The 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy remains the youngest American to ascend the presidency. He was 43. However, his term was cut short when he was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963, at the age of 46.
Kennedy was one of two American presidents to have died before the age of 50. The other was James Garfield. To this day, he remains the last President of the United States to have been assassinated while in office. Presidents Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield and William McKinley were the other casualties.
This is the full story of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
Early Life and Education
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts, to Joseph Patrick Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. John F. Kennedy or JFK as he was popularly known, came from a line of Irish immigrants. They would later become an established family in the city of Boston.
Fondly called “Jack” by his family, Kennedy was the second of nine children. He had an older brother and seven younger siblings – five girls and two boys. As a young boy, Kennedy often fell sick. He suffered from whooping cough, measles and chicken pox. He also suffered from scarlet fever, which soon spiralled into a life-threatening disease making him an avid reader while on bed rest.
John F. Kennedy attended different schools while growing up.
First, Devotion School, then Dexter, and afterwards, Riverdale. As an eighth grader, he attended Canterbury School. He eventually went to Choate School, together with his older brother, Joe, where he completed high school. Afterwards, he went on to Princeton University, and later, Harvard University.
While in college, his father, a successful businessman, became an ambassador to England. As a result, Jack spent part of his college years with his family in England. As a college undergraduate, he joined the football team, and although he could not play as well as his brother Joe, he was determined.
Unfortunately, while he was playing, he suffered an injury and ruptured a disk in his spine. This would be the start of the many operations on his back.
John F. Kennedy graduated from Harvard University in 1940. At the time, tension had already started brewing around the world and it later erupted into the Second World War. Kennedy, a senior at Harvard, wrote a thesis and later had it published. It was titled Why England Slept and it chronicled the reason behind England’s resistance to joining the war.
Kennedy Joins the Navy
In 1939, the Second World War broke out. A year after graduation, Kennedy and his brother, Joe, joined the Navy. He became an intelligence officer and was in command of a patrol torpedo boat – the PT-109. He was charged with the duty of sinking enemy ships.
In August 1943, an event took place that changed his life forever. While on the South Pacific Ocean, Kennedy and his crew members were hit by a Japanese ship. His back was terribly hurt during the collision and two of his crew members died. Despite his injuries, he saved the other members of his crew, having them sail to shore.
Six days later, they were eventually found by two native islanders. Kennedy carved a message into the husk of a coconut and had it sent to the navy through the islanders. They were all rescued afterwards and he was sent to the hospital for an operation on his back.
After the war had ended and Kennedy returned home, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his leadership and courage. He was also awarded a purple heart for his injuries.
John F. Kennedy grew up under the influence of his grandfather, John Francis Fitzgerald, whom he was named after. His grandfather who was known as “Honey Fitz” was a Mayor of Boston who also served as a U.S. Representative for Massachusetts. Kennedy would go on to replicate the legacy of his grandfather.
At the time, the war had ended, John F. Kennedy began considering what job he could take on. He considered becoming a teacher and a writer. However, the death of his brother, Joe, during the war changed the whole narrative. His father went ahead to convince him to run for Congress in Massachusetts. In 1946, he won his first election and became a Democrat Congressman for Massachusetts, the same as his grandfather. He served for a period of six years and in 1952, he was elected to the US Senate.
As Congressman, he advocated progressive taxation, the extension of social welfare reform and more low-cost public housing.
Shortly after he was elected as Senator, Jack got married to Jacqueline Bouvier. He was 36 years old while she was 24. Jacqueline was a writer with the Washington Times-Herald at the time. At the start of their marriage, Kennedy suffered severe back pains and had to undergo two critical operations. While recovering from surgery, he wrote a book titled Profiles in Courage. The book detailed the lives of several US senators who had put their careers at risk while fighting for what they believed in. The book was later awarded the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957. In the same year, Kennedy had his first child, Caroline Kennedy.
During his re-election to the Senate in 1958, he won by a margin of 874,608 votes – the largest ever in Massachusetts politics and the greatest of any senatorial candidate that year.
Rise to the Presidency
Having served as Congressman and Senator, John F. Kennedy became increasingly famous over time. On July 13, 1960, he was nominated as the Democratic Party’s candidate for Presidency. He chose Lyndon Johnson, a prolific senator from Texas to run with him as Vice President. Kennedy started spending long hours at work. He travelled around the country declaring his presidential manifesto.
On November 8, 1960, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected President of the United States of America. The election was a very close one. He defeated his opponent, the Republican Vice-President, Richard Nixon, with just over a hundred thousand votes.
At age 43, John F. Kennedy became the youngest man to be elected as President of the United States. He was also the first Catholic to be elected to that position. Before his inauguration as President, he had his second child, John Kennedy Jr.
On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President of the United States.
His inaugural speech went on to spur millions of Americans to apply for public service. President Kennedy had such a great interest in the history of America. He was saturated with America’s mission of becoming the first nation dedicated to the revolution of human rights.
As President, one of his acts was the creation of the Peace Corps. The initiative, which is still active today, empowers several people with the adequate skills necessary to help take care of people around the world. The volunteers of the Peace Corps would leave the United States for two years to live and work with people in different countries. They would take on several jobs such as teachers, farmers, builders, nurses and doctors.
During Kennedy’s presidency, the United States was in the middle of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Both nations had nuclear weapons and were testing these weapons. The most worrisome of these tests was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The Soviet Union had placed nuclear weapons on the island of Cuba, just near the United States. President Kennedy ordered a quarantine of Cuba and was eventually able to convince the Soviet Union to sign a treaty – the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty – that saw an end to the testing of nuclear weapons.
John F. Kennedy had a strong interest in foreign affairs. Prior to his inauguration as President, the relationship between America and Latin American nations had deteriorated. He was, therefore, determined to improve relations with Latin America. Through the creation of the Alliance for Progress, he proposed a loan of more than $20 billion to Latin American nations that would promote democracy and undertake meaningful social reforms. At the time, this was the largest US aid program created for the developing world.
Another one of JFK’s missions while in office was the exploration of outer space by NASA. He wished that the United States led other countries and encouraged the astronauts to explore outer space. He was the first president to ask Congress to approve more than $22 billion for Project Apollo. The goal was to land an American man on the moon before the end of the decade. Although he did not live to see it, the goal was eventually accomplished as Neil Armstrong became the first man to land on the moon in 1969.
Racial discrimination was one of the many issues President Kennedy had to deal with. In 1963, he proposed a new Civil Rights bill to Congress. He also went on television and gave several speeches asking Americans to end racism.
His administration heralded the beginning of new hope for both equal rights for African-Americans and the peace of the world.
The Philanderer, John F. Kennedy
Despite his busy schedule and workload, President Kennedy always had time to spare for his family. His wife was beautiful and her clothing soon became a famous fashion statement across the country. His children, Caroline and John Jr. were charming and adored across the world as well.
However, John F. Kennedy was a philanderer. He was, perhaps, the most prolific womanizer ever to grace the Oval Office.
As recalled by British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, Kennedy once said, “If I don’t have a lay for three days, I get a headache.”
President Kennedy had several ladies who attended to his physical needs. Some of these ladies were arranged for him by his friend and special assistant, Dave Powers. From actresses to “secretaries” to interns to mobsters, President Kennedy had them all.
Some of the women he had sexual encounters with include: Marilyn Monroe, a famous actress and icon; Mimi Alford, a white house intern who lost her virginity to the President and whose affair with him lasted 18 months; Marlene Dietrich, prolific actress and singer who was also a long-time lover of President Kennedy’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy; Anita Ekberg, an actress and global sex symbol, and Priscilla Wear and Jill Cowen who were named Fiddle and Faddle respectively to conceal their deeds with the President. They were appointed as secretaries. However, their only job was to skinny-dip with the President in the enclosed pool. They also went on several business trips with the President.
The First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy was rumoured to have been aware of these affairs as she was reported to have told a reporter of one of the secretaries alleged to have had sexual affairs with her husband.
The Assassination of John F. Kennedy
By late 1963, President Kennedy had begun campaigning for the 1964 Presidential elections. On November 21, 1963, he flew to Texas with his wife to give several speeches. The next day, together with his wife, Jacqueline, and Texas’s Governor, John B Connally, they drove past a boisterous crowd in an open motorcade. At 12:30 p.m., three shots were fired, with two striking the President at the base of his neck and head. The other bullet hit Governor Connally. He was seriously wounded but he recovered.
President Kennedy was rushed to the Parkland Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after.
Kennedy’s killer, Lee Harvey Oswald was later found and arrested by the police at a theatre. At 1:30 p.m., he was formally arraigned for the murder of President John F. Kennedy.
Unfortunately, Oswald never lived to see a trial for his alleged murder. On November 24, 1963, two days after killing Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, while being taken to the country jail, was shot and killed by Jack Ruby on live camera. Ruby was the owner of a club who also had affiliations with a mob. He went on to explain that he acted out of rage over the death of President Kennedy.
Ruby was later tried and found guilty of murder in March of the following year. A Texas appeal court however reversed the conviction and a new trial was set to be held. Ruby, unfortunately, could not make the trials. He died of a blood clot on January 3, 1967.
Shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his Vice-President, Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office inside Air Force One and became the 36th President of the United States of America.
A special President’s Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy was set up to investigate the killing.
Headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the commission, which was later known as the Warren Commission, concluded that Oswald worked alone and there was no conspiracy between Oswald and Ruby.
However, the House of Representatives Assassination Committee, in 1979, initiated another investigation. They found out that another shooter was involved in the assassination. There is, however, no concrete evidence as to these speculations.
John F. Kennedy remains the youngest American president to be elected at 43, the last to be assassinated and the youngest to die at 46.
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