Reflections Of A White House Press Corps Veteran

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White House press corps members gather with onlookers before President Reagan emerges from the hotel.

White House press corps members gather with onlookers before President Reagan emerges from the Hilton Hotel. Shooter John Hinckley is pictured at left, a few feet behind Shelly Fielman (center), who is holding his camera. Courtesy of the Fielman family hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the Fielman family

Few people in the White House press corps have worked there longer than Shelly Fielman, now a cameraman for NBC.

His first day?

The day President John F. Kennedy was shot.

"What kind of business did I just get into?" Fielman, 75, recalls asking himself.

His second day?

The day Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald while he was being transferred to a police vehicle just a few feet away from Fielman in Dallas.

On March 31, 1981, Fielman would watch through his viewfinder as John Hinckley fired shots at President Ronald Reagan outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.

President Ronald Reagan waves to the crowd just outside the Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981. i

Fielman, second from right, shoots his video camera as President Reagan waves to the crowd outside the Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981. Mike Evens/AFP hide caption

itoggle caption Mike Evens/AFP
President Ronald Reagan waves to the crowd just outside the Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981.

President Ronald Reagan waves to the crowd just outside Washington, DC's Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981. NBC camera man Shelly Fielman is holding the video camera on the right side of the image, just below the umbrella.

Mike Evens/AFP

"You didn't have time" to think about the danger, Fielman tells NPR's Don Gonyea. After it was all over, Fielman adds, "that was when my nerves really kicked in."

The Long View

During the civil rights era, Fielman and his press colleagues traveled to Americus, Ga., to cover a Ku Klux Klan rally. A local waitress refused to serve them breakfast, Fielman recalls, by telling them they should "get their Yankee trash asses out."

Fielman returned with his colleagues to Americus during the presidency of Jimmy Carter and happened to see the same waitress in the same restaurant.

"Y'all are welcome here," she told them, as Fielman remembers. He reminded her what she'd said years before. "Well, sonny, times change."

The chaotic scene moments after President Reagan is shot i

Moments after six shots are fired at President Reagan, Secret Service agents and other law enforcement officers converge on the suspected shooter. Fielman, seen here holding his camera just behind the man lunging toward the left in a gray suit, keeps working in the melee. Mike Evens/AFP hide caption

itoggle caption Mike Evens/AFP
The chaotic scene moments after President Reagan is shot

Moments after six shots are fired at President Ronald Reagan, secret service agents and other law enforcement officers converge on the suspected shooter. NBC cameraman Shelly Fielman keeps working in the melee, seen here holding his camera just behind the man lunging left in a gray suit.

Mike Evens/AFP

Party (Potty?) Time

But not all of Fielman's time with the White House press corps has been dangerous.

He tells one story about attending a Christmas party with President Lyndon B. Johnson, who asked to hold Fielman's new baby daughter.

"He walked around, and he was talking to her. He had a drink but he put it down," Fielman says.

"He was having a good time until she decided she had to do something — and she did, all over his suit."

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