Houston Matters

Life Magazine Photographer Recalls Photographing JFK, Before and After the Assassination

On this 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy — a former Life magazine photographer who lives in Houston recalls chronicling the events that changed the nation.


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Bob Gomel is famous for many iconic images of The Beatles, Marylin Monroe and for chronicling the Kennedy Administration for Life Magazine.

Gomel is a longtime Houstonian and spoke with Houston Matters’ Craig Cohen about his memories of being in at the Life offices in Manhattan when the news broke.

“Anybody they could find on staff was ordered to Washington without as much as a toothbrush. And my first recollection is that we ended up on the White House lawn early in the morning, in enough time to witness Kennedy’s casket and his wife being slow-marched up the driveway into the White House.”

Gomel says the first image that comes to mind when he thinks of those days is one he took in the Capitol Rotunda, when President Kennedy’s body lay in state.

“I saw an opportunity to access a higher balcony and found a stairwell to accomplish that. And when I got there, the morning light streamed through the upper windows and seemingly focused on the body below us. And that image is indelibly printed in my brain. Forever.”

In his role as a Life photographer, Gomel had unique access to the Kennedy family, even before the presidency.
He once fell asleep on their couch while watching a football game when Kennedy was the President-elect.
But he says it wasn’t until this year that he was able to feel the emotions of the assassination.

“I would characterize my emotional response as non-existent at the time. However, here we are 50 years to the day, and I was reading our own Life Magazine book, The Day Kennedy Died, and I had my emotional reaction. Tears came to my eyes.”

The entire Houston Matters interview with Bob Gomel:


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Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

News Director

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez leads news coverage for Houston Public Media across broadcast and digital platforms. Ramirez is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Before becoming News Director, Ramirez held the position of Executive Producer for Daily News, leading daily and breaking news coverage, helping...

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