JFK Remembered 60 Years After His Assassination
Nov. 22, 2023, marks the 60th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. To commemorate that national tragedy, and to remember the man at its center, a few networks are airing programming that looks back at that day, and the life and legacy of the young president.
Nat Geo’s JFK: One Day in America, is the second installment of the network’s One Day in America anthology docuseries franchise (the first was the Emmy-winning 9/11: One Day in America).
The series forensically explores momentous events in our history — in this case, chronicling in real time not only the day that Kennedy was assassinated, but also the days surrounding it, in hourlong episodes titled “Assassination,” “Manhunt” and “Revenge.”
This colorized archival image shows President Kennedy’s casket as it is carried onto Air Force One at Love Field.
JFK: One Day in America was produced in official collaboration with the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas and received exclusive permission to colorize the museum’s news footage archives for the first time, including film of suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald when he is in police custody, and when he is shot by Jack Ruby while being transferred to the county jail.
Weaving footage like that and other archival elements — including police radio recordings, live broadcasts and footage from dozens of television crews — together with new and archival testimony from those who were there, the series offers what it says will present a “comprehensive oral history” of that tragic day.
This colorized archival image shows the swearing-in ceremony of Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) as president aboard Air Force One with former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy standing next to him.
Some of the eyewitnesses who are sharing their stories for the first time in a documentary here include Peggy Simpson, the only female Associated Press reporter working in Texas in 1963 and an eyewitness to Oswald’s shooting; Rusty Robbins, a Dallas police officer who knew Ruby; and Bill Mercer, a local reporter who was the first to inform Oswald that he had been charged with the president’s murder.
Police officers escort Jack Ruby, killer of accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, from the Dallas police headquarters to a county facility in Texas. (Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)
Robert Kennedy and Edward Kennedy walk with their sister-in-law, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, during the funeral on Nov. 25, 1963, in Washington, D.C.
Saturday, Nov. 18-Monday, Nov. 20 on History
While Nat Geo’s docuseries focuses on the days around Kennedy’s assassination, History’s eight-episode Kennedy — following the format of the network’s previous popular and acclaimed docuseries about U.S. presidents, such as the recent FDR — takes a wider view. It chronicles the life and legacy of JFK, including his early years, his personal life, his harrowing tale of survival in World War II, his journey into politics, his historic thousand-day presidency and his assassination. The first three episodes of Kennedy air back-to-back on Nov. 18, followed by the next three on Nov. 19 and the final two on Nov. 20.
Narrated by Peter Coyote, the series unfolds through a cinematic library of archival materials (pictured is Kennedy delivering a speech at Rice University regarding the nation’s efforts in space exploration) and over 70 new interviews with those well-versed in JFK’s history, including his niece Kathleen Kennedy Townsend; Conan O’Brien, a longtime member of the JFK Library Foundation’s board of directors; Bruce Greenwood, who has portrayed Kennedy in film; and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eileen McNamara.
According to Ashton Gleckman, who wrote, directed and composed the music for the series, “John F. Kennedy’s time as president of the United States serves as a timeless example of how empathetic leadership coupled with charisma, idealism and the use of spoken word transcends time. … I hope this intimate yet epic story about public service, personal growth and leadership connects with young people, both this generation and future generations, as it did with me.”