I watched Booknotes on C-SPAN2. Steven Phenix tipped me off to this program and I thank him for it. Steven did not ask me to write about this, but I can’t help myself. The story is so compelling. The program, and the book, might even be sub-titled, “The day that changed the world.”
Turns out, Steven’s father – George Phenix – is one of the authors of “When The News Went Live: 1963“. I used that link to buy the book and can’t wait to read it.
Editor’s Note: I realized that I failed to list all the authors. Sorry about that.
They are: Bob Huffaker, Wes Wise, Bill Mercer and George Phenix.
George Phenix had been at KRLD TV 3, the Dallas CBS affiliate, for about six weeks when he was sent out on an assignment. This was the day (November 22, 1963) when John F. Kennedy made his fateful trip to Dallas. George met the plane at the airport and filmed the Kennedy’s as they exited the plane. Then, the motorcade left for their trip through Dealey Plaza
Later, George was waiting for the Kennedy’s at the Dallas Market Center, where JFK was scheduled to speak. He learned of the shooting. His youth may be what helped him pull off some impressive reporting. George grabbed a seat in a military officer’s car as he left the Trade Mart for Parkland Hospital, he began a ride that would end with him filming some of the most famous news footage in history. He reacted on impulse.
At Parkland, George broke from the crowd of reporters outside the hospital and went inside to get the only good film of Jackie Kennedy leaving the hospital. But it was his next filming assignment – two days later – that would change his life most dramatically.
George Phenix was in the garage of the Dallas jail when Lee Harvey Oswald was being taken through his ‘perp walk’ … that now common place experience of alleged criminals, the perpetrators, being walked past the press. George did not realize it, but Jack Ruby was actually standing right next to him at that time. As Oswald was being brought out, Phenix started filming. Ruby stepped out – right into the frame of George’s camera – and shot Lee Harvey Oswald.
Think about it. How many times have we seen that film? Six weeks on the job. George Phenix is quite amazing. Forty years later, he tears up during the C-SPAN presenation. That speaks to the intense emotional impact this event had on these gentlemen. One actually refered to how they had all – in one way or another – been sort of running from the event for the past 40+ years.
Thank you, Steven, for sharing the story. I know you are proud of your Dad. I know he is proud of you. George pointed out Steven in the audience during the program. 🙂
For me, it brings back so many memories. I was in pre-school at that time. I remember my parents coming to get me as all parents were coming and taking us all out of school. People were crying. I don’t know why I remember it so well, because I was all of about 5 years old. The more I think of it, part of the reason may be that my mother grew up in Fort Worth. The event shook her, and my father, to the core. But, that day – as the title of the book above says – was the first day when Americans (actually people all over the world) changed their ‘news habits’ and looked to television. The day truly changed the world. The change started there and George Phenix was a part of it.