Pastor Alan Hawkins: We Cheered…God Help Us, We Did

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54 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    One of the best pieces we’ve ever published.
    Thank you for the privilege, Alan.

  2. Wow. Didn’t expect that.

  3. Rob says:

    You meant Nixon in 1960; not Goldwater.

  4. Michael says:


  5. Joe Dean says:

    My grandparent’s were deep south baptist racists. My grandfather was in the KKK and I was raised to stay away from the nigger children. I think their influence is what moved me away from religion, the south and racism (as I went to a half black elementary). I am not shocked to hear this is how young people of that time were indoctrinated to feel and believe. Indoctrination is powerful and most often poorly used.

  6. erunner says:

    I was so insulated from the harsh realities of our nation I didn’t realize segregation was still alive in 1963. My memories are so different. JFK was a hero to all of us. I had no idea the world you lived in was so different than mine. Thanks for your honesty.

  7. Michael says:

    I thought I was the only one who experienced something similar.
    I was at my paternal grandparents when he was shot…and all that I remember is sadness and whispers.
    My maternal grandfather rejoiced…he was a son of the Deep South and reflected what Alan shared with us…except more profanely.

  8. sarah says:

    Dread…thank you for your transparency. Having lived in the South for 19 years now, I understand a little more fully than I did growing up in NM. Powerful.

  9. jadenrigo says:

    I was in the 8th grade at lunch time ..a girl came running out and announced that the president was dead..I was just matter of fact thinking we didn’t vote for him, but that’s horrible that he is dead. i went home after school to my grandmother’s and watched it on TV..we didn’t say much about it family were registered democrats who voted republican but we were sad about his death. They said , things will never be the same. If we have come to this

  10. brian says:

    I was only three so I dont remember that day, my parents were migrant farm workers Irish so they were definitely Kennedy supporters and it broke my heart. But I have heard people, especially those heavily into end times ideas become extremely excited and yes gleeful at some horrible tragedy or possible nuclear exchange with massive casualties because that means Jesus will be coming back. They would often discuss in small groups about the latest horror with a sense of fulfillment or proof of God working in the world. It was not because they enjoyed the suffering or rejoiced at the particular death of someone like listed in the article but I think it gave them a sense of hope in the chaos, if that makes any sense.

  11. Bill Ferrell says:

    I was in the seventh grade and at that time, not religious. Several clapped and cheered. I was shocked. Good article.

  12. nancy says:

    Wow … thanks for sharing that very interesting … & eye opening … account of a period of time & place. Thanks for being so honest. Very different perspective … very different then what I experienced. I was only 5 but I remember the day well … my mother was crying when she picked me up from kindergarten. I was upset because she was crying … & perplexed because she was so upset about the death of a man she had never met. I didn’t know it then but she didn’t even like him politically. I remember not understanding why she was crying nor did I understand the week to follow of nothing but funeral & memorials on all 3 TV stations … & 3 channels was all there was. I didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about … & what could possibly be so important that there was no time for cartoons on TV? ! It wasn’t until I watched his son solute his daddy’s casket that I understood my mom’s tears.

  13. filbertz says:

    powerful, insightful, and raw as only one from the South could write it. I feel privileged to read it, but more, to measure the present day by it.

  14. London says:

    I wasn’t born when that happened.
    Thank you for the insight.
    Very well written!

  15. Noelle says:

    Deeply moved by this piece…
    Even more-so by the courage of the author.

  16. covered says:

    Great job Alan. You might want to think about becoming a pastor someday 🙂

  17. Ixtlan says:

    My parents were from New England, hardcore Republicans and not keen on the Kennedys.
    They were both at work, I was 5, getting ready for the afternoon kindergarten class when my cousin’s wife (who watched me every morning) got the news. She was hysterically crying, and I couldn’t wait to catch the bus to get away from her sobbing, only to find that they were sobbing at school too. I remember how tense and heavy and paranoid everything was for days afterwards. The flag flown at half staff for 30 days. I remember watching Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald live on TV. It was my first loss of innocence and my first realization of man’s inhumanity to man.

    JFK was bigger than life, bigger than his abilities,yet strong in his resolve. He inspired the generation that came after him more than his own. He and his brother Bobby were beloved figures of many flower children that I would meet a few years later.

  18. Alan Hawkins says:

    Hey thanks everyone,

    I have told this story but it is still so charged with emotion for so many people. I purposefully credit no one with the attitudes in the story except myself. My family was better than the attitude I had at that time. My family would have been horrified to know that I was a participant in such expression.

    The article obviously reflects a great deal of time that I have spent trying to understand myself and those days. I owe a certain debt the the ESPN 30 for 30 presentation of Ghosts of Ole Miss. When I saw that I had a clearer context for what was going on inside me but the seminal events are very clear in my mind; the integration of Ole Miss, the sending of troops to enforce submission, the opposition we all felt to Kennedy for a myriad of reasons and of course the fateful day. I remember all of these things so well.

    And I remember the slow changing of the mind which had divine and human elements. Nothing cured the racism of the days like coming to know Christ and coming to know people. It is so hard to hate those Christ loves and those you get to know.

  19. Steve Wright says:

    I owe a certain debt the the ESPN 30 for 30 presentation of Ghosts of Ole Miss
    Alan, when I read this article I instantly thought of the 30 for 30 they did on an old Sooner – Marcus Dupree.

    Well done, sir.

  20. Alan, what a treasure this is!

  21. stupid says:

    “Fifty years have passed.” This is the most important line in the piece.

  22. Alan,
    Thank you for this.
    I was a kid in grammar school. The announcement came over the speaker.
    My teacher, young and beautiful, wept.
    And so did all of us, even my Palistine Texas born & bred daddy

  23. Alan Hawkins says:

    I was pretty sure people would not remember it the way it was. We tend to color our memories through many lenses, not least the lens of a generation of public veneration. All people have to do is inflame their political attitudes. So much vitriol fills our political speak. Imagine if Bush or Obama were assassinated in the midst of all the rancor over their terms. People would be quieter about it but secretly those two men are hated enough that if the secrets of our hearts were revealed the truth would shock.

    Kennedy was one of the most polarizing and controversial figures of all. He was not at all loved in the South. There was real bitterness over the election. The Bay of Pigs was a mess and the Missile Crisis, though it drew us together, we blamed Kennedy for it.

    Throw in the civil rights issues, and the budding conflict in Viet Nam, pepper the whole thing with the Presidents reputation and you didn’t hear much praise of Kennedy in the world of my childhood. The shock of his assassination forced us all to begin rethinking ourselves but I remember clearly that we did not love this President while he lived.

  24. Today indeed is a very important date – today Nov 22nd, 7 yrs ago, my grandson Dylan was born – all the rest is just history.

  25. Jim says:

    My mom was born in Waco TX in 1925. She moved to DC in her teens, and remade herself, losing her accent and eventually hating the south. Her only bigotry was against the south, and the gift she gave me was a disdain for racial bigotry. My dad was born and raised in Washington DC. He fought his way to and from school every day, as the white sons of immigrants in Anacostia all hated each other. Dirty greeks fighting dirty italians fighting dirty irish. He came out of it unscathed, and hated racism.

    I was almost five when JFK was killed, and I don’t remember any of it. I know that my mom worshiped the Kennedy’s, and remember that she was hysterical when RFK was killed.

  26. Lutheran says:

    There were two intellectual giants who also died on Nov. 22, 1963.

    That would be C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley.

  27. Michael says:

    I was a hyper sensitive child…I didn’t understand what or why this had happened, but I learned about mourning in a way I’ve never forgotten.
    When Bobby was killed it was as if the last bit of hope that we had clung to after the JFK assassination died with him.
    My view of life and truth changed when I knew that the good guy doesn’t always win…he sometimes ends up with a bullet in his head.
    In my brain all the rules had been broken and I would be wary of them for the rest of my life.

  28. Ricky Bobby says:

    I was born on Nov. 22. I get reminded of JFK’s assassination very year LOL.

    Dread, I LOVE raw honest articles about Sacred Cow sensitive taboo topics. Well done sir. It is certainly a real chapter in American history and ironically part of the bible narrative supports the idea of slavery and owning humans as property etc, which was often used as justification for slavery and racism in the South for many many years.

    Selective Fundamentalists became more Liberal in that area, thankfully. Now if we can get them to budge on their Misogyny and Homo-phobism and Child Abuse….even though the bible gives them justification for those things as well.

  29. Ricky Bobby says:

    BTW, the beer-fast is going splendidly. Very easy, no biggie. The blog/fb-fast…not so much LOL.

  30. Gary says:

    Thank you Lutheran.

    JFK has become larger than life. That’s only because of 50 years of the idealism of the left leaning media. Camelot. What a farce. I was in the 5th grade when the announcement came over the loud speaker. I was shocked. I believed the whole world was shocked.

    I have a 5 dollar bill. It was printed during JFK’s presidency. It’s not like other 5 dollar bills. Anybody ever heard of Executive Order 11110?

  31. Muff Potter says:

    (|o) ====::: @ # 22,
    You might enjoy reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63. Much of it takes place in the Texas heartland you mention. The protagonist even meets up with a young and beautiful teacher/librarian. Love ensues of course and the ending is poignant & sweet. That’s all I’ll say.

  32. DavidM says:

    Wow, thanks for the well-written reflection on that historic day.
    I remember sitting in 8th grade math class that day when a 9th grade girl came in and told our teacher, who then, visibly shaken, told the class.This was in East Los Angeles, so there were a lot of gasps and tears. It was a predominately Catholic area. I found myself laughing, mostly in disbelief. The next several days found my family and me huddled around the black and white TV, watching the surreal events unfold. Forever etched in my memory.

  33. Ixtlan says:

    Happy Birthday Ricky Bobby.

    LBJ was villainous in the eyes of the younger generation with his aggressive policies (and less than forthrightness) in Vietnam. I always wondered if JFK would have fared any better. I guess that’s what happens when our government is determined to fight wars that are not our fight and we having no intention to attain victory.

    JFK became an icon that was reincarnated in his brother Bobby. In 1968, the dream began to perish that April in Memphis and was laid to rest at Los Angeles in June of that year. That was the real day that “the music died”. It was a decade of intense violence and injustice; and like Michael it left an impression upon me that I have never been able to fully set aside..

  34. Lutheran says:

    If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people—their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties—someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say “I’m a Liberal.”

    — John F. Kennedy

  35. Michael says:


    Well said…

  36. Thx. allan for saying what i had not put into words. Milton kliesch…MC 1975

  37. Muff Potter says:

    RE: Lutheran @ # 34,
    The generals in the Pentagon and their handlers in the private sector, the ones who needed to sell bombers, bombs, Huey helicopters, and millions of rounds of ammo didn’t want that. That’s why in my opinion, JFK was removed by coup d’etat.

  38. The Warren Commission had it right … well mostly. the Dallas cops had it figured out by the end of the day.

  39. Anne says:

    Most excellent piece, dreadly one!

  40. Brian says:

    Wow great article Papa Alan!!!

  41. I was a student at George Washington University in Washington DC when Kennedy was killed. It was a surreal time. That weekend I had been invited to a party at a frat house on campus. I took the bus in from Alexandria, where I lived, because I needed to get out of the house. When I got to the party I was amazed that it really WAS a party, all these frat boys were drunk and celebrating the death of the President. I left and walked over to the White House and joined the crowd there. I will always remember the glee at the party, and the grief felt by so many of us.

  42. Wow Shelly that is dramatic. At George Washington U?

  43. chas pike says:

    hawk, for what it is worth: i forgive you, and thank you for your honesty.

  44. Alan Hawkins says:

    Charles… I receive that and thank you. We live complex lives born into a context that is not of our choosing. We tend to think our context is definitive and final. It requires a great many things to change us. That process is not described in my piece but the genesis of it was those 4 days in November leading up to JFK’s funeral.

  45. Thank you for your candour and for showing us that, despite our prejudices some of us can and do learn and grow over time.

  46. larry says:

    A very powerful recollection of a foreign land in a foreign time in a place called home. I remember the adult reactions, the deep grief of my mother. The tears of my teachers. I lived in Canada, but summered in Delaware. These black and white memories are powerful…but I was raised in an abolitionist family…dreams and hopes were dashed that day. We still need to dream and hope.

    One day may we only be measured by merit.

  47. John Muench says:

    It’s a shame JFK had to die to wake up some people. My mom and many of our neighbors cried all week after his assassination and I tried to comfort my mother, hugged her and asked her to stop crying as she wept on our back stoop when they announced JFK was killed even though I was only 4 years old. Despite the rampant corruption and dysfunctional Congress, I like to believe we are more united and accepting racially now than in the early 1960s.

  48. As I read all this, I am realizing how very alienated I was from “the context,” I was living in. I was already a working adult. I worked because that was what one did after college. That’s what grownups did. But any calling I may have heard had nothing to do with career or society.
    In fact, I was heading toward a juncture with the “tune in, turn on, drop out” faction. When Timothy Leary said that in 1967, it just reinforced what I had been doing on my own for 10 yrs. I was alienated.

    So, when I heard the news, I was very surprised to find that I was hurt. That it actually mattered to me. I suddenly realized that I had been allowing the Kennedys to stir hope in me. Maybe not all the power belonged to grim, ugly, tasteless, boring hateful old men. Maybe something worthwhile could happen, something with real life in it.

    And now, before that bud of hope could blossom, it was crushed.Big time. That assassination confirmed all my pessimism.
    i do remember the sense of horrified unbelief when Bobby got it too, but I was already re-submerged in whatever world I was choosing that was not the common American scene.
    I can also remember when President Roosevelt died. I was seven. He was much revered in my home. But the Irish kids on the block cheered. I really was confused and dismayed by that. My parents made some perfunctory explanation. The Irish hated him because he supported the English;
    So there you are, and so it goes. Always someone available to cheer death.

  49. The most virulent racists of that period didn’t hate him because he was Democrat, that was his one saving grace, as they TOO were Democrats.

  50. Alan Hawkins says:


    You might be right. There was an anomaly going on in politics in the 60s. In the south the people were Democrats going back to Reconstruction and their hatred of Lincoln. But by the 50s into the 60s and 70s there was a pronounced shift in NATIONAL politics. In local and state elections you had to be Democrat to get elected. In national politics the South began to go for Republicans because of general conservatism issue.

    But it is true that most of the South was registered Democrat and hated Kennedy.

  51. J.U. says:

    From Wikipedia, the vote by party for/against the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. What Alan said about the shift in Southern politics and a strategy on the part of the Republicans to capture the southern vote is true.

    But those that think the Democrats are/were all for civil rights is to have a short memory.

    By party

    The original House version:[17]
    Democratic Party: 152–96 (61–39%)
    Republican Party: 138–34 (80–20%)
    Cloture in the Senate:[18]
    Democratic Party: 44–23 (66–34%)
    Republican Party: 27–6 (82–18%)
    The Senate version:[17]
    Democratic Party: 46–21 (69–31%)
    Republican Party: 27–6 (82–18%)
    The Senate version, voted on by the House:[17]
    Democratic Party: 153–91 (63–37%)
    Republican Party: 136–35 (80–20%)

    So, although the Democrat majority voted for civil rights and some Republicans voted against, it was much more the R’s that passed it than the D’s.

  52. William Shelton says:

    Thank you. I was eleven and in the fifth grade in southern Oklahoma. Though my class didn’t cheer,(that I remember), the attitude wasn’t that different I remember my father saying (before the assassination) that he would dance on JFK’s grave when he died. To my father’s credit, he sat my two brothers and I down that evening and told us in unequivocal terms that, although he had said those things, he only felt sorrow that day, that to wish the death of anyone was wrong and that he was mourning the death of a President – no matter who he was – because one should never murder the President of our country for any reason,

  53. Scott says:

    Lee Harvey Oswald was a committed Marxist and loved Fidel Castro. In my opinion, he was egged on to assassinate JFK during his visits to the Cuban & Soviet Consulates in Mexico City prior to his shooting of the president.

    His motives were not racially based…

    Too bad that nut Jack Ruby got to him before the investigators had a chance to waterboard him. The way history is slanted now regarding this whole event would be entirely different. Then again, maybe not.

  54. stupid says:

    Oswald was a dupe for whoever masterminded the plot. Ruby was a hired gun by the same. The cover up was most likely connected to the same.

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