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From 2013 to 1963: Looking back at a pivotal year

By Wayne Drash CNN | 12/24/2013, 1:33 p.m.
John F. Kennedy (left) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (right).

This year marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most pivotal years in American history, from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the historic "I Have a Dream" speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Those two events were monumental, changing and shaping the course of America for years to come.

But 1963 witnessed other moments, both big and small, that had a lasting impact. The Boeing 727 took its first flight. The first push-button telephone was introduced. The "red phone" between Washington and Moscow, a hotline by the two superpowers to avert world crisis, was established.

On the cultural front, instant replay was used for the first time when the Army-Navy game aired on CBS. Alfred Hitchcock's new movie, "The Birds," was released. And the Beatles burst onto the music scene.

Here is a look back at some of those defining moments:

The Kennedy assassination

It marked the fourth time a U.S. president had been assassinated, the first since William McKinley was killed in 1901. Kennedy was visiting Texas amid controversy over his stance on civil rights. Yet the streets of Dallas were packed on November 22, 1963. Thousands greeted the president and first lady as the motorcade wound its way through the city.

The nation came to a standstill shortly after shots rang out. Kennedy was declared dead at 1 p.m. -- a moment etched in television history when CBS anchor Walter Cronkite removed his glasses, paused and collected himself to deliver the news to the nation.

Hundreds of conspiracy theories would abound later as to whether gunman Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. But in the days and weeks afterward, the nation mourned together. Another iconic image emerged from that time, of Kennedy's son, John Jr., standing at attention next to the president's flag-draped coffin.

March on Washington

Civil rights in the United States was pushed to the fore in June 1963 with a series of events: Kennedy addressed the nation to call for civil rights legislation; civil rights activist Medgar Evers was assassinated at his home in Jackson, Mississippi; and a defiant Gov. George Wallace stood in the doorway at the University of Alabama barring blacks from entering, until the federal government ordered him to step aside.

Those events brought the issue of equality for all to Main Street and enlightened many Americans on the brutality faced by blacks in the South. It also emboldened civil rights leaders as they brought their message -- along with hundreds of thousands of supporters -- to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, culminating with King's iconic "I Have a Dream" speech on August 28, 1963.

The 16th Street Bombing

Just weeks after the March on Washington, the civil rights movement was thrust into the headlines again -- this time the result of unspeakable tragedy. A bomb went off on September 15, 1963, at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four African-American girls. So tragic was the event that one Southern editor wrote about how one of the grieving mothers held her daughter's shoe outside the bombed building: "In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her."