Driving and Biking in the Big City

Posts Tagged ‘Kennedy assassination

Thelma, Louise and Me

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You know you are in for a Texas-style road trip when it starts with the question, “Do you mind if I bring my gun?” Vinny and I always feel pretty safe on the Big City streets, but we are never ones to encumber our guests. Thus, we hit the much traveled road from Houston to Dallas for a weekend at my girlfriend’s ranch, only miles from the original Southfork for the TV series, “Dallas.”

All the law and order talk was highly appropriate for my travels north because the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex was the sight of this old cop reporter’s heyday. The towns and streets become places in my mind instead of places on the map. I revisit big stories, and, in my case, they were mostly murder and mayhem in a day when crime wasn’t so common place.

First inkling that I’m reliving my glory days is the big city of Ennis, Texas. I covered a man’s murder of his four young kids, his wife and then himself. Turned out he was a religious zealot who had become more and more introverted until he saw no way out. Sound familiar? Everything old is new again.

There’s always a small town near a big metropolitan area that becomes known as an easy place to stash your unwanted victims. Kennedale was that place when I was covering cops in the area. When I was at the Beaumont Enterprise, we had the nearby beach front for unsuspecting joggers to trip over a long dead murder victim. High Island comes to mind.

Nearby is Mansfield where I wrote a really fun story of the police chief. He was a legend in the cop shops during those days because he had solved a hit and run with good old fashioned detective work. At the scene of the crime, he picked up some pieces from a headlight and stashed them in an evidence bag. Only miles away, he was at a gas station, filling up and spotted a car that looked like it had been in a wreck. He took his chards of glass and fitted them perfectly into the broken headlight for an arrest.

Then, I’m in Arlington, my true stomping ground and one of the first suburbs where a huge mall was built. That’s where I attempted to solve the tragic murder of young Cheryl Calloway who already was a cold case when I moved to town. I spent weeks revisiting the clues and witnesses and wrote a beautiful story that I read over and over again in the classes I taught at University of Houston. I’m sure my students got tired of it, but I never did. It almost had a happy ending when I received a tip in the mail. “I know who killed that girl,” it read simply. I thought I’d solved the case, and so did the cops  . . . until the suspect passed a lie detector test.

The cops did give me credit for solving a diamond salesman’s murder. But first, they credited me with being a big pain in the ass. I was the only reporter who took a family’s story seriously and ran a missing person piece. As you CSI watchers know, no one gets serious about a missing adult. But this gentleman had gone missing with a trunk full of diamonds and it made for good headlines. When the story ran, a bartender spotted some familiar details from one of his regulars. The poor guy was found dead in a traditional unmarked grave, having been killed the day he’d gone missing.

Of course, I can’t tell stories of the olden days without thinking of the biggest crime ever in Dallas – the murder of John F. Kennedy by lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald. On the 20th anniversary of that tragic day, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had a team of reporters revisit the event. My assignment was an interview with Marina Oswald Porter. I was the only reporter she spoke to that year, and we had a very brief but unforgettable chat. She reminded me that she was only 19 years old at the time her husband killed the president and then was killed himself. She had lived another 20 years by the time we spoke and was 39 years old.

“Who were you at 19?” she asked me. “How can you compare yourself today to that person?”

During my tenure in Dallas and Fort Worth, the old Texas School Book Depository building was the source of many news stories. Should it be demolished? Sold?  The subject was very controversial. Most folks wanted to put this terrible event in the past.

Historic minds prevailed, and it has now become the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. I recently revisited the finished site and was pleasantly surprised. I probably enjoyed myself because it is as much a tribute to the newspapers in the area as it is a record of the tragic events of the day. The exhibits weren’t gratuitous or political; it was a simple chronicling of a pivotal time in history. Those were the days when you could be proud to call yourself a newspaper reporter.


Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

September 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm