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John F. Kennedy — remembering a friend

Published: Sunday, Nov. 21 2010 11:00 p.m. MST

Then he signed his middle initial "F." He nodded to the chairman of the Senate committee who stood up and was given that pen. Kennedy then signed his last name. When he finished, the Secretary of the Interior, Stuart Udall, stood up in anticipation.

"But the President had not nodded to him like he had nodded to the other," Oscar McConkie said. "Stu just assumed and that offended, obviously, the President of the United States. And he turned to me and said, 'Oscar, how would you like a pen?' "

In 1963, only a few weeks before his assassination, President Kennedy spoke in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.

"That was a truly great time for me, because I sat down with Ted Sorenson, his speech writer," Oscar McConkie said of Sorenson, who died on Oct. 31, 2010. "I helped him with that speech. We ended that speech with a great quote from the Doctrine and Covenants."

President Kennedy ended the speech, on foreign policy, by talking about "a command, which Brigham Young heard from the Lord more than a century ago — the command he conveyed to his followers, 'Go as pioneers to a land of peace.' "

After the speech, Oscar McConkie went with President Kennedy immediately to his car. Byron "Whizzer" White, who later became a Supreme Court Justice, also got in the car.

"I was the Utah man," Oscar McConkie said, "and Whizzer White was the Colorado man. And Whizzer was mad. He didn't like it."

In front of the president, White turned to Oscar and mocked, "As the Lord said to Brigham Young." Oscar shot back, "Whizzer, you take care of the gentiles in Colorado, I'll take care of the saints in Utah."

On Nov. 22, 1963, Oscar McConkie was in his law office in downtown Salt Lake City. "Someone came in and said they had just heard it (news of the president's assassination) on the radio.

"I remember I just burst into tears. I can remember just walking out of the office and walking up and down the street, tears streaming down my face. It was terrible. Just terrible," Oscar McConkie said. "People came up on the street that knew me and commiserated. It didn't make any difference if they were Democrats or Republicans, or for or against him. It was a personal calamity to them, I thought."

Later, Oscar McConkie asked Sen. Teddy Kennedy if the family was satisfied with the report on the assassination from the Warren Commission. "He said that it was his judgment, that when everything was settled down, that history would say that the Warren Commission had it just exactly right."

Judy remembered the late President John F. Kennedy as being "very gracious, very warm, a cute sense of humor. ... He liked to joke about Oscar. He like to rag on Oscar. He very much liked Oscar."

And Oscar liked him too.

John F. Kennedy's visits to Utah

Nov. 11, 1957

March 6, 1959

Jan. 30, 1960

Sept. 23, 1960

Sept. 26-27, 1963

e-mail: mdegroote@desnews.com

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