Eddie Barker, the Dallas newsman who was the first to report the death of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 (see below), has passed away at the age of 84, according to the TVSpy media site.
WBAP’s chief meteorologist Brad Barton penned a sterling tribute to Barker on his blog:
Eddie Barker was the News Director of Channel 4 TV on November 22, 1963.
He was standing by at the Trade Mart to cover President John F. Kennedy’s luncheon speech when ominous phone calls began racing around Dallas.
The President’s motorocade had been shot at in downtown Dallas.
The President had been hit in the head and was gravely wounded.
A priest had been summoned to Parkland Hospital.
The anticipating crowd at the Trade Mart began to hush.
A local minister offered a prayer before the audience.
Eddie Barker had commandeered a pay phone in the hallway and was reporting on the atmosphere to Channel 4 and CBS Television.
A doctor he knew walked up to him while he was on a live nationwide hookup.
Eddie Barker put the world on hold while he spoke to the doctor who told him, “He was D-O-A.”
Eddie asked if he could quote the doctor by name but the doctor said he didn’t want his name used.
Based on the trust that reporter has in his source, Eddie Barker told the world, “The President is Dead.”
He didn’t have a second source. He didn’t have a political agenda. He didn’t have any desire to make a name for himself in network news. He had a breaking story and the good judgment to put it on the air when he alone was confident it was true. Others claimed they were the first, but it was always and only Eddie Barker. Eddie also used his connections to smuggle witnesses to CBS Television in New York and break additional stories in the weeks, months and years following the assassination.
The facts I wrote are well-known to many. Eddie wrote a book about it. But I was privileged to work with Eddie for a number of years and get to know him well enough to visit his farm in Cooper, Texas and pick up an occasional dozen farm eggs.
In later years, I helped him struggle with computer-generated news copy and digital audio. He lost those battles, but he maintained his wit with a daily talk show on Paris, Texas radio.
What a wonderful, journalist Eddie was. He never lost his passion for excellence and anger at how broadcast journalism had slipped in recent years. Broadcast journalism lost a great man.- – Chief Meteorologist Brad Barton