How Madison, Wisconsin Reacted To President Kennedy Assassination


There is a most remarkable front page story in this week’s Isthmus.  As America observes the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy Stu Levitan writes a most nostalgic and appropriate article that underscores what Madison was doing at the time of the tragedy, and how the city felt and reacted when the news flash from Dallas was  reported.

I am glad that Levitan starts with a story that is well-known about Senator Kennedy being in our city On November 20th.  This whole article is well worth you time as we prepare for next week.

Wednesday, Nov. 20, 1963
Cloudy, humid, high 48

President John F. Kennedy begins his last full day in the White House with a Western Union telegram to UW-Madison President Fred Harvey Harrington. Kennedy congratulates Dr. Harry Waisman and his colleagues at the UW Orthopedic Children’s Hospital on that afternoon’s dedication of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Memorial Laboratories, funded in part by a $255,000 grant from the Kennedy Foundation. Kennedy, whose sister Rosemary had developmental disabilities and was given an early, primitive lobotomy in 1941, salutes Waisman on his efforts to “conquer the vast field of mental retardation and its attendant problems.”

In a six-hour visit that afternoon, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and brother-in-law R. Sargent Shriver, director of the Peace Corps, tour the laboratories, attend a scientific symposium and hold a dedicatory luncheon at the Memorial Union.

“The room was abuzz with excitement,” remembers Waisman’s son, Don, who hung up Kennedy’s coat. The Waisman Center, created in 1973, continues the groundbreaking research conducted at the Kennedy lab.

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