JFK teletype pages donated to ECU
On Nov. 22, 1963, Balinda Ferree was 19 years old and working in her father’s radio station in High Point, WHPE. That same day, President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, were in Dallas.
As the news began coming over the AP and UPI teletype machines relaying first that the president had been shot and then his death, Ferree watched her father, Gary Davis, and the other announcers gather the pages off the teletype machine and read the news live on the air.
She later collected the pages to help her remember those dark days in American history.
“It was the most important thing I had ever heard tell of,” Ferree said. Ferree was at Joyner Library attending a reception in honor of her donation to the East Carolina University Archives. She donated 130 teletype pages from the Kennedy assassination through the burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
She kept the pages together for decades, wanting to remember the awful event that ended the life of a president she had supported and believed in. Ferree and her husband, John, officially donated the pages to ECU on the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.
During a recent remodel of their home in Seagrove, Ferree came across the box in the back of a hall closet. “I knew there were things in there from John’s radio career and I knew there was Kennedy memorabilia in there,” she said, relating that she went through the box and then came to the folder.
“I looked at it and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I had almost forgotten I had kept that whole folder of those teletypes. This is history. This can’t be thrown away.’”
She knew the pages would continue to deteriorate and decided she wanted them to have a permanent home. She called a friend at her local library, who made a call and eventually John Tucker, university historian and history professor at ECU, was contacted.
“John and I want this to be used,” Ferree said. “It is important in our life and in the time of the country, so we wanted it to go somewhere where other people could read it and look at it. You have to remember there are not even teletype machines anymore. That’s a relic, itself.”
The Ferrees’ donation is the focus of an exhibit in Joyner Library along with photos from Kennedy’s campaign visit to Greenville and the East Carolina College campus on Sept. 17, 1960. The exhibit also includes the text of the eulogy that ECC President Leo Jenkins delivered at the campus memorial service.
Tucker estimated the monetary value of the pages to be approximately $100 to $300 per page. But the historical value is much more, he said.
“Whatever the value, it is a treasure for historians who study the media or the JFK assassination,” said Tucker, who remembers being an 8-year-old student at Greenville’s Elmhurst Elementary School. The school dismissed early with instructions for the children to “walk home as quietly and quickly as you can,” he said.
Larry Boyer, dean of academic library and learning resources, told the Ferrees that he remembers that time as “a period of black and white,” because that’s what the TV reports and newspapers were in.
Ferree added, “That’s the reason all of this becomes more important to be saved. There are many things here that are gone forever and this a little part of that time.”
Kacy Guill, head of University Archives, said the pages are in the process of being digitalized and then will be deacidified and interleaved with special protective paper to try to preserve them for as long as possible.
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