JFK, Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis died on the same day.
November 22nd 1963: Three great men died that day.
On November 22, 1963, three towering figures of the 20th century died.
John F. Kennedy is the one that we all remember, but let’s consider the others.
Written by John Garth
Do you remember what you were doing the day Aldous Huxley died? Or C.S. Lewis? You don’t think so? Well, the odds are that if you were old enough to be laying down memories at the time, you do. Because it was also the day President Kennedy was assassinated.
The indelible experience of hearing the news is captured well in the opening scene of Frederick Forsyth’s thriller The Odessa File, as the announcement interrupts a song in mid-bar on our German hero’s car radio.
‘Jesus,’ he breathed quietly, eased down on the brake pedal and swung into the right-hand side of the road. He glanced up. Right down the long, broad, straight highway through Altona towards the centre of Hamburg other drivers had heard the same broadcast and were pulling in to the side of the road as if driving and listening to the radio had suddenly become mutually exclusive, which in a way they had.
In this way the shots fired in Dallas echoed almost instantaneously around the world, and plunged uncountable numbers into shock, grief, fear for the future, and reflections on mortality. It was the day of St Cecilia, patron saint of music. Later American singer-songwriter Dion, and after him Marvin Gaye, hauntingly sang‘Has anybody here seen my old friend John? Can you tell me where he’s gone?’—because John F. Kennedy’s assassination did touch many millions as if they had lost a friend.
But virtually no one on 22 November 1963 realised—and relatively few realise even now—that that day also saw the departure of the two other major figures, who were also world-shapers in their very different ways. The deaths of Lewis and Huxley were mute, private events, only reported in The Times three days later.
Death had moved remorselessly westward to claim his scalps. Lewis died first, in his brother’s arms, a few minutes after tumbling with a crash from his bed at the foot of the stairs at the Kilns, his house outside Oxford, at 5.30pm. He was just a week shy of 65. One hour later—12.30pm in Texas—the 46-year-old President was shot. At the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, Huxley’s second wife Laura, leaving his bedside with his request for an LSD injection, found the doctor and nurses in shock watching the news of the assassination; Huxley died, aged 69, at 5.20pm local time, just under eight hours after Lewis.