Saturday, November 23, 2013


November 23, 2013


London, England (JFK+50) Fifty years ago today, November 23, 1963, the shock of the news of the death of President John F. Kennedy had spread across the world.

Thurston Clarke writes that an Englishman told his American friend...

"There has never been anything like it here since...the news of Nelson's death reached London, and men cried in the streets."

Big Ben tolled every sixty seconds for sixty minutes.  British teenagers, just as those in America and in other nations, were "crying in the street."

Meanwhile in Berlin, where JFK had said "Ich Bien Ein Berliner" earlier in June, a torchlight procession moved slowly toward the square where he had spoken.

In Paris, where JFK and Jackie made a triumphal state visit in 1961, an official said...

"Never, perhaps, has the death of a foreign chief of state so profoundly moved every Frenchman and every Parisian."

Back at the White House, while an honor guard stood watch in the East Room, "every guest bedroom," according to James Swanson, "was occupied by Kennedy family members or close friends."

Swanson tells us that one of those guests,  Charles Bartlett, wrote the following words on White House stationery...

"We had a hero for a friend--and we mourn his loss.  Anyone...who knew him...felt that a bright and quickening impulse had come into his life.  He had uncommon courage, unfailing humor, a penetrating, ever curious intelligence, and over all a matchless grace.

He was our best.  He will not be replaced, nor will he be forgotten...

"He will be the years pass and the story is retold, with a little wonder."

In 1986 when we visited with Dave Powers at the JFK Library in Boston, he gave us a beautiful color illustration of President Kennedy.  The caption read...

"We all felt we knew him..."

Dave, the long time curator at the library, once said...

"The museum's goal is to capture the President's spirit and his grace.  You just wonder how different the world might be if he were here."

"Grace" is a term that many who knew JFK well used to describe him.  Newsman and close friend Benjamin Bradlee wrote in the days after the assassination...

"History will best judge John F. Kennedy in calmer days...and surely, history will judge him well--for his wisdom, and his compassion and his grace."

On the 10th anniversary of JFK's death, Robert James Maddox wrote...

"Some politicians get elected by playing upon a society's fears and prejudices, others by appealing to its strengths and hopes.

Kennedy called upon the best the United States had to offer.

As a former aide put it...

'people will remember (that) he stood for excellence in an era of indifference--for hope in an era of doubt--for public service ahead of private interests--(and) for reconciliation.  He had confidence in man and gave men confidence in the future.'"

On the 25th anniversary of JFK's death, The Disney Channel Magazine described President Kennedy this way...

"Witty, ebullient, energetic, he personified a new generation...that envisioned American ideals and American energy not only revitalizing the nation, but transforming the world."

Perhaps that is why a half century after his assassination, his loss is still felt so deeply in the United States and around the world.

As President Kennedy said in a State of the Union address...

"The hopes of all mankind rest upon us--not simply upon those of us in this chamber, but upon the peasant in Laos, the fisherman in Nigeria, the exile from Cuba, the spirit that moves every man and nation who share our hopes for freedom and the future."


"End of Days:  The Assassination of John F. Kennedy," by James Swanson, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2013.

"He Had That Special Grace," by Benjamin Bradlee, Newsweek Magazine, December 2, 1963.

"JFK:  How Good a President Was He?," by Lance Morrow, Time Magazine, November 14, 1983.

"JFK's Last Hundred Days:  The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President," by Thurston Clarke, Penguin Books, New York, 2013.

"Kennedy as President:  A 10-Year Perspective," by Robert James Maddox, American History Illustrated, November 1973.

"The Legacy of John F. Kennedy,"  The Disney Channel Magazine, October-November, 1988.


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty years ago this morning, November 23, 1963, the body of the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, arrived at the White House. 

The flag-draped coffin, borne by an honor guard representing the major branches of the military, was placed in the East Room where President Abraham Lincoln's coffin rested almost a century before.

Following the First Lady's request, the East Room was decorated in black crepe and her husband's coffin was put on the same catafalque used for Lincoln in 1865.

At 10 o'clock Washington time, a private mass was held for the President's family and close friends at the White House.

JFK's remains were scheduled to lie in state at the White House all through the day and night and transferred by caisson to the United States Capitol on Sunday morning, November 24 to lie in state in the Rotunda.

The day of burial was set for Monday, November 25 which President Lyndon B. Johnson declared to be a day of national mourning.


                          JFK's Casket 
                     The White House
                          East Room
          Photo by Cecil Stoughton
                       Nov 23, 1963