Newly Discovered Film of JFK's Visit to Sioux City Stockyards
(SIOUX CITY, IA) Kennedy's death touched the lives of people all over the world including here in Sioux City. Just three years earlier he'd made a campaign stop in Siouxland where he visited the old stockyards. It's also where he met Judge Donald O'Brian.
It was a terrible time for the nation - the death of John F. Kennedy.
"If you got up in the morning and said to yourself, what's the worse thing that could happen today? And if you really thought about it, you'd say well I think the worse thing that could happen is if somebody shot the president. Well it happened that day and it was a bad day," said Senior Judge Donald O'Brien, with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.
It stunned everyone including Senior Judge Donald O'Brien, who JFK appointed as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa.
"There used to be what they called the French church which was a catholic church which was only about 3 blocks over here, and I decided I'd go to the French church and say some prayers and I did," he said.
He prayed even before he knew whether the President had died. He wasn't alone in his sorrow but just three years before that tragic day in November 1963, Sioux City was filled with hope and happiness. It was the day O'Brien first met JFK.
In 1960 John F. Kennedy came to Sioux City, and spoke to a crowd of more than 2,000 people where the Sioux City Stock Yards once were. Judge O'Brien remembers that day well, because it's the day JFK rode on top of a Donkey.
It was all caught on film too. The newly discovered film of JFK's stop in Sioux City hadn't been seen by the public until a few weeks ago. It was donated to the Sioux City Public Museum by Terry Prince.
"There was always some guys in the stockyards who were smart and tough and they said, how come you don't want to ride our donkey? And he took them up on it and it wasn't the best thing he should do but he did it," he said.
Years later, O'Brien would read in books about how JFK complained of back pain after that ride -- he never spoke a word of it to O'Brien during his visit.
"He was a tough guy and he wasn't about to say no," O'Brien said.
O'Brien was running for Congress at the time and was the one who picked JFK up from the airport. He recalls the future President being very inquisitive, asking 100 questions about the city and the people. He also told O'Brien he wanted to meet his mom.
"I went up to my mother and said he wants to talk to you. And she said me? Well there was no woman in the United States who wouldn't like to go back and spend 30 minutes with Jack Kennedy. So she was back there and I talked to her about it later and she said he asked me 100 questions, just like he did you," he said.
He was curious indeed and O'Brien recalls JFK not writing down anything he or his mother said but during his speech that day, JFK spoke of things they had talked about -- he remembered everything. Which is just one of many things Judge O'Brien will never forget.