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Videotaped oral history interview with Reverend William A. Holmes. As minister of Northaven Methodist Church in Dallas, Holmes gave a powerful and controversial sermon on Sunday, November 24, 1963, in which he mentioned that some local schoolchildren cheered upon learning of President Kennedy's death. Portions of the sermon were later broadcast nationally on CBS, bringing international attention to both Holmes and the city of Dallas.
The story of the cheering schoolchildren was told to Holmes by a local teacher who witnessed the event, and was only a small part of Holmes' Sunday sermon. That story, however, prompted international outrage and an investigation by the Dallas Independent School District. Holmes and his family received death threats and were forced into hiding for a week. Detractors argued that students, unaware of the assassination, were instead cheering about an early release from school. In the aftermath, however, other Dallas area teachers corroborated the story as shared by Holmes.
One point of controversy involves the source of the original story about the cheering schoolchildren. KRLD-TV news director Eddie Barker, believing that Holmes was referring to University Park Elementary which Barker's children attended, ran a story to dispute Holmes' claim one hour after the CBS broadcast of the sermon excerpts. In 2008, however, Holmes revealed at a public program at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza that his confidential source was Ms. Carol Tagg, a fourth grade teacher at Everett Lee DeGolyer Elementary School in Dallas.
Interview conducted at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza on November 20, 2008 by Associate Curator Stephen Fagin. The interview is one hour and eight minutes long.
The video attached to this record is an excerpt. The entire interview is available in our Reading Room to on-site researchers or by submitting a Rights & Reproductions Request Form.
The Rev. Holmes first participated in a telephone oral history with The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza on March 2, 2007. When Holmes later visited Dallas for a Museum public program in November 2008, we took advantage of the opportunity and recorded this in-depth videotaped follow-up to his initial phone interview.
In 1963, Holmes' controversial sermon prompted death threats from people who didn't like his public criticism of Dallas, forcing the Holmes family to move out of their home for a week. In the aftermath, Holmes received more than 450 letters and cards from around the world in response to his sermon, some written by people who supported his sentiments and some who disagreed. In 2007, Holmes and his wife donated this collection of correspondence to the Museum. - Stephen Fagin, Associate Curator
There were several reports of schoolchildren in Texas and elsewhere having cheered after learning they were being let out of school early. Whether some cheered that Kennedy was shot or for another reason is not known or, at least, not well documented. KRLD news director Eddie Barker, who thought his children attended the Dallas school referred to by Rev. Holmes, learned from their teachers that no such cheering occurred. Like several areas of the Kennedy assassination story, this controversy may never be resolved. - Gary Mack, Curator
Dallas Independent School District
Holmes, William A.