JFK assassination 50-years later: N.O. resident plays critical role getting the news out

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 22, 2013 at 6:33 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 22 at 6:40 PM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

NEW ORLEANS -- Larry Lorenz holds history in his hands, the original news bulletins issued by UPI, United Press International, on November 22, 1963. He and his team told America that President Kennedy had been assassinated.

The memories and emotions are still raw.

"The news editor who was writing that day said he was saying Hail Mary's the whole time," Lorenz remembered, his voice choking with emotion. "I don't want to be caught this way, but it's stirring up."

But there was no time for emotion that day. The now retired Loyola University Communications Department chairman was the supervisor for UPI's national broadcast desk in Chicago, sending written news reports by teletype to 3,500 radio and TV stations.

Suddenly, the Dallas bureau alerted them to the shooting, and Lorenz wrote the bulletin sent across the nation.

"Three shots have been fired at President Kennedy's motorcade," Lorenz said, describing the report from Dallas, "and we wrote 'An unknown sniper fired three shots at President Kennedy's motorcade.'"

As reports from Dallas streamed in, they raced to get the increasingly bad news out.

"President Kennedy and Gov. John Connally, of Texas, have been cut down by assassin's bullets in downtown Dallas," said Lorenz, reading from the bulletin. "They were riding in an open automobile when the shots were fired. The President, his limp body cradled in the arms of his wife Jacqueline, was rushed to Parkland Hospital."

"He was wounded in an automobile driving from Dallas airport into downtown Dallas, along with Governor Connally of Texas," reported CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite to the nation, basing his alert on the UPI bulletins. "They've been taken to Parkland Hospital there."

"So you have Cronkite on CBS reading the UPI copy," remembered Lorenz, words he wrote.

When President Kennedy visited New Orleans in May 1962, it was a big event. I was 8 years old, a third grader at Newman, and the teachers brought us there to see the motorcade along with thousands of people lining St. Charles Avenue.  I remember seeing the president pass in the convertible, waving and smiling. So it was a huge shock 18 months later when he was assassinated, especially when we got the worst news bulletin.

"At 1:35 p.m. comes the flash, and the flash is just a very simple statement," said Lorenz, reading the original alert from the UPI wire. "President dead."

And through the afternoon, the bulletins kept coming. "Flash, this is at 2:52 p.m.," read Lorenz. "Flash. Johnson President."

And then the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald. "Police Captain Pat Ganoway today said, a suspect held in the assassination of President Kennedy."

Five decades later, Lorenz remembers the critical link UPI provided for Americans.

"We played a key role in getting the first word to millions of people, said Lorenz. "I had a small part in it, and I'm proud of it, and I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else that day."

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