On NOVEMBER 22, 1963, when he was
hardly past his first thousand days in office, John Fitzgerald
Kennedy was killed by assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound
through Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President;
he was the youngest to die, at age 46.
Of Irish descent, he was born in
Brookline, Massachusetts, on May 29, 1917. He was the second
of nine children, the son of Rose
Fitzgerald and millionaire Joseph P. Kennedy who had served
as ambassador to Great Britain under Franklin Roosevelt. John
attended Caterbury School in New Milford, Conn., then went to
Choate Academy in Wallingford, Conn. where he was voted "most
likely to succeed." He attended Princeton University briefly,
then majored in government and international relations at Harvard.
After a summer tour of Europe in
1939, Kennedy wrote his college thesis on the failure of England
to prepare itself against Nazi Germany. Published in book form
in 1949, under the title, "Why England Slept," the
work became a best seller. He graduated from Harvard in 1940.
Pearl Harbor, Kennedy entered the Navy
as a seaman. He was commissioned an ensign assigned to a
PT boat squadron which patrolled the Soloman Islands. In 1943,
when his PT boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer,
Kennedy, despite grave injuries, led the survivors through perilous
waters to safety. His heroic rescue of survivors of his crew
won him the Navy and Marine Corps Medal as well as the Purple
After the war, Kennedy worked as
a reporter for Hearst newspapers for a short time. One of his
assignments was coverage of the United Nations conference at
San Francisco in 1945. He decided to enter politics in 1946,
and with the enthusiastic help of his brothers and sisters won
the Democratic nomination to the House of Representatives in
the eleventh district of Massachusetts. His mother and sisters
organized teas at the homes of voters, while his father furnished
campaign funds. He won the election and as Congressman voted
for Truman's welfare programs, including expanded social security
benefits, aid to veterans, and old-age benefits. In 1952, Kennedy
upset the veteran Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge by winning
his seat in the US Senate.
married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, daughter of a wealthy Wall Street
broker, on September 12, 1953. ( They had four children, a girl
who was stillborne; Caroline, born Nov. 27, 1957; John Fitzgerald,
Jr., born Nov. 25, 1960, and Patrick Bouvier, born August, 1963,
died two days later.) Meanwhile, as a Mass. Senator, he worked
for bills that would help New England industries. In 1955, while
recuperating from a back operation, he wrote "Profiles in
Courage," which won the Pulitzer Prize in history.
He and his family began working
tirelessly for his presidential nomination as early as 1956.
In 1956 Kennedy almost gained the Democratic nomination for Vice
President, and four years later was a first-ballot nominee for
President.. Millions watched his four television debates with
the Republican candidate and current Vice President, Richard
M. Nixon. Winning by a narrow margin in the popular vote, Kennedy
became the first Roman Catholic President.
|John F. Kennedy, D.
|Richard M. Nixon, R.
|Harry F. Byrd, D., VA
JFK won 303 electoral votes and Nixon
won 219 electoral votes.
The electoral vote figure needed to win the election of 1960
and the state of Illinois had 27 electoral votes. Therefore if
JFK had not won
Illinois, he still would have won the election with 276 electoral
I hope that puts to rest the outrageously
ridiculous "the mafia helped Kennedy buy the election of
- Secretary of State, Dean Rusk (1961-63)
- Secretary of the Treasury, C. Douglas
- Secretary of Defense, Robert S.
- Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy
- Postmaster General, J. Edward Day
(1961-63) John A. Gronouski, Jr. (1963)
- Secretary of the Interior, Stewart
L. Udall (1961-63)
- Secretary of Agriculture, Orville
L. Freeman (1961-63)
- Secretary of Commerce, Luther H.
- Secretary of Labor, Arthur J. Goldberg
(1961-62) W. Willard Wirtz (1962-63)
- Secretary of Health, Education,
and Welfare, Abraham A. Ribicoff (1961-62) Anthony J. Celebrezze
Address offered the memorable injunction: "Ask not
what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your
country." As President, he set out to redeem his campaign
pledge to get America moving again. His economic programs launched
the country on its longest sustained expansion since World War
II; before his death, he laid plans for a massive assault on
persisting pockets of privation and poverty.
Responding to ever more urgent demands,
he took vigorous action in the cause of equal rights, calling
for new civil rights legislation. His vision of America
extended to the quality of the national culture and the central
role of the arts in a vital society.
He wished America to resume it's
old mission as the first nation dedicated to the revolution of
human rights. He established
the Peace Corps which sends Americans to assist the people in
underdeveloped countries with education, modern farming and industrial
methods. With the Alliance for Progress and the
Peace Corps, he brought American idealism to the aid of developing
nations. But the hard reality of the Communist challenge remained.
listing of policy instituted by JFK.
Shortly after his inauguration,
Kennedy permitted a band of Cuban exiles, already armed and trained
by the CIA, to invade their homeland. The attempt
to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro was a failure. Kennedy
took responsibility for this failure. Later that year he met
with Russian Premier Khrushchev in Vienna in an effort to settle
differences, but the meeting was fruitless. Soon thereafter,
the Soviet Union renewed its campaign against West Berlin. Kennedy
replied by reinforcing the Berlin garrison and increasing the
Nation's military strength, including new efforts in outer space.
Confronted by this reaction, Moscow, after the erection of the
Berlin Wall, relaxed its pressure in Europe.
Instead, the Russians now sought
to install nuclear missiles in Cuba. When this was discovered
by air reconnaissance in October 1962, Kennedy imposed a quarantine
on all offensive weapons bound for Cuba. While the world trembled
on the brink of nuclear war, the Russians backed down and agreed
to take the missiles away. The American response to the Cuban
crisis evidently persuaded Moscow of the futility of nuclear
Kennedy now contended that both
sides had a vital interest in stopping the spread of nuclear
weapons and slowing the arms race--a contention which led to
the test ban treaty of 1963. The months after the Cuban
crisis showed significant progress toward his goal of "a
world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and
coercion." His administration thus saw the beginning of
new hope for both the equal rights of Americans and the peace
of the world.
On a speaking tour which took him
to Dallas, Texas, Kennedy was shot as he rode in a motorcade. Kennedy
fell into the arms of his wife, who was riding in the open car
The shocked nation
and the world sorrowfully recalled the ringing words of Kennedy's
inaugural address: "Ask not what your country can do for
you--ask what you can do for your country."
Text and graphics from
"Atlas of the Presidents" by Donald E. Cooke, Illustrated
by Dwight Dobbins, Revised Edition, Hammond Incorporated, Maplewood,
NJ and "The Presidents of the United States of America"
1981 Edition by Frank Freidel, White House Historical Association,