50 years later, ties to JFK stretch beyond Louisville visits - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

50 years later, ties to JFK stretch beyond Louisville visits

Posted: Updated:
Tom Perryman Tom Perryman
Perryman's press pass to cover Kennedy's visit. Perryman's press pass to cover Kennedy's visit.
Perryman with Dallas police chief Jesse Curry Perryman with Dallas police chief Jesse Curry
Father John Hanrahan Father John Hanrahan
The Kennedy Pew The Kennedy Pew

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – On November 21, 1963, President John F. Kennedy and the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, arrived at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. Air Force One was an hour late. The Kennedy's were tired and so were those on hand to greet them. Among those waiting to greet and cover them was Tom Perryman of WFAA radio – a man only three months removed from Louisville's own WAKY.

"There weren't very many people there because it wasn't promoted," Perryman said. "Because he was gonna be, the next morning, delivering a little breakfast speech."

Perryman slept in on the morning of Friday, November 22. He missing that first speech, but scheduled to cover the President's address at the Dallas Trade Mart at lunchtime. Perryman would need a call from his old boss at WAKY to tell him why he, and Kennedy, wouldn't be there.

"He said, ‘Come on! Kennedy's been shot!' And I said, ‘are you kidding me?'" recalled Perryman. "That the first I knew of it because I hadn't turned on the radio or anything."

Perryman would be all over the radio and television dials for three days afterward; filing reports for NBC and ABC. But he would miss the biggest "get."

"I kicked myself," Perryman said. "I had asked another guy, ‘you cover the basement - the police station - and I'll take what I thought was the better spot!"

Perryman was standing next to the Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry on Sunday, November 24 when they learned Jack Ruby had shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald. A photo of Perryman, then 26, and Chief Curry appears in several retrospectives commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination.

While with WAKY, Perryman had covered JFK's visits to Louisville. The first visit was as a candidate in 1960. They next was as President of the United States to  campaign for Democratic candidates in 1962.

Kennedy celebrated Mass at the now-shuttered Saint Mary Magdalene Church downtown during the latter visit. Ironically, the Secret Service chose the church for its ease in providing security, according to Father John Hanrahan, a member of the Archdiocese of Louisville staff who attended the service.

"They didn't want to fight the Cathedral (of the Assumption)," Fr. Hanrahan said. "Too huge and people galore."

Today, visitors to the Maloney Center may sit in the same pew that President Kennedy did at Saint Mary Magdalene. It's part of the Archdiocese' archival collection.

"He (JFK) had a bad back I believe," said Fr. Hanrahan. "I think he was kneeling it a typical Catholic pose with his knees on the kneeler, and his rear end on the back of the pew."

Perryman's memorabilia also is available –for a price. Two online auction sites feature a framed compilation of his media credentials, and a subpoena from Ruby's attorney Melvin Belli. Perryman also is offering a never heard before" recording of an interview with Oswald's mother. He's asking $100,000.

"It may be worth more to a person of history than it ever will to me," said Perryman. "But I probably will end up giving it to my kids."

Copyright 2013 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.