Nov. 22, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a story only The Oracle reported in Putnam County on the day of his death.
Tech alumnus Harold Freeman was serving as the copy editor for The Oracle when the assassination occurred. He visited the Office of Communication Thursday and shared his experiences at Tech with several journalism students. Freeman told the audience his story of how The Oracle came to report the assassination to the Upper Cumberland.
“Nov. 22 was a publication Friday for The Oracle,” Freeman said. “Another editor and I stopped for lunch on our way to the Herald-Citizen’s office and printing plant. At the restaurant, the lady at the front asked if we had heard. We asked her, ‘Heard what?’ and she said, ‘The President’s been shot.'”
Freeman told students about the trip back to campus. Kennedy was assassinated at 1 p.m. and The Oracle went to press in just a few hours.
“We did not have the advantage of the Associated Press or any wire service for that matter,” Freeman said. “We were just a campus newspaper.
“We got a reporter, a sports reporter, to sit in front of the TV and radio and put together a story,” Freeman said. “We ran into an Oracle student ad salesman and he said he had been sitting in the lounge listening to student opinions and comments. He gave us a story on student reaction.”
Freeman said by 6 p.m. The Oracle staff has compiled a paper and printed 1,000 extra copies. The 3,000 total copies were brought back to campus and handed out to the 3,300 students enrolled on campus and the people of Cookeville.
“The Herald-Citizen was only published two or three times a week,” said Freeman. “That made us the only paper in town to have printed the news the day of.”
Freeman said the newspaper staff put a picture of Kennedy on the front page, as well as a picture of Derryberry.
“We took a picture of Derryberry with the flag at half-mast,” Freeman said. “Of course, that was when Derryberry Hall was still occupied President William Derryberry.”
Freeman’s journalism experiences did not end when he graduated from Tech. Freeman graduated with a math degree and physics minor and spent several years teaching children in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps. He was eventually drafted and served time in Vietnam.
Years later, Freeman became a state reporter for The Augusta Chronicle in Ga. He later took a position as an editor with The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. He retired from his career and still resides in Louisville with his wife, Linda.