John F. Kennedy was an American politician who served as the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the establishment of the Peace Corps, developments in the Space Race, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Trade Expansion Act to lower tariffs, and the Civil Rights Movement all took place during his presidency. A member of the Democratic Party, his New Frontier domestic program was largely enacted as a memorial to him after his death.
Let’s see some interesting facts about him!
1. John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy was born May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts.
2. His parents were businessman/politician Joseph Patrick “Joe” Kennedy and philanthropist/socialite Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald-Kennedy.
3. His grandfathers P. J. Kennedy and Boston Mayor John F. Fitzgerald were both Massachusetts politicians. All four of his grandparents were the children of Irish immigrants.
4. Kennedy had an elder brother, Joseph Jr., and seven younger siblings Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, Jean, and Ted.
5. Joseph Jr. was killed in action during World War II.
6. Robert was John’s attorney general and then a senator who was assassinated in 1968 while Ted was a long-serving U.S. senator from 1962 until his death from brain cancer in 2009.
7. Kennedy lived in Brookline for ten years and attended the Edward Devotion School, the Noble and Greenough Lower School, and the Dexter School through 4th grade.
8. In 1927, the Kennedy family moved to a stately twenty-room, Georgian-style mansion at 5040 Independence Avenue in the Hudson Hill neighborhood of Riverdale, Bronx, New York City.
9. He attended the lower campus of Riverdale Country School, a private school for boys, from 5th to 7th grade. Two years later, the family moved to 294 Pondfield Road in the New York City suburb of Bronxville, New York, where Kennedy was a member of Scout Troop 2.
10. The Kennedy family spent summers at their home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and Christmas and Easter holidays at their winter home in Palm Beach, Florida. In September 1930, Kennedy—then 13 years old—attended the Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut. In late April 1931, he required an appendectomy, after which he withdrew from Canterbury and recuperated at home.
11. In September 1931, Kennedy was sent to the The Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut for 9th through 12th grade.
12. His older brother had already been at Choate for two years and was a football player and leading student.
13. He spent his first years at Choate in his older brother’s shadow, and compensated for this with rebellious behavior which attracted a coterie.
14. Their most notorious stunt was to explode a toilet seat with a powerful firecracker.
15. In the ensuing chapel assembly, the strict headmaster, George St. John, brandished the toilet seat and spoke of certain “muckers” who would “spit in our sea”.
16. The defiant Kennedy took the cue and named his group “The Muckers Club”, which included roommate and friend Kirk LeMoyne “Lem” Billings.
17. During his Choate years, Kennedy was beset by health problems that culminated with his emergency hospitalization at New Haven Hospital in 1934, where doctors thought he might have leukemia.
18. In June 1934, he was admitted to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the ultimate diagnosis there was colitis.
19. Kennedy graduated from Choate in June of the following year. For the school yearbook, of which he had been business manager, Kennedy was voted the “most likely to succeed”.
20. In September 1935, he made his first trip abroad with his parents and his sister Kathleen to London intending to study under Harold Laski at the London School of Economics (LSE) as his older brother had done.
21. Ill-health forced his return to America in October of that year, when he enrolled late and spent six weeks at Princeton University.
22. He was then hospitalized for observation at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston.
23. He convalesced further at the Kennedy winter home in Palm Beach, then spent the spring of 1936 working as a ranch hand on the 40,000-acre (160 km2) Jay Six cattle ranch outside Benson, Arizona. It is reported that ranchman Jack Speiden worked both brothers “very hard”.
24. In September 1936, Kennedy enrolled at Harvard College, where he produced that year’s annual “Freshman Smoker”, called by a reviewer “an elaborate entertainment, which included in its cast outstanding personalities of the radio, screen and sports world.”
25. He tried out for the football, golf, and swimming teams and earned a spot on the varsity swimming team.
26. Kennedy also sailed in the Star class and won the 1936 Nantucket Sound Star Championship.
27. In July 1937, Kennedy sailed to France—taking his convertible—and spent ten weeks driving through Europe with Billings.
28. In June 1938, Kennedy sailed overseas with his father and older brother to work at the American embassy in London, where his father was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s.
29. In 1939, Kennedy toured Europe, the Soviet Union, the Balkans, and the Middle East in preparation for his Harvard senior honors thesis.
30. He then went to Czechoslovakia and Germany before returning to London on September 1, 1939, the day that Germany invaded Poland. Two days later, the family was in the House of Commons for speeches endorsing the United Kingdom’s declaration of war on Germany.
31. Kennedy was sent as his father’s representative to help with arrangements for American survivors of the SS Athenia before flying back to the U.S. from Foynes, Ireland to Port Washington, New York on his first transatlantic flight.
32. As an upperclassman at Harvard, Kennedy became a more serious student and developed an interest in political philosophy. In his junior year, he made the Dean’s List.
33. In 1940, Kennedy completed his thesis, “Appeasement in Munich”, about British participation in the Munich Agreement. The thesis became a bestseller under the title Why England Slept.
34. He graduated from Harvard College cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in government, concentrating on international affairs, that year. Kennedy enrolled in, and audited classes at, the Stanford Graduate School of Business that fall.
35. In early 1941, Kennedy left and helped his father write a memoir of his three years as an American ambassador, and then traveled throughout South America; including Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
36. Kennedy attempted to enter the Army’s Officer Candidate School in 1940, but was medically disqualified for his chronic lower back problems.
37. On September 24, 1941, after exercising for months to strengthen his back, and with the help of the director of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), former naval attaché to Joseph Kennedy, he joined the United States Naval Reserve (U.S. Navy Reserve since 2005).
38. He was commissioned an ensign on October 26, 1941, and joined the staff of the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C.
39 .In January 1942, Kennedy was assigned to the ONI field office at Headquarters, Sixth Naval District, in Charleston, South Carolina.
40. He attended the Naval Reserve Officer Training School at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, from July 27 to September 27 and then voluntarily entered the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons Training Center in Melville, Rhode Island.
42. Kennedy’s military decorations and awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, Purple Heart Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three 3⁄16″ bronze stars, and the World War II Victory Medal.
43. Because his eldest brother had been the family’s political standard-bearer, and had been tapped by his father to seek the Presidency, his death in 1944 changed that course and the task now fell to the younger Kennedy.
44. At the urging of Kennedy’s father, U.S. Representative James Michael Curley vacated his seat in the strongly Democratic 11th Congressional district in Massachusetts to become mayor of Boston in 1946. Kennedy ran for the seat, beating his Republican opponent by a large margin in November 1946.
45. He served as a congressman for six years.
46. After serving three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kennedy decided to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate representing Massachusetts.
47. In the 1952 U.S. Senate election, he defeated incumbent Republican Henry Cabot Lodge II for the Senate seat. The following year, he married Jacqueline Bouvier.
48. Kennedy underwent several spinal operations over the next two years. Often absent from the Senate, he was at times critically ill and received Catholic last rites.
49. During his convalescence in 1956, he published Profiles in Courage, a book about U.S. senators who risked their careers for their personal beliefs, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1957.
50. Rumors that this work was co-written by his close adviser and speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, were confirmed in Sorensen’s 2008 autobiography.
51. At the 1956 Democratic National Convention, Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson II let the convention select the Vice Presidential nominee. Kennedy finished second in the balloting, losing to Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee but receiving national exposure as a result.
52. In 1958, Kennedy was re-elected to a second term in the Senate, defeating his Republican opponent, Boston lawyer Vincent J. Celeste, by a wide margin.
53. On January 2, 1960, Kennedy initiated his campaign for president in the Democratic primary election, where he faced challenges from Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon.
54. Kennedy defeated Humphrey in Wisconsin and West Virginia, Morse in Maryland and Oregon, as well as token opposition (often write-in candidates) in New Hampshire, Indiana, and Nebraska.
55. Kennedy visited a coal mine in West Virginia. Most miners and others in that predominantly conservative, Protestant state were quite wary of Kennedy’s Roman Catholicism. His victory in West Virginia confirmed his broad popular appeal.
56. On November 8, Kennedy defeated Nixon in one of the closest presidential elections of the 20th century. In the national popular vote, Kennedy led Nixon by just two-tenths of one percent (49.7% to 49.5%), while in the Electoral College, he won 303 votes to Nixon’s 219 (269 were needed to win).
57. Fourteen electors from Mississippi and Alabama refused to support Kennedy because of his support for the civil rights movement; they voted for Senator Harry F. Byrd of Virginia, as did an elector from Oklahoma.
58. Kennedy was the youngest man elected president, succeeding Eisenhower, who was then the oldest (Ronald Reagan surpassed Eisenhower as the oldest president in 1981).
59. John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president at noon on January 20, 1961.
60. In his inaugural address he spoke of the need for all Americans to be active citizens, famously saying: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” He asked the nations of the world to join together to fight what he called the “common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.”
61. President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 pm Central Standard Time on Friday, November 22, 1963, while on a political trip to Texas to smooth over frictions in the Democratic Party between liberals Ralph Yarborough and Don Yarborough and conservative John Connally.
62. Traveling in a presidential motorcade through downtown Dallas, he was shot once in the back, the bullet exiting via his throat, and once in the head.
63. Kennedy met his future wife, Jacqueline Lee “Jackie” Bouvier (1929–1994), when he was a congressman. Charles L. Bartlett, a journalist, introduced the pair at a dinner party.
64. They were married a year after he was elected senator, on September 12, 1953.
65. Caroline Bouvier Kennedy was born in 1957 and is the only surviving member of JFK’s immediate family.
66. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr., nicknamed “John-John” by the press as a child, was born in late November 1960, 17 days after his father was elected. John Jr., a graduate of Brown University, died in 1999 when the small plane he was piloting crashed en route to Martha’s Vineyard.
67. The Kennedy family is one of the most established political families in the United States, having produced a president, three senators, and multiple other Representatives, both on the federal and state level.
68. Family patriarch, Joe Kennedy, was a prominent American businessman and political figure, serving in multiple roles, including Ambassador to the United Kingdom, from 1938 to 1940.
69. In October 1951, during his third term as Massachusetts’s 11th district congressman, the then 34-year-old Kennedy embarked on a seven-week trip to India, Japan, Vietnam, and Israel with his then 25-year-old brother Bobby (who had just graduated from law school four months earlier) and his then 27-year-old sister Pat.
70. Because they were several years apart in age, the brothers had previously seen little of each other. This 25,000-mile (40,000 km) trip was the first extended time they had spent together and resulted in their becoming best friends.
71. Bobby was campaign manager for Kennedy’s successful 1952 Senate campaign and later, his successful 1960 presidential campaign.
72. The two brothers worked closely together from 1957 to 1959 on the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor and Management Field, when Robert was its chief counsel.
73. During Kennedy’s presidency, Robert served in his cabinet as Attorney General and was his closest advisor.
74. Kennedy was a life member of the National Rifle Association.
75. Kennedy came in third (behind Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa) in Gallup’s List of Widely Admired People of the 20th century.
76. Kennedy’s father built a family fortune, and when the young politician entered Congress in 1947, he earned sufficiently ample annual income from trusts established by his father that he decided to donate his entire legislative salary to various charities. Kennedy quietly maintained the practice as president after becoming the richest man to ever take the oath of office.
77. He was the first president to dance with African American women at an inaugural ball.
78. Kennedy survived four assassination attempts during his life. A retired postal worker attempted to kill him barely a month after his election by following him from Hyannis Port, MA to Georgetown in Washington, DC to Palm Beach, FL in a car loaded with dynamite. Other plots in Chicago and Tampa were discovered in the weeks before November 22, 1963.
79. Kennedy was obsessed with his weight and traveled with a bathroom scale.
80. He was an avid fan of James Bond and he wrote his own spy novel about a coup d’etat organized by Vice President Lyndon Johnson.
81. He bought up to 1,200 high-grade Cuban cigars the day before he ordered a ban on Cuban imports.
82. Kennedy suffered from Addison’s Disease, which was potentially fatal in the 1960s. He also suffered from colitis, prostatitis, and osteoporosis of the lower back, which was so severe he struggled to bend over.