Letter to the Editor

John Kennedy remembered

Saturday, November 22, 2003

An event took place 40 years ago in Dallas which changed the course of history. The President of the United States was assassinated.

My friendship with John Fitzgerald Kennedy started in the winter of 1957. I was sitting in my law office on the 14th floor of the Sharp Building in Lincoln, Nebraska when I received a call from John Kennedy, a young Senator from Massachusetts, who told me he had a room at the Cornhusker Hotel and would like to visit with me. I donned my overcoat and went to his room.

He invited me in, took my overcoat and the two of us alone discussed our country and its role in the world. His candidacy nor mine were ever discussed.

That meeting convinced me that this young man had the qualities necessary to lead this nation and the world through the troubled waters of the last half of the 20th century.

The following year I was approached by the Democratic Party Chairman in Lincoln, the National CIO, and a representative of the Kennedy family who informed me that they would like to support me for a seat in the U.S. Senate. I turned down Senator Carpenters' guarantee to elect me Governor and decided to become a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Senator Kennedy came to Nebraska to campaign for me. I lost that election but decided to set up a Kennedy campaign for President organization in Nebraska. While in the midst of this endeavor Jim Exxon convinced me to become a candidate for Governor.

Both Kennedy and I were elected. After that I always had a wonderful working relationship with the Kennedy Administration. In 1962, at a conference in the Oval Office, the President talked me out of taking the job as Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court to pursue a second term as governor. Wanting to be a part of the Kennedy team, I elected to take a second term as Governor.

On the 22nd of November 1963, I was serving as Chairman of the Mid-West Governor's conference meeting at their Fontenelle Hotel in Omaha. We adjourned at noon to take a trip to the Strategic Air Command. That day I had an experience shared by no other American. Before leaving for Offutt I encountered a man by the name of Fletcher Knebel, author of "Seven Days in May," a novel about the assassination of a President and a military coup which took over the government. We then boarded a bus for Offutt. On arrival I was called aside by General Tommy Power, the Commander and notified that the President had been assassinated. Was this the military coup Fletcher Knebel wrote about? No governor knew the answer. We returned to Omaha, voted to adjourn, go home and call off all but big meetings and football games the next day ... that Saturday was the traditional Oklahoma-Nebraska game.

I notified Coach Devaney of our action. He was agreeable if Bud Wilkinson, the Oklahoma coach would agree. I called Bud, who insisted on playing the game. I informed Devaney and told him I was leaving that night for the President's funeral and I hoped he would go out tomorrow and show Bud exactly what a bunch of physically fit young men could do. (Bud being the President's physical fitness advisor).

At the funeral I witnessed the world leaders assembled to pay tribute to our fallen leader who was universally admired and respected throughout the world.

A man who dedicated his life to putting an end to humanities greatest security threat, nuclear weapons.

A nation with an opportunity to become a role model for the world, not an object of hatred and in the words of Senator Hagel, "lost credibility."

A wise man once said when leaders are without vision the people perish. If policy makers would read and implement Kennedy's recommendations to the UN on Sept. 25, 1961, America and the world would be a much safer and better place.

-- Frank B. Morrison, former Nebraska governor, lives in McCook.

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