A snapshot in time: Local reaction from November 1963Published 10:43am Friday, November 22, 2013
Editor’s note: The following are excerpts from the Nov. 23, 1963, edition of the Austin Daily Herald
There were about a half dozen customers in the bank lobby Friday [Nov. 22, 1963] after the close of the noon lunch hour.
Tellers were counting money and depositors were exchanging pleasant remarks about the unseasonal weather.
Behind the railing, a bank officer told an associate, “My wife just called and said President Kennedy was shot in Texas. I wonder if it’s a joke?”
Another vice president hung up his phone, overheard the remark and said in amazed voice, “It can’t be; my wife said she heard it, too.”
Bank customers buzzed excitedly as the first unconfirmed reports circulated through the lobby. A Daily Herald reporter called the newspaper wire desk. “Yes, it’s true. Kennedy was shot. The story just started to move over the wire.”
The buzzing continued, bank employees and customers were shocked. They couldn’t believe John F. Kennedy, the President many Austinites had seen and heard in Duluth in September, had been shot.
Church bells in Austin tolled the President’s untimely death Friday evening, and mourners filled informally, but sadly, into the community churches to offer prayers for the Kennedy family.
Rev. John Kerr, pastor of Sterling Christian Church, and speaking on behalf of the Austin Ministerial Association, on [Saturday, Nov. 23, 1963] issued this statement:
“The death of our President has shocked every dedicated American. It is a time for all of us to pause in tribute to a man of faith who bravely carried for us the great burdens of state, who committed himself to the cherished ideals of freedom.
“Our prayers are with the family in their time of bereavement and with President [Lyndon] Johnson as he assumes the responsibilities of the highest office of the government.
“As a ‘nation under God,’ may we rededicate ourselves to the premises upon which our country was founded and to the One who is the source of the peace for which we all strive.
“In the worship services of our churches this Sunday, we will remember John F. Kennedy, his leadership, and the cause for which he lad down his life.
“As you did it to one of the least of these brethren you did it to me,” Rev. Kerr’s statement concluded with a quotation from the book of Matthew 25:40.
The Rev. Arthur L. Swenson, pastor of St. Olaf Lutheran Church, announces that all three Sunday morning services at 8:15, 9:30 and 10:45 a.m. at St. Olaf will include in memorial observances for the late President Kennedy.
“I feel the tragic death of our President should be a call to penitence and prayer throughout America,” the Rev. Swenson said.
Mayor Roger Svjekovsky, speaking for the residents of Austin, summed up local feeling in this telegram sent to Mrs. [Jacqueline] Kennedy:
“The Citizens of Austin, Minn., offer their deepest sympathy to you and your family. The loss of your husband and our President is a tragic loss to our country. May God be with you.”