JFK assassination stunned cityNov 22, 2013 Staff
Riverton shared the nation's shock 50 years ago Friday when news broke that the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, had been killed by an assassin in Dallas, Texas.
The president had visited Wyoming fewer than 60 days before his death, flying to Laramie for a speech Sept. 25, 1963, at War Memorial Fieldhouse at the University of Wyoming.
"These are revolutionary times," the 46-year-old president told the university audience. "These are dangerous times."
He recounted some details of the Cuban Missile Crisis the year before and listed other international challenges.
Ranger co-publishers Bob and Roy Peck met the president on that trip, and The Ranger published a photograph of Kennedy and Bob Peck shaking hands outside the fieldhouse.
Bob Peck was the president of the Wyoming Press Association that year and led a delegation of newsmen to greet the president, who was accompanied by first-term Wyoming U.S. Sen. Gale McGee.
That picture was part of unprecedented news coverage by The Ranger at the time. The Friday, Nov. 22, edition was reworked to carry a huge headline reading "Kennedy Dead," with details of the announcement of the president's death, which had been confirmed just minutes before The Ranger's afternoon press time. The Ranger was the first Wyoming daily to carry news of the assassination.
Then, on Saturday, Nov. 23, The Ranger published an unprecedented special edition for the weekend with full coverage of national details and local reaction, including a picture and account of Riverton resident Grant Clark's assignment to a U.S. Marine Corps security detail for the president during his visit to the U.S. embassy in Paris in 1961. Clark was a Riverton businessman through Clark's Meat House in Riverton for many years afterward and marched just this month in the Riverton Veteran's Day parade with the local detachment of the Marine Corps League.
The Ranger printed 900 copies of the Saturday special, which was sold only on newsstands and by street vendors. It sold out within two hours and was published again in an expanded form Monday, Nov. 25.
Fremont County's mayors -- Willa Wales Corbitt in Riverton, Mel Hallam in Lander, William Meckham in Dubois, Ed Heatherington in Shoshoni and Victor Frappart in Hudson -- called on their communities to participate in a national period silence at 1 p.m., when all activity in homes, businesses and on the streets was asked to paused for five minutes Nov. 25.
Another Fremont County resident, Bob Peterson, of Hudson, had a role in the Kennedy services in Washington. He was a uniformed soldier assigned to guard duty near the Capitol, where he marched with fellow guards for hours in the cold as the huge crowd of mourners filed into the Capitol rotunda to view the president's closed casket.
"Grief and injustice are the dominate emotions," wrote Bob Peck in his first editorial after the assassination. "The insult to human decency sickens mankind."