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John F. Kennedy

— 35th President of the United States —

View full portraits at:
National Portrait Gallery or the White House Presidential Portrait Gallery

 

ELECTED FROM: Massachusetts
POLITICAL PARTY:
Democratic
TERM:
January 20, 1961 to November 22, 1963

BORN: May 29, 1917
BIRTHPLACE:
Brookline, Massachusetts
DIED:
November 22, 1963, Dallas, Texas
Buried in Arlington, Virginia
OCCUPATION: Congressman, senator
MARRIED:
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, 1953
CHILDREN:
Caroline, John F. Jr.

Although historians can't agree on the effectiveness of Kennedy's presidency, no one can dispute that his death created one of the greatest controversies of the 20th century.

On November 22, 1963, while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas, Kennedy was slain by an assassin. Arrested and charged with the murder was Lee Harvey Oswald, who himself was shot a few days later while in police custody.

Critics charge that Oswald alone could not possibly have fired the shots that killed Kennedy. Although a federal commission ruled that Oswald probably did fire the shots, a recent movie stirred up the controversy all over again.

No matter how the murder was accomplished, the death of Kennedy sent shock waves across the country and the world.

Kennedy grew up in a wealthy family and split his time between the family's homes in Massachusetts and Florida. He was ill as a childand endured many ailments.

When he became 21, Kennedy was given a $1 million trust fund established by his father.

At a preparatory school, his headmaster noted that Kennedy wasextremely clever. "When he learns the right place for humor and learns to use his individual way of looking at things as an asset instead of a handicap, his natural gift of an individual outlook and witty expression are going to help him," the headmaster wrote.

Kennedy served as skipper of a P.T. boat in World War II. While on patrol one day, his boat was rammed by an enemy destroyer. Two men were killed, and Kennedy and the rest of the crew were thrown into the flaming waters. Kennedy managed to swim four hours to safety while towing an injured crewman.This experience was the subject of a book and the movie "PT 109."

Kennedy was later discharged and hospitalized because his injuries lefthim with a chronic bad back.

His first elected office was that of U.S. representative in 1947. He became a U.S. senator in 1953 and went on to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960 over Hubert Humphrey.

His race for the presidency against Richard Nixon was very close, but Kennedy used the power of television. In debates, most agree that the two tied on content, but Nixon did not appear as attractive to the American voter. In the one of the closest elections in history, Kennedy won the popular vote by a 49.7 to 49.5 percent margin. He received 303 electoral votes to Nixon's 219.

In his short time as president, Kennedy established the Peace Corps, an agency that enlisted volunteers to go to underdeveloped countries to provide technical support and education.

Kennedy also presided over the most tense time after World War II, the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. After he received information that the Soviet Union was establishing missile bases in Cuba, just 90 miles off the Florida coast, Kennedy ordered a blockade of Cuba by Navy vessels. Eventually the Soviet Union backed down and removed the missile sites.


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