North Augusta man was eyewitness to Kennedy shooting

Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 6:11 PM
Last updated Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 1:43 AM
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Robert Davison doesn’t just think there was more than one shooter who killed President Kennedy; he says he knows there was.

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Robert Davison, of North Augusta, was a witness to the assassination of John F. Kennedy when he was living in Dallas. Davison remembers parking near an overpass and seeing Kennedy lurch forward 30 yards away as he was struck by the first bullet. "It's something that should never be forgotten," Davison said.   EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Robert Davison, of North Augusta, was a witness to the assassination of John F. Kennedy when he was living in Dallas. Davison remembers parking near an overpass and seeing Kennedy lurch forward 30 yards away as he was struck by the first bullet. "It's something that should never be forgotten," Davison said.



The 82-year-old North Augusta resident was in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, and stood with his eyes fixed on the president just as the fatal shot was fired.

Given his vantage point on the triple underpass – a railroad bridge that spanned three major Dallas streets near Dealey Plaza – and other eyewitness accounts, he doesn’t believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman.

“It’s just not right,” he said. “There’s too much evidence pointing to the fact that there was someone else.”

Mimicking the president’s movements after he was shot, Davison rocked forward in his chair with his hands clasped over his throat before tossing his body violently to the left. The first movement, he said, is proof the first shot that hit Kennedy in the throat and then Texas Gov. John Connally came from the direction of the Texas School Book Depository.

The second motion, a violent jerk to the left, was proof that the second shot, which struck Kennedy in the head, came from a shooter on a nearby grassy knoll, he said.

“I think there are more questions,” he said. “Why have they kept the information a secret for more than 50 years? I know. I was there.”

Davison belongs to an increasingly rare group of people who were eyewitnesses to the assassination of Kennedy. And for 50 years, he said, he has been haunted by what he saw.

On that sunny day in November, Davison planned to go to work just as he would have on any other day, but he changed his mind.

Kennedy, who had finished visiting nearby Fort Worth, was in Dallas to deliver a speech, and the event was preceded by a motorcade through downtown. Davison said the city was buzzing with excitement.

“You have to understand the buildup that this event caused,” he said. “The newspaper started publishing the event and the parade route probably a month before it ever happened. It had been a long time since a president had been to Dallas, Texas. I mean, the whole city was just in great anticipation of when this was going to happen.”

Davison said that as a 31-year-old Illinois transplant working for a communications company in Dallas, he was in his office building on North Akard Street just blocks from the motorcade route when people began lining the streets.

Some got there as early as 11 a.m. and were standing six deep in some places. About 11:30 a.m., Davison said, he decided to make his way down the parade route, though he struggled to find a good vantage point.

“Everybody who worked downtown was no doubt there,” he said. “It was like going out to the Augusta National and trying to watch the golf tournament.”

With few other options, Davison headed for higher ground. After taking back roads that ran parallel to the route, he found himself on Stemmons Freeway. He parked on the roadside and trekked back to the triple underpass.

“There was a policeman stationed on top of the underpass bridge, obviously to keep people from coming up there because they could have thrown something down into the open car,” Davison said. “I knew this guy, and he knew me. When I saw him, I asked, ‘Would it be all right if I could come up there and stand with you?’ and he said, ‘Sure, come on.’ ”

Davison’s view allowed him to watch the motorcade head-on. With the Texas School Book Depository straight ahead and the now-famous grassy knoll to his left, he watched Kennedy’s car round Elm Street and move toward the underpass.

His eyes were fixed on the president just as Kennedy began to clutch his neck.

“I was no more than 30 yards from the vehicle looking right at Kennedy when the first shot hit him,” Davision said, grabbing his throat. “As they went another 10 yards or so, the second shot hit him and he slumped over.”

Shocked, Davison looked to the police officer for answers, but the officer was just as stunned. The men didn’t hear any shots, just the rumble of the motorcycles passing beneath them and the roar of the crowd lining the parade route.

Within seconds, the motorcade was zipping down the street at breakneck speed.

“I looked right down into the car, and in the back seat, the roses that (Jacqueline Kennedy) had been carrying were strewn all over,” he said. “She had blood all on her skirt and (Kennedy) was just slumped over. I walked back to my car, turned on the radio and Walter Cronkite came on. He said, ‘We have just been informed that the president has been shot.’ Then I knew what I had just seen.”

Davison followed the motorcade to Parkland Memorial Hospital but was unable to get close to the building. He instead headed to a nearby RCA service building, which he was familiar with through his company.

By chance, an RCA serviceman was working on one of the company’s products, an electron microscope, inside the hospital just as Kennedy was rushed into the emergency room. The serviceman picked up the nearest telephone and narrated the sights and sounds for his colleagues down the street, Davidson said.

“We just sat there at the RCA service company building and listened to the serviceman talk about the doctors running back and forth the whole time,” Davison said. “It probably didn’t take him but six minutes to tell us that the doctors had pronounced Kennedy dead. We knew right then and there that he was gone.”

The assassination caused residents in the city to fear for their safety, Davison said.

“There were people afraid to come out of their house for a couple of days,” he said. “Hell, we didn’t know what was going on.”

Davison hasn’t seen a presidential motorcade in person since that day. That one he will never forget.

“It’s etched in my mind,” he said. “It has been there forever and it will be forever.”


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