November 16, 2023 Darwin Payne

Evening Lecture
Behind the Scenes: Covering the JFK Assassination 

Darwin Payne, SMU Professor emeritus of Communications

5:30 reception followed by 6 PM lecture followed by Q&A and book-signing
Moody Hall Auditorium,6404 Airline Road, SMU
Co-sponsored with SMU’s DeGolyer Library and Friends of the Libraries

To register, click here. 

On November 22, 1963, the author of "Behind the Scenes" was a young Dallas Times Herald reporter who sprinted from his newspaper desk to Dealey Plaza minutes after shots were fired at President John F. Kennedy. Thus began Darwin Payne’s close involvement in covering one shocking event after another on this history-making weekend.

Eyewitnesses he found at Dealey Plaza included Abraham Zapruder, who insisted from the first moments that the president could not have survived the serious wounds he had seen so clearly through his camera viewfinder. Payne interviewed detectives outside the School Book Depository that early afternoon as they brought down evidence of the shooter’s location, as well as his rifle, and he was among several journalists taken to the assassin’s sixth-floor window from where fatal shots had been fired.

Before the day ended, Payne was in the Oak Cliff rooming house where the suspect had been living briefly apart from his Russian wife, Marina. Payne learned that the alleged assassin, now in police custody after being charged with the murder of officer J. D. Tippit, was known as O. H. Lee instead of Lee Harvey Oswald.

On Payne’s regular Saturday night police-beat duty, he was among the growing number of assertive journalists from throughout the nation who saw and heard Oswald being led to and from his jail cell to the homicide office for interrogation. As detectives pushed their way with him through the crowd of reporters, he responded to their questions with defiant claims of innocence. The mind-boggling weekend was still not over, for the next morning nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald.

DARWIN PAYNE is professor emeritus of communications at Southern Methodist University and the author of Indomitable Sarah: The Life of Judge Sarah T. Hughes; Big D: Triumphs and Troubles of an American Supercity in the 20th Century; and Dallas, an Illustrated History. He and his wife, Phyllis, live in Dallas. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

See SMU Covid response

Maps and directions to SMU.