Martin Dyckman

Last updated Friday November 21st, 2008

By MARTIN DYCKMAN

It Was Controlled Pandemonium

I was on the copy desk, far from any action, but many things are indelible in my memory.

We were living in Largo. I was about to leave for my shift, which was afternoon-evening, when a neighbor came running to the door, shouting for us to turn on our television. That’s when I learned he had been shot, but not that he was dead.

I had to leave for work and there was no radio in the car. I took East Bay Drive, U.S. 19 and Haines Road to the Allendale area, and then drove through Allendale to Fourth Street. When I reached the corner, I saw a funeral home with its flag flying at half-staff, and I didn’t need a radio.

The St. Petersburg Times newsroom was in controlled pandemonium. I don’t recall whether I handled any assassination copy that day; more likely, I was editing state and local news.

But I was standing at the teletype when the first flash came in that a suspected Marxist, Lee Harvey Oswald, was being held in connection with the shooting. Times Publisher Nelson Poynter was standing nearby when I announced that.

His face fell.

"Oh, no," he said. "I was hoping it would be a right-winger."

In the days that followed, many of us helped ourselves to souvenirs: the half-tone engravings of John Kennedy that had accumulated in the library files. There came a time when we needed to illustrate articles that referred to the time, and we had to have new half-tones made because the ones already made had been so depleted.

We were expecting our second child any day. Names had already been chosen, but there was no doubt that should it be a boy, his name would be John. That’s how Daniel became his middle name when he was born a week later.

(Martin Dyckman began his career as a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times and retired as an associate editor of that newspaper. He currently resides in North Carolina and is author of Floridian of His Century, The Courage of Governor Leroy Collins and a second book, A Most Disorderly Court: Scandal and Reform in the Florida Judiciary.)

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