Golda Walbert remembers exactly where she was the moment she heard the news President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.
“I was teaching the sixth grade at the Red Cross School and it was in the afternoon,” said the 88-year-old Glasgow resident. “The principal got on the PA system and said, ‘Give me your attention everyone, give me your attention. Something terrible happened. The president of the United States has just been killed.’”
The classroom was so quiet, a person could have dropped a pin and the sound of it hitting the floor would have been heard, she said.
Walbert had recently purchased a new Chevrolet car. It was parked near her classroom. She lined up her students and together they went outside to listen to the news on the car’s radio. Some of the students sat in the car, while others stood outside the car, but were close enough to hear the news broadcast.
“Some of the children were frightened. They cried,” she said. “I had them to do nothing but listen until we were fully aware of what was going on and then I brought them back into the room and taught them the meaning of such words as assassination [and others].”
The students had many questions for her about what had just happened to the nation’s president. They wanted to know why bad men did such things, she said.
Walbert recently recalled the amount of time that lapsed between hearing the news and school dismissal time.
“It was about 40 minutes,” she said. “Isn’t it interesting that would stay in my mind all these years?”
During her teaching career, Walbert taught students the importance of being registered voters and political party supporters.
Walbert comes from a long line of Republicans. Her maternal grandfather was the first person to cast a Republican vote in Rockcastle County, which is where she is where she was raised.
She has been involved in politics for many years, specifically with the local Republican party, but she didn’t become chair of the organization until later in life. It was a position she held for more than 30 years.
Republicans were against Kennedy in the 1960s.
“The people all around me were my party people and those died in the wool, who were just one-sided completely, probably wouldn’t have given him a drink of water,” she said.
Walbert didn’t vote for Kennedy, but after he was elected she supported him because he was president of the country.
Kennedy gained much Republican support during the Civil Rights Movement.
“It was probably the best thing that happened during that administration,” she said.
Walbert has always put her religious beliefs, before politics. As a Presbyterian, who has family members who represent various religious denominations, she had no problems with Kennedy being a Catholic. He was the first Catholic president to be elected, which she said was something that “the most remarkable thing that happened in a protestant nation.”
As for her generation, Walbert couldn’t think one thing in particular Kennedy did for her generation.
“I saw him as being pretty much across the board,” she said. “He was received by his age group as someone who was worth looking up to.”
Kennedy had a young family during his presidency and Walbert said his interaction with his children was a good example to present to the American people.
She recently chatted with friends about Kennedy’s term in office, one of who said it was believed Kennedy would have gone down in history as being one of the most valuable presidents to the nation had he lived.
“I think he would have been quite close to the top,” she said. “He had an advantage of youth. He had an advantage of a good education, and he seemed to be in tune with talking to the average person. I don’t think he would have fallen below the upper half of our presidents in value to the country.”
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