Durham man came face to face with Lee Harvey Oswald - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Durham man came face to face with Lee Harvey Oswald

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DURHAM, N.C. -

A man who now lives in Durham was working for a Dallas television station 50 years ago.

On Nov. 22, 1963, Bill Mercer was 37 and working for KRLD. He remembers the day President John F. Kennedy was killed as "chaotic" and "hectic."

Mercer was there as Lee Harvey Oswald was brought before the press at the Dallas police station.

In the brief press conference, Oswald said he had not been charged with killing the president but Mercer was one of the few people who knew official charges had been typed up.

Video shows Mercer telling Oswald, "You have been charged, sir." Oswald remained near emotionless after hearing the news.

"He just kind of had one of those Oswald no-expression faces and turned around and walked out."

Mercer said he was focused on the story and not the man who was he was talking to.

"When he was there, I mean, I was sitting right here looking at him. I didn't even think about what a nasty guy or, 'You're the killer.' All that," Mercer said.

The veteran journalist kept the details of his involvement on that fateful day to himself. He so rarely spoke of it that his family didn't know the full story until Mercer co-authored a book on the assassination.

"It's sort of like the war. You don't start talking about it until you're 60," Mercer said. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

The experience was so painful for Mercer that he moved to sports broadcasting two years later.

"I just decided, 'I don't want to do this. I don't want to cover shootings and all that,'" he said.

Mercer completed his career as a sports broadcaster and even taught broadcasting at the University of North Texas, retiring in 2007.

Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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