TRAVERSE CITY — Retired Secret Service agent Michael Shannon, like many Americans alive in 1963, recalls exactly what he was doing 50 years ago today when President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas.
Shannon, a 1954 Traverse City Senior High graduate then in the first year of a 27-year career with the Secret Service, was on a Braniff airliner traveling from Dallas to San Antonio.
Then 27, he had worked during Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s arrival the day before at Love Field, as well as the midnight shift at the Texas Hotel in Fort Worth, where LBJ and his family slept. In fact, he was the only agent on duty that night from 11 p.m. until LBJ left that morning for the motorcade.
Shannon’s assignment on the morning of Nov. 22 was to fly to San Antonio, pick up a Ford at the local dealership for use the following day by LBJ and JFK on a planned media deer hunt at the Johnson ranch. At that time, Ford Motor Co. provided vehicles to traveling presidents.
Midway through the flight, the airline captain asked him over the cabin loudspeaker to come to the cockpit. Once there, the pilot informed him a Texas radio station had just reported Kennedy had been shot during the Dallas motorcade. Shannon sat glued to the radio for the rest of the flight -- decades before computers, cell phones and 24/7 news reporting in a tense Cold War political era
As the plane landed, the radio announced that Kennedy had died. Shannon raced to a pay phone and called the LBJ ranch. Agents there instructed him to pick up the car and come to the ranch as quickly as possible. He grabbed a taxi, picked up the Lincoln convertible and began his drive through roadblocks set up by Texas Rangers on the route to the ranch in Texas Hill Country near Austin.