BOYNTON BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The TV was on in Becky Rister's living room Thursday night for only a few moments when some of her brother's handiwork popped on-screen. "That's it, that's it," Rister exclaimed. "I just tear up every time I see it."
As the first official White House cinematographer, Tom Atkins shot hundreds of hours of film for presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
On Nov. 22, he documented the president's last moments.
Fifty years later, they're crystal clear. "We want him to be remembered for what he did and for what he saved for the country," said Rister. "JFK's last smile."
Atkins died two years ago of a stroke.
But Rister recalls the feeling in November 1963, wondering whether her brother survived the attack.
"We heard it on the TV," said Rister. "We knew he was there. We knew he was close to the gunfire."
They had no way of knowing he wasn't hit, had leapt from his car, and was taking these now-iconic films.
"He ran to the grassy knoll to get pictures of the public and their reactions. That's the type of photographer he was," said Rister. "He wanted to show how America loved JFK."
Atkins would later record the flowers in Kennedy's empty, bloody seat.
"I wish he were here to see this anniversary."
The Naval officer made it to the White House, then to Dallas, and through five more years filming for President Lyndon Johnson.
His images have circled the globe, but remain close to his family's heart.
"He left a legacy through our family and through the Kennedys."
And through his steady hand, and watchful eye.
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