Inspired by Kennedy’s call to public service

Kathy Stiles Freeland

Kathy Stiles Freeland


When she heard Kennedy was shot, Kathy went numb with shock and fear.

50 years ago today I was a sophomore at Phillips High School in Birmingham and in class when we were told President Kennedy had been shot and later died. I went numb with shock and fear. Our leader was gone. What would happen next? What I remember most vividly was how sickened I was that some of my classmates actually cheered. I had been inspired by his call to public service but others hated him for what was going on in Birmingham regarding desegregation. An ugliness I would have to deal with most of my life growing up in Birmingham was revealed as its most evil self in those cheers.

Kathy Stiles Freeland wrote this as a Facebook post on November 22, 2013, 50 years after Kennedy’s death. It is posted at Kids in Birmingham 1963 with her permission.