A young reporter's chance encounter with JFK's assassin

Fifty years ago, Pierce Allman was across the street from the Texas School Book Depository building in Dallas when President Kennedy was shot. CBS News

DALLAS - Fifty years ago this Thursday, President Kennedy and his wife Jackie flew to Texas in Air Force One. The president was shot the next day in Dallas. We met a man who ran into the assassin as Lee Harvey Oswald fled the scene. 

"I will never forget that first look," said Pierce Allman.

On that fateful day in Dallas, Allman, a young newsman, came to a corner of Elm Street directly across from the Texas School Book Depository, to see the young first couple.

“They turned the corner and (closes his eyes) boom!” he recalled.

Allman looked up at the red brick building.

“There were three guys in the fifth floor window,” he said. “And they were literally hanging out of the window and looking up and pointing up. And I thought, 'I need to get to a phone and call.' So I ran down the sidewalk and up the steps and into the doorway of the depository building.”  

It was there he had a chance encounter.

“There was a guy standing in the doorway,” remembered Allman, “and I said, ‘Where's the phone?’ And he jerked his thumb and said, ‘In there!' And I said, ‘Thank you.’” 

Moments later, Allman filed a live report, unaware that he'd just come face to face with the president's assassin.

"This is Pierce Allman from the Texas School Book Depository building..." he reported at the time.

Allman would not learn the man's identity until three weeks later, when the Secret Service paid him a visit.

111321-Pierce Allman now.jpg
Pierce Allman today
CBS News

“They said, ‘Are you familiar with the testimony of Lee Oswald after his arrest?’ And I said, ‘No.’ And they said, ‘He states as he was leaving the depository building, a young man with a crew cut rushed up, identified himself as a newsman, and asked where a phone was. So this was very obviously you.’”

It must have come as something of a shock when Allman realized the guy he asked for directions was the person who just shot the president.

“It did,” said Allman. “He didn't appear stressed in any way.”

Just minutes earlier, Oswald shot the president from the sixth floor corner window of the building.

To Allman, it's as if it happened yesterday.

“If I go to the site, it's forever 1963,” he said. “I can hear it. I can see it. It's a memory that stays with you forever.”

Fifty years later, a day still frozen in time.

  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.

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