Coachella Valley man was JFK staffer during assassination

Charles Dunn was aboard Air Force One when 35th President was killed.

Valley man speaks about being JFK staffer during assassination

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - In one week, we will remember the death of our 35th President.  It will be 50 years since President Kennedy died on that dark day in Dallas.  One Valley man was on board on Air Force One when it happened.

"That day will never be erased from anyone's mind who lived back then," said Charles Dunn.

Fresh out of high school, Dunn went to work in Washington D.C. 

"I will never forget the day. The Speaker's office sent me in a limo, the Speaker's limo, sent me to the White House, driving through the gates.  A 17 year old from Louisiana had not seen anyways of the world whatsoever and it was an unbelievable experience," said Dunn. 

As a State Champion typist, the White House quickly noticed his special skill and he became the typist for Evelyn Lincoln, President Kennedy's personal secretary.  He sat at a desk just steps from the oval office.

"I will never forget the first time that I met the President," said Dunn.  

"I was scared to death.  I remember even at this moment, the walk from my desk to inside the Oval Office and her introduce the President.  He couldn't be more charming, it was very brief, 'Welcome Mr. Dunn,' and he called me Mr. Dunn and here I was 17 years old, but a very handsome man with tremendous personality, it just oozed out of him," described Dunn.

For more than a year, Dunn witnessed history, typing as the world's most powerful leader spoke. 

"I rarely saw him in a bad mood.  During the Cuban Missile Crisis, I was doing a lot of the typing for those speeches and those kind of things and he certainly was not in a good mood," said Dunn. 

He also got to know the First Family.

"Occasionally Mrs. Kennedy would ask me to watch especially Caroline, John was so young then, but that was always wonderful that Mrs Kennedy wanted me to watch her," said Dunn. 

On November 22, 1963,  Dunn traveled with the President on Air Force One to Dallas.  Dunn never realized when he saw John F. Kennedy leave the plane, it would be for the last time.

"We heard a lot of calamity, we were busy so we didn't pay much attention and sort of our of ears something going on with the Presidents motorcade.  A lot of activity in the front of the plane and the Secret Service came on and put down all the shades on the plane and the rest of course, was history," said Dunn. 

Dunn says the full gravity of the situation didn't hit him right away.

"I remember going to work and suddenly realizing we didn't have the same President," said Dunn. 

Before Jackie Kennedy moved out of the White House, she gave Dunn a painting that a 13 year old had painted for the President.

"Mrs. Kennedy gave it to me after she had heard that I liked it so much," said Dunn. "I always treasured that very very much."

After serving in Vietnam, he became a teacher and eventually retired in Palm Springs.

Now 69-years-old,  Dunn remembers his years at the White House with President Kennedy as some of the best. 

"It was wonderful times, I think I always tried, I did appreciate every moment of what was happening to me," said Dunn. 

The City of Palm Springs has created a film about Dunn's experience, who is believed to be the last person still alive who was on Air Force one  that tragic day 50 years ago in Dallas.   

The video will premiere Wednesday, November 20th at the city council meeting in Palm Springs.  Dunn will also receive a special certificate of recognition.  You can also watch the video online click here. 

Plus tune in next Friday, November 22 to CBS Local 2 at 5:30. Kris Long traveled Dallas and talked with an eyewitness to the assassination.  He's a former Dallas newspaper reporter and was in Dealey plaza when the shots rang out that day.   He was on the scene when police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald. It's a story you will only see on CBS Local 2.

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