November 17, 2013

From the archives: 'State officials, public shocked by murder'

From the front page of the Portland Evening Express, Nov. 22, 1963.

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Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer . Wednesday, November 13, 2013. Copy shot of the Press Herald front page from the Saturday, Nov. 23, 1963 edition.

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Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer . Wednesday, November 13, 2013. Copy shots of Press Herald and Evening Express pages concerning the shooting of President John F. Kennedy.

Maine residents were shocked by the death of President Kennedy.

Maine’s Sen. Edmund S. Muskie, a close personal friend of the President, was at the Eastland Motor Hotel here when the news came. He went to the studios of WCSH to be close to the latest news on the President, and when his death was finally confirmed issued this statement.

“This is a tragic and shocking thing. All we can do is pray and it may be too late. I don’t know yet if the President is alive or dead, and there is nothing more I can say at this time.

Gov. John H. Reed expressed shock and sorrow over the shooting of the President. He asked Maine residents to pray.

Here’s the governor’s full statement:

“Words are inadequate to express my shock and sorrow at this terrible incident. The ruthless shooting of our president and my fellow governor John Connally has stunned all of us in Maine.

“We wait anxiously for some encouraging news from Texas. I ask the people of Maine to pray for the President.”

The UPI reported from Washington Sen. Margaret Chase Smith wept today when told of the assassination attempt on Presidents Kennedy.

Mrs. Smith, herself a possible presidential contender, was told of the shooting as she sat at her desk eating lunch after a Space Committee meeting in Washington.

The Senator immediately cancelled all her appointments for today and went to a Senate Republican meeting summoned by Senator Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.)

“I am deeply shocked. I pray for his recovery. In the past weeks we have become such very (good) friends…he was so generous to me,” Mrs. Smith said in tears.

All day long a National Broadcasting Co. television crew had been filming her activities because of talk that she might enter the presidential race.

She cancelled the filming and sent the crew home.

Mrs. Smith left at her desk her traditional luncheon menu, cottage cheese and peach salad.

Her assistant William Lewis told newsmen, “Mrs. Smith has also cancelled a speech planned for Monday at the Air Force Academy. It was to have been on “The role of Congress in National Policy.”

Lewis added, “We don’t know what we will do about her scheduled speech Dec. 5." It is on the fifth that Mrs. Smith expected to announce her presidential plans.

City council Chairman Ralph Amergian called the shooting “Outrageous! It’s one of the blackest days in history. I can’t find the words to express my feelings.”

Amergian said as soon as he heard of the death over the radio he called the city manager and asked that all city flags be lowered to half-mast immediately. City Manager Graham W. Watt said that regardless of one’s political beliefs, "I’m sure that all in the city will join in sorrow. I don’t feel like saying much now. It’s almost unbelievable “

Rep. Stanley R. Tupper, R-Maine, said today the assassination of Pres. Kennedy is “the most tragic circumstance since the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.”

“Every person in this land,” Tupper said. “who has encouraged these vicious extremists who have unleashed this murderous assault on President Kennedy and Gov. Connally and every politician who has not raised his voice against the paranoids of the radical right are equally guilty.”

Miss Lydia Cormier, U.S. Collector of Customs for Maine called it “a terrible shock to all of us.”

“We are praying that it won’t be serious and that his life will be spared,” she said. “We need him in a time of crisis like this.”

(Continued on page 2)

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