John F. Kennedy, In Memoriam

As an entire country lay in mourning in 1963, the Post released a special tribute issue to the fallen president just weeks after his death.

Norman Rockwell © 1963 SEPS

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As an entire country lay in mourning in 1963, the Post released a special issue paying tribute to the fallen president just weeks after his death. The portrait of this great man by Norman Rockwell graced the cover. Selected excerpts below.

“A Profile in Family Courage”

By Bill Davidson

Norman Rockwell © 1963 SEPS
Fallen leader: The Post honored Kennedy
 by reprinting Rockwell’s portrait on the cover of the December 14, 1963, issue—devoted almost entirely to memories of the fallen president from some of the most prominent citizens of the time.

At 1:44 p.m. a maid came over to the table and said to the attorney general [Robert Kennedy], “Mr. J. Edgar Hoover is on the White House phone.” He had a conversation of about 15 seconds. There was a look of shock and horror on his face. [Ethel] Kennedy saw that, and rushed to where the attorney general had just put down the phone. He couldn’t speak for another 15 seconds. Then he almost forced out the words, “Jack’s been shot. It may be fatal.”

According to friends, [Jacqueline] Kennedy never once broke down during the dreadful night at Bethesda Naval Hospital or when she returned to the White House. A friend who spent a few moments with her on the morning of November 23 says, “She was composed, though you had the feeling she was barely holding on. But she revealed this only among people she held close. In public, she seemed completely composed. She is the kind of woman whose grief is private.”

But [Jacqueline] Kennedy also did other remarkable, less-publicized things in the first day of her grief. She offered Mrs. Johnson all her help for their move into the White House. Then she called in her brother-in-law, Attorney General Kennedy, and asked him to phone the wife of Dallas detective J.D. Tippitt, who had been killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, the principal suspect in the assassination of her husband. “What that poor woman must be going through,” said [Jacqueline] Kennedy.

“Hate Knows No Direction”

By Ralph Emerson McGill
His staff, the Secret Service and the FBI knew about the danger in Texas—as they knew of it in other states. But when the president appeared, the reception was so warm and generous, and the crowds so huge and friendly, that some of the vigilance was relaxed. The car’s bulletproof glass cover—which perhaps would have deflected the shots—was removed. And so, a trust born of warmth and generosity and friendliness exposed the young president to the deadly assault of a psychopathic hater.

The more shrewd among the peddlers of hate against their country have been careful to avoid open and direct incitement of violence. But their words and other abuse directed at the president and
the government have inspired many whose disturbed minds tend easily toward recklessness and criminal action.

We must now understand that hate, if unchecked by morality, decency, and the determination of civilized men and women, may so weaken us that we will be vulnerable to our enemies.

“A Eulogy: John Fitzgerald Kennedy”

By Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
The bright promise of his administration, as of his life, was cut short in Dallas. When Abraham Lincoln died, when Franklin Roosevelt died, these were profound national tragedies; but death came for Lincoln and Roosevelt in the last act, at the end of their careers, when the victory for which they had fought so hard was at last within the nation’s grasp. John Kennedy’s death has greater pathos, because he had barely begun—because he had so much to do, so much to give to his family, his nation, his world. His was a life of incalculable and now of unfulfilled possibility.

Still, if he had not done all that he would have hoped to do, finished all that he had so well begun, he had given the nation a new sense of itself—a new spirit, a new style, a new conception of its role and destiny.

“When The Highest Office Changes Hands”

By Dwight D. Eisenhower
Seen in longer perspective, the facts are that four of 36 presidents have been assassinated, and a president in office and a president-elect have been targets of assassination attempts. These acts all had one thing in common: They were the work of crackpots, of people with delusions arising from imagined wrongs or festering hatreds. In a population as large as ours there is bound to be a certain number of such warped people, but their existence does not indicate that the people of the United States have become lawless.

View a gallery of archival Kennedy images.

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