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:
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 ….”
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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