56-year-old tragedy preserved in the amber of brittle newsprint

Bill Clough photo George Yarbrough remembers JFK assassination.

GOLIAD – Every Nov. 22 George Yarbrough remembers the sounds.

He is 85 now; then he was 29, working in the production room of the Dallas Morning News.

“We were loading copies of the Texas Almanac,” he remembers. “We were hauling them out on the dock to put them into the trucks.

The Weather Bureau – as it was known then – was predicting a high temperature of 62.

“We were about three blocks away but we could hear the sound of the parade – the procession being led by President John F. Kennedy.

“Suddenly, we heard what we thought was a truck backfiring,” he says. “It wasn’t very long before we heard the horns and the sirens.

“It only took between one and three minutes that we learned what had happened.”

In short order, the Dallas Morning News started printing special, or extra, editions.

One of those editions is growing yellow and brittle in the Yarbrough home off Canyon View Lane. “I took it right off the press,” he remembers.

“The day just didn’t feel normal,” he recalls. And then, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested. “I’d been to see movies there many a time.”

Yarbrough and his wife, Barbara, decided they didn’t want to stay alone in Dallas. They spent the night in McKinney.

“You know, a lot of people didn’t want JFK to come to Dallas,” he says. “I don’t know if you should put this in the paper, but there was one guy who said it was the best thing that could have happened to the country.”

Of one thing about the assassination, Yarbrough is certain: “Everything turned upside down. This country has never been the same.”

He later became a Southern Baptist minister. Five years after that day in Dallas, he became the minister at the Cuba Baptist Church in Bridgeport, Texas.

“It was a small, rural church,” he remembers. “I had a congregation of 16.”

He retired in 1999 and still serves as a “supply preacher.” 

“I live to preach and I preach to live,” he says.

Yarbrough delicately opens the 1963 extra edition.

Dallas Morning News, Saturday, Nov. 23, 1963, Volume 115, No. 54, 50 pages in four sections. Price: 5 cents.

As often is the case of antique publications, the advertisements begin to demand more attention than the stories themselves.

Numerous businesses ran advertisements announcing their closing because of the assassination, including the Snuffy Smith Motor Company.

The Dallas Civic Opera postponed its performance of Verdi’s “A Masked Ball” until Sunday.

The General Electric Center Store offered a transistor radio for $14.88 – $1.50 down and $1.25 a week.

Yarbrough was right: Things never were quite the same. Few people today can name the date of the Challenger or Columbia disasters, or when Robert Kennedy faced his brother’s fate or when man first walked on the moon.

But even without that extra edition, the date of Nov. 22, 1963, somehow survives in memory, and filling brittle and yellowing pages of a special edition from more than half-a-century ago, carefully stored by retired Baptist preacher in a modest home off Canyon View Lane.

Bill Clough is the Goliad editor at the Advance-Guard Press and can be reached at 361-645-2330, or at goliad@mySouTex.com.