President John F. Kennedy visited UNC-Chapel Hill on University Day, Oct. 12, 1961. Copyright North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.
As news of President Kennedy’s death spread 50 years ago, Carolina came to a standstill. Students gathered around radios and televisions listening to the news.
The Beat Dook parade that had been scheduled for that afternoon was cancelled, as were other campus events. The weekend’s football game against Duke was called off as well.
The Di and Phi Joint Senate that evening approved a resolution expressing grief and sympathy. In a telegram to Jacqueline Kennedy and the newly sworn-in President Lyndon Johnson, it wrote: “the Di-Phi Senate wishes to express its profoundest shock and grief at the death of our beloved president. May God keep you.”
Just two years had passed since Kennedy had visited UNC to celebrate University Day.
“This is a great institution with a great tradition and with devoted alumni, and with the support of the people of this State. Its establishment and continued functioning, like that of all great Universities, has required great sacrifice by the people of North Carolina,” Kennedy had said during his Oct. 12, 1961, visit to campus.
William C. Friday, who then was president of the Consolidated System of North Carolina, later said in an interview in the Southern Oral History Program Collection: “It’s an experience to go through a visit of the President of the United States.”
“A lot of people asked, you know, “What did he say to you?” Well, I say, “Well, his first question was, ‘Who won the game last Saturday?’” Friday said.
Information in this story came from Jennifer Coggins at “For the Record,” a blog produced by University Archives and Records Management Services. Coggins is a temporary research assistant in University Archives and Records Management Services.
The News & Observer of Raleigh writes about Barbara Rimer’s connection to Jacqueline Kennedy. Rimer is the Dean of the Gillings School of Global Public Health. When she was 15, Rimer sent a letter of condolence to Jacqueline Kennedy. In it, Rimer promised “I will give body and soul to perpetuate the very ideals President Kennedy lived for.” Rimer’s letter was published in the book “Letters to Jackie: Condolences From a Grieving Nation,” released in 2010.
Published November 22, 2013.