2. JG says:

    The infamous bogeyman at the picket fence.

    • JSA says:

      Yeah, someone who WAS ACTUALLY THERE says something from actual memory, and you ridicule what they remember. See, what JG is doing here is so typical of lone nutters. They ignore anyone or anything in the evidence that runs counter to their pet belief that Oswald acted alone, and that the government’s commission is air-tight. So anyone asking questions is just supposed to “get over it.” What they are really saying is, stop thinking. Just shut up and swallow the bullsh-t, like a good Soviet citizen.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Where does Newman say the shot came from the picket fence?

      • Ronnie Wayne says:

        They were standing between JFK and the fence. If he thought the last shot came from directly over their heads it would have been coming from the area of the fence. There are diagrams that illustrate this. They show the position of JFK at the time of the head shot with the Newman’s to his right. Draw a line from him to them and keep going then you end up at the fence.

      • Gerry Simone says:

        There’s another thread wherein a poster named Jeremy has provided You Tube links that actually have Newman show that he ‘thought’ the shots came from the pergola.

        In an interview by Jesse Ventura, he points over his right shoulder with his right thumb.

        In his appearance on the BBC televised mock trial between Bugliosi and Spence, he indicates on a map for Gerald Spence that he *thought* the shot came from the pergola.

        It should be noted that when Newman was standing almost across from JFK as the limo passed before him by the curb on the sidewalk, he saw JFK get hit.

        Newman also described the source of shots with phrases such as ‘in the line of fire’ and ‘directly behind me’.

        However, we know that Newman could not actually have been directly between himself and JFK.

        It’s possible then that he felt the shock wave of the bullet that killed JFK and *thought* it came from behind as opposed to more to his right from the stockade fence.

  3. Hans Trayne says:

    I have yet to see broadcast on TV or read an interview of the Newman family where they are asked if they have seen the Zapruder film & agree with it or not. Bill Newman’s description of JFK looking into the crowd after the 1st 2 shots does not match the Zapruder film.

    Mary Moorman (across the street from the Newmans) was only asked that question once & she said she did not agree with the Zapruder film; she remembers the shooting starting just as she snapped her photo & continuing immediately after taking it with 2 more rapid shots back to back.

    It’s pathetic & unforgivable that our understanding of the event be hazy in that this critical question not be asked of the Newmans & Mary Moorman; the closest living witnesses to JFK (few yards away). A second chance to get it right doesn’t always materialize; Jean Hill, Marilyn Sitzman & Abraham Zapruder all died without being asked the same question, leaving us & future generations to wonder about the accuracy of Mr. Zapruder’s visual record of the ambush of President Kennedy 50 years ago.

  4. Ramon F Herrera says:

    Here’s an important site, but today it is very slow: probably swamped by more requests that it can handle:

    http://www.history-matters.com/analysis/witness/

    The Newmans are included.

  5. Doris Deutsch says:

    I’d like to know who authorized the change in the parade route, why to Secret Service were not checking second floor windows that should have been closed, and why wasn’t President Kennedy’s personal bodyguard standing on the convertible instead of the one behind it.
    He was not in The Line of Fire to protect the president. Check the photos. Where were the bodyguards–they were all grouped up behind the lead car, sitting with guns on the floor, and standing on running boards. But Not next to Kennedy!

  6. Bud says:

    After 50 years, too many articles, documents and books written about this tragedy, all are opinions, interpretations, denials, disinformation to keep the truth away from the public. Plausible conspiracies from the Soviet-Cuban perspective and the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Mob having a lot of desires to kill Kennedy, to the CIA knowing that JFK wanted to “disperse (scatter)” into the wind, to the ‘fanatical” desire of LBJ wanting to be president. What ever information eventually comes out will be about individuals long-since dead and unable to corroborate. The “Shadow Government” IS alive and well in America !!!

    • Jeff Pascal says:

      The great paradox of the JFK Assassination is we know no one witness makes or breaks the case for conspiracy, yet conversely, if Newman is correct and it only takes one witness then, it was a conspiracy. There is a lot of support at both Parkland Hospital, and Bethesda Naval Hospital for his initial impressions, except for the 3 Autopsy Doctors conclusions, which is another huge paradox.

  7. LRG says:

    As I attended a JFK conference on Nov 22, I went back to my hotel room for the break from 11:00 to 3:00. I was delighted to watch the replay of WFAA coverage. I was impressed with the out of breath TV reporters who had just witnessed a president shot. They brought back to the newsroom the Neumans and their two children and they told their story several times beginning about 15 minutes after the shooting. They were stunned. Both had tears. Their story appears very similar to what I read here. Later Mr. Zapruda was interviewed before his film had been developed. This was so interesting to watch! The newsmen (and news women) were smoking on camera in the news room.

  8. [...] Newman, now 72, was an eyewitness to the assassination. She returned again to Dealey Plaza today with her husband Bill (who also witnessed the murder up [...]

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