Dentoning….JFK

Denton is a sum of all it’s parts and a sum of it’s history. I’m not great at math, but I think the summation has turned out alright. A city like ours is what it is because of a plethora of historic building blocks that form it’s foundation, it’s walls and it’s being. We’ll look at many of those blocks as this blog moves forward, but one of those historic happenings has to do mainly with Denton’s proximity to Dallas and to the events of November 22, 1963.

I’m not going to say that anyone alive on that date remembers exactly where they were when they heard the news that President John Kennedy had been shot just 40 miles away, or that America’s innocence died that day. It may have, but I’m not going to say it, because it has been said so much that it has become clichè. You’re welcome. What a lot of people don’t know are the many Denton ties to the assassination. Probably the one that people here DO know is that the brother of beloved DISD Coach, Bill Carrico, was the first physician to attend the dying President at Parkland Hospital. From what I heard long ago from the Carricos, their brother/uncle didn’t like to talk about the experience much, but his testimony regarding JFK’s wounds did not agree with the Warren Commission’s claim that all shots came from the rear. Another Denton physician present that day was Dr. Bill Midgett. I have always been interested with the events of the assassination and was astonished to find out from the good doctor’s daughter, Diane, that he had been at Parkland that day. I have known the Midgetts since I was in high school, but didn’t hear about this until a couple of years ago. I subsequently had the opportunity to discuss Dr. Midgett’s experience with him and was fascinated to hear his story.

In 1963, Dr. Midgett was an OB/GYN resident at Parkland Hospital. On the day JFK was shot, Dr. Midgett was in a lounge for residents, when around 12:40pm, someone from the hospital burst through the doors and yelled for him and another resident to immediately go to the ambulance bay. Dr. Midgett said that there was normally no rush to get to the bay because most mothers-to-be did not come in ready to give birth as soon as they got there. Because of this, Dr. Midgett and his associate sauntered down the hall with no sense of urgency. It was when he threw open the doors to the outside that his world temporarily turned upside down. In front of Dr. Midgett sat the convertible Presidential limousine and more men with guns than he had ever seen in one place. He ran to the side of the limo where the President was slumped in his wife’s lap. His friend ran to the other side. Dr. Midgett helped remove JFK from the limo and place him on a stretcher, his friend helped Jackie out of the limo and followed the President inside. Once the group was in Trauma Room One, Dr. Carrico took over the initial, yet futile, care of the dying President.

As we know, JFK died at 1pm that day and the news flashed around the world. A friend of mine, Metroplex newsman Bill Mercer, co-wrote a book entitled When The News Went Live a few years ago about the event and how it forever changed the way we get our news. On November 22, 1963, a man named Robert, was having lunch at Jay’s Grill on Ft. Worth Dr. in Denton. As Robert left the restaurant, his car radio informed him that the President had been killed. He drove to his office at Acme Brick and an hour or so later learned that his brother, Lee Harvey Oswald, had been arrested in Oak Cliff for the murder of a Dallas Police officer and was a suspect in the assassination of the President. I told you at the beginning of this blog, that I’d had many strange life experiences…………at the time of the assassination, Robert Oswald lived at 1009 Sierra, just off of Sherman Dr. in northeast Denton. My family lived nearby on Heather Lane and Robert’s daughter, Cathy, was in my first grade class at Woodrow Wilson. As I mentioned above (or not), I remember that day well. I vaguely remember Cathy, but the main thing I remember about her is that she never came back to class after that day. Mr. Spratt, the principal at Woodrow Wilson came over the speaker and told us what had happened, but none of us knew that Cathy’s uncle would go down as one of history’s vilest villans. I still have a recipe book put together by the mothers of our class with a recipe from “Mrs Robert Oswald”.

The Oswalds moved to Wichita Falls in 1964 and still live there today. In the very early 1980s, I worked for FEMA and worked in Wichita Falls after a flood there. My job at the time was to interview people affected by the flood and direct them to the government and private agencies which could provide assistance. I had developed a routine in which I asked everyone I interviewed for their driver’s license in order to get the neccessary information correctly and quickly. One day I was at my desk when a man sat down across the desk from me and said he’d had some damage to his house and wanted to see what was available. I glanced up at him, introduced myself and asked for his driver’s license. I began filling out paperwork (pre-computers) while the man pulled out his license. When I glanced at the license, I was amazed to see that it said “Robert Lee Oswald” and had a very familiar picture on it. I have read numerous books about the assassination and knew what Mr. Oswald looked like. I wanted to talk to him about his brother and tell him that I had known his daughter years before, but I was a Federal employee and I decided not to invade his privacy ………….though I really wanted to.

Just a little trivia there, but part of Denton’s history. I have personally had many encounters with others involved in one way or another with the assassination, but those don’t really have any roots to Denton other than my fascination with the story. (and just for the record, I don’t think Oswald fired a shot that day. I think he was exactly what he claimed to be……..a patsy.) Talk amongst yourselves…………

Enjoy Denton and enjoy life!!!!