RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–Gary DeLaune holds a special title in United States history and he recently stopped by the CBS 6 studios.
On this day nearly a half century ago this reporter would be the first person to tell the world that something went terribly wrong in Dallas Texas.
November 22, 1963. DeLaune was in the KLIF newsroom.
“We were probably the number one station in Texas for news,” he said.
Dallas was abuzz, awaiting the President’s arrival. DeLaune had his news prepared for the 1 p.m. show.
But in a split second DeLaune`s life, career and the country – would change forever.
Moments after shots ring out in Dealey plaza DeLaune called his source at the police department. She confirmed the shooting and KLIF went on air immediately.
Mr. DeLaune – a thirty year old reporter – would be the first person to broadcast the shooting of John F. Kennedy.
“The Dallas police department is still trying to confirm that President Kennedy and Governor Connolly have been wounded,” DeLaune read on-air. “Perhaps tragically in a downtown area.’
He recalled the chaos as the news spread; around the country, around the world.
Dalaune`s reports would be heard on 350 radio stations worldwide.
“I didn`t think about it,” he said. “I just reported it.”
With the young president dead and a nation gripped with grief, DeLaune remembers trying to check his emotions.
“’It`s just an unbelievable afternoon that you don`t think it`s something that will ever happen to you or your city or to your president,” he said.
Then two days later DeLaune would find himself not just broadcasting history but witnessing it.
“This is early, early Sunday morning; I said I feel I have to go. I have a feeling about this.”
Kennedy`s alleged assassin was in custody, near the KLIF station.
“The car was supposed to back down at a time when they could push Oswald to the floorboard and drive up,” said DeLaune, who was standing just a few feet from Lee Harvey Oswald.
“’I see this shadow coming out of my peripheral vision and Bang!,” he recollected.
An armed Jack Ruby would pump lead into Oswald.
“As a shot it reverberates like a flower and I`m knocked over a rail,” said DeLaune.
While police tackled Ruby and whisked Oswald to the hospital, DeLaune raced to his studio a block away.
[Click on the video to hear the actual KLIF recordings from that day]
“When you`re a fairly young newsman and you have that experience you`re not always sure if you`re going to do the right thing,” DeLaune said.
Nearly a half century later he recollects; “It was just a fascinating time.”
The momentous event remains fresh with this veteran reporter.
“I think what they need to do is hope that it never happens again,” DeLaune said.
Gary remains fiercely proud of his work those dark days, and it’s a November he`ll always remember.
“If I played a footnote in a page of history to me it will all be worth it because of the tremendous significance and importance of that weekend almost 50 years ago,” he said.
And even at 79, DeLaune hasn’t walked away from the microphone just yet. He still broadcasts high school football in San Antonio, and he was once the voice of the Texans and Spurs.
He’s also working on a book detailing his experiences as a radio reporter.