Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) has announced the discovery of a WDEL radio broadcast of President John F. Kennedy’s speech during the dedication ceremonies of the Delaware Turnpike, the first completed section of Interstate 95, on Nov. 14, 1963.
This audio has been combined with still photographs to create a video available for viewing on DelDOT’s Interstate Highway System 50th Anniversary Web page.
The discovery of the audiotape was the result of a DelDOT Public Relation research project pertaining to the 50-year anniversary of the Federal Highway System.
A framed photograph of the ribbon cutting on display in the DelDOT’s Administration Building in Dover led Public Relations’ Bob King on a quest for news coverage of what was to be President Kennedy’s last public appearance for a public works project.
King learned that the State Archives only had a printed copy of the speech, and local television stations had discarded all records prior to 1970. King then contacted John McClement, of Delmarva Broadcasting, who indicated there was a slim possibility that one of WDEL’s former newsmen might have kept a copy.
McClement provided the name and contact information for Joe Mosbrook, then news director of WDEL and now retired and living in Ohio. He had covered the ribbon cutting in 1963 and then combined the dialog of that event with an end of the year retrospective tribute to the then assassinated president.
“We decided to cover the dedication live on radio,” said Mosbrook. “WDEL Newsman Burke Hull and I did the reporting of the event.
“A month later I was producing a traditional year-end review broadcast for WDEL, and, mainly because of the assassination of President Kennedy, a week later decided to use some of the audio on that year-end review broadcast. While it was virtually impossible to save all the station’s news clips, I did save a tape of the year-end program.”
Mosbrook left WDEL in 1967 to join NBC News in Cleveland and worked as a reporter at the NBC radio and television stations for approximately 35 years before retiring.
He said when he got the inquiry about the turnpike dedication, he searched through his old tapes in his home in Cleveland Heights, OH, and found the clip.
King, a community relations officer of Public Relations, and Tim O’Brien, DelDOT photographer, then took the next step. Searching through the Delaware State Archives revealed a cache of photographs of the event, many actually showing Mosbrook among the crowd and at the press table.
These historic photographs were matched with the dialog from the radio report by Steve LePage, of DelDOT’s Technical and Support Services Division of the Office of Information Technology (OIT), to recreate a visual retrospective of the event.
“While highway dedication ceremonies are usually not high-interest news events, that one was special because the popular president participated,” said Mosbrook. “It obviously took on added significance when Kennedy was killed a week later.
“When I first heard about the assassination, one of my first thoughts was that just a few days earlier I had been within a few feet of him at the turnpike dedication.
“During the turnpike broadcast I was surprised by the relative lack of security for the president. He just jumped into the crowd and shook hands with everybody and anybody who was there,” he added.
“In later years, working for NBC, I covered many presidential events and was never able to get that close to a president without all sorts of security checks and precautions. Of course, the later security measures resulted from the JFK assassination.”
For more information, visit www.deldot.net.
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