Car salesman a devoted John F. Kennedy fan

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 8, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

George Crocker Jr. was only 8 when the nation lost its beloved President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

&uot;When I was in the third grade at East Suffolk Elementary School, a classmate sitting behind me shouted out twice, ‘President Kennedy got shot, President Kennedy got shot!’&uot; recalled Crocker, 49. &uot;Initially I didn’t believe him but shortly thereafter, a fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Juanita Glover, came into the classroom and verified what my classmate was shouting.

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&uot;I was shocked by the news. During the days that followed, I felt like I had lost a family member.&uot;

Crocker, a car salesman at Mike Duman Auto Sales, said he has always been fascinated by Kennedy and his tragic assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.

Crocker began reading and collecting information on the assassination. Over the years, he has collected an enormous number of items – news accounts, magazines, books, and other memorabilia – about the life and assassination of Kennedy.

Crocker’s collection includes copies of the magazines, Newsweek, Life and Look; several special editions, including &uot;The Four Dark Days in History,&uot; and a book by The Associated Press, &uot;The Torch Is Passed;&uot; and multiple newspapers – The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Los Angeles Times, and The Minneapolis Observer.

Crocker said he gets these editions at a Richmond business, Whiting’s Old Papers, which has papers of all sorts of historical events. He also visits the libraries in Suffolk and Norfolk to print articles from the microfilm.

Crocker inherited his admiration of the country’s 35th leader from his father, George Crocker Sr.

&uot;He was always an advocate of politics,&uot; Crocker said. &uot;Even though I was very young during the Kennedy presidency, he would often discuss and explain its importance to the country and particularly to African-Americans.

&uot;Kennedy believed in equal opportunities for all Americans, the same as Dr. King,&uot; he said. &uot;That was a great time in history and Kennedy was the type of president that made Americans feel good about themselves.&uot;

Crocker said that he knows people wonder why he collects these items.

He wants to establish a mini-Kennedy Library, showcasing information on the life and times of a great president who inspired interest in other historical and political events and got people involved in serving the country and working for world peace.

In August 1991, Crocker had the chance to visit Fort Worth, Texas, to participate in his cousin’s wedding. He took advantage of that opportunity to travel to Dallas, about 30 minutes away.

&uot;My cousin knew of my interest in Kennedy, although I was unaware of this. He told me that he would not extend the wedding rehearsal too long because he thought I might want to visit Dealey Plaza, the site of the assassination.

&uot;Naturally, I played it down because I didn’t want him to think that I was more interested in visiting Dallas than I was in attending his wedding,&uot; said Crocker.

&uot;The day after the wedding, I went to Dealey Plaza but the entire area around the assassination site was sealed off for the filming of the movie, &uot;JFK.&uot; However, I was able to walk around the entire area and watched some of the filming and see some of the cast members of the movie.

&uot;For me, it was a memorable experience. Behind the Texas School Book Depository, where some of the shots were believed to have been fired, was a building that housed the Kennedy Information Center.

&uot;That was a field day for me. I went inside and felt like a kid in Toyland. There were books, magazines, newspapers, and newsreel footage from Dallas on the day that everything took place.

&uot;Needless to say, I packed up some of the information to add to my collection,&uot; he said. &uot;As one might say, I am frozen in time with the Kennedy assassination.&uot;

Crocker, a member of East End Baptist Church, is the son of Bertha Crocker, a retired teacher from the Suffolk Public School System.