The Day (Almost) Everyone Remembers

November 22, 1963 President Kennedy Is Assassinated

Richard Nixon Forgets Where He Was When He Heard The News

Almost everyone in the United States who was living on November 22, 1963 can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the shocking news that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

That is everyone except Richard Nixon.

Forget the conspiracy theories and all the other unsolvable aspects of the JFK assassination. Nixon’s supposed amnesia of that day is one of the oddest stories related to the assassination.

When I say everyone remembers where they were, I mean everyone. If you think I am mistaken about this, ask anyone who is over the age of 55, and you shall see this is no exaggeration.

Maybe this story about Kennedy’s 1960 Presidential opponent Richard Nixon not recalling where he was is apocryphal, maybe not.

There are three stories attributed to Nixon’s recollection (or non-recollection) of that memorable day.

The first story where Nixon says he can’t remember where he was or what he was doing when he learned Kennedy was assassinated is based on an FBI memo of February 23, 1964.  What the circumstances were of the FBI asking Nixon for his recollections of the assassination are unclear.  Since I have never seen a copy of the actual memo, only mentions of it on other web sites, I don’t know if it is true.

If it is true, and Nixon could not recall where he was, it is unbelievable and highly bizarre.

The other versions of that day, where Nixon remembers where he was, are recounted in magazine articles. In a November 1964 Readers Digest article Nixon says he heard about the momentous event after coming off a flight to New York (from Dallas no less), getting into a taxi and a man ran over from a corner and told him the President had been killed.

The final version was told to Esquire Magazine nine years later in 1973 is similar to the  previous story. Nixon claims that his cabbie “missed a turn somewhere and we were off the highway…a woman came out of her house screaming and crying. I rolled down the cab window to ask what the matter was and when she saw my face she turned even paler. She told me that John Kennedy had just been shot in Dallas.”

The only thing wrong with both of these stories is that a newspaper article from November 23, 1963 shows a “shocked” Nixon after arriving in New York, apparently before getting a taxi at the airport.

There are other claims that Nixon was still in Dallas at a Pepsi Cola meeting when the shots were fired at Kennedy.

Nixon attends President John F. Kennedy's funeral at the Capitol

Nixon at Kennedy’s funeral

The day after the assassination Nixon released a statement saying  “The assassination of the President is a terrible tragedy for the nation. Mrs. Nixon and I have sent a personal message expressing our deepest sympathy to the members of the family in this hour of sorrow.” Unlike other dignitaries who were asked where they were when they heard the news, no reporter at the time bothered to ask the former Vice-President where he was when he found out the President was dead.

One can only hope that years later, Nixon remembered attending Kennedy’s funeral. At least there is photographic proof. Nixon and his wife Pat were among the last to pass in the funeral line at the Capitol to gaze upon the fallen president’s casket on November 25.

Richard Nixon was a man who had a hard time remembering things. It’s a good thing he eventually got a tape recorder.

1 thought on “The Day (Almost) Everyone Remembers

  1. Rick

    I am a lifelong democrat. Let’s us get that straight right now. However, I am also an amateur historian of sorts. Richard Nixon remains one of the most fascinating creations of 20th century American politics. What makes Nixon interesting is he was a complex personality. Personally, he was as brilliant a man to hold that office since Woodrow Wilson. Like Wilson, he could not escape his own personal shortcomings to achieve true greatness.

    I admire Nixon for his ability to be flexible in light of reality, regardless of politics. A quality which is sadly lacking in the current crop of of presidential material out there.
    Nixon started the Environmental Protection Agency, something the current crop of tongue wagging, Tea Party sucking, religious right ass kissing, crew of candidates want to abolish.
    A study of rising crime in America which was conducted during the Nixon administration indicated accurately that the crime rate was closely linked to drug use. Nixon started methadone clinics around the country to get the hard core addicts their fix, when they needed it, rather than robbing someone.
    Ah what about Vietnam you say? Well, Kennedy ran in 1960 on a get tough policy with Moscow. After he was assassinated, LBJ was obligated to follow through on what was JFK’s stated policy. The only way to get tough was to send more troops over there. So, I feel Nixon inherited that quagmire, much the way Obama’s inherited Iraq and Afghanistan from Bush. Like Nixon, Obama will inherit the blame as well, when Iraq and Afghanistan implode, which I feel is inevitable.

    I remember a book called, “Nixon VS. Nixon”, basically an explanation of his overly defensive, prone to paranoia personality. Yes, this man had some issues, for sure. But if it hadn’t been for Vietnam and Watergate, he would have gone down in history as an outstanding president.
    Nixon basically followed the herd with his Vietnam policy, many people believed then that the USSR was hell bent on world domination, and the only way to stop them was to draw the line. Drawing the line costs billions of dollars and costs lives. Knowing what we know about the USSR today, and considering Vietnam tried to extend their revolution over Cambodia and Laos, how wrong were they?
    No one then could imagine the USSR would fall. No one could imagine that the USA would go ahead and recognize Red China, transforming it from a Communist dictatorship to a Communist dictatorship with the economy of a capitalist powerhouse, and as a result, trampling on the graves of 100,00 American men who died in Korea and Vietnam to “contain” communism. The hippies were correct: is wasn’t human rights that were the issue, it was the closed markets of China that were the issue. When China opened it’s markets human rights flew out the window and look what we have created now.
    No one will ever BS me about ideology again.


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