Former Reporter Recalls Kennedy Assassination and More

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA--Imagine being present for an event that would ultimately affect millions of people across the country.  Now, multiply that, by three.

A former reporter for The Dallas Morning News experienced just that. Hugh Aynesworth was in the Basin on Friday.  He sat down for a one on one interview with NewsWest 9.

With 12 years reporting under his belt, Aynesworth said he was pretty bummed out when he wasn't assigned to cover President Kennedy's visit to Dallas.  There was no way he could have guessed that making his way to the parade route downtown, would lead to, possibly, one of the wildest rides of his career.

"At the last minute, 15 minutes before perhaps, I decide I'm going to walk over and see the motorcade. It's a blur, to some extent, even now," Aynesworth recalled.

It's a text book example of being at the right place at the right time.  Not being originally assigned to cover the President's visit, may have been the turning point in Aynesworth's career.

"It was exuberant from Love Field on down. The crowd was 7-8-10 deep. It was really exciting, in the air. The second shot came and I could, definitely, identify it as a rifle shot," Aynesworth explained.

In the moments following the shooting, Aynesworth says his reporter instincts took over, "I didn't have a pencil or paper. That's real good for a reporter, right?  I reached in my back pocket and found an electric and gas bill I hadn't mailed, so there was a couple of things to write on."

Those instincts led him to the place where the man suspected of shooting the President had been tracked down.

According to Aynesworth, "I hadn't eaten and I was tired and hungry.  I hadn't shaved and I was dirty but I couldn't give it up at that point. I ran like the dickens, 7 blocks, to the Texas Theatre. I opened the door and there were the cops, seconds away from jumping Oswald."

But Aynesworth's luck was far from running out.  Dallas officials had told him when Lee Harvey Oswald was going to be moved, just in case, he wanted to be there.

"I was about 15 feet from where it happened.  I didn't know who it was but somebody said it's Jack Ruby.  It was one shot.  It was like a pop as they brought Oswald out," Aynesworth said.

People who remember the Kennedy assassination, call it the 9/11 of their day.  Aynesworth says it was the dawn of a new era in television reporting, "It wasn't just the Kennedy assassination. That was the beginning. After that we had Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and the '68, near riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, then Watergate."

Since his days on staff at The Dallas Morning News, Aynesworth has landed several jobs and has also put his life on the line for them.   But now, looking back, he's pleased with the way his career panned out and says there's very little, if anything, he would change, "I had my throat cut, one time in Denver. I've had garrisons send people out to beat me up. So much has happened to me but I wouldn't do much different, really."

Copies of Aynesworth's book, "JFK: Breaking the News," will be available at The Presidential Museum in a few days.