Wednesday, October 29, 2014



Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Benjamin C. Bradlee*, editor of the Washington Post from 1965 to 1991 and close personal friend of John F. Kennedy, passed away last week.

Since that time we have been searching our files for the article Mr. Bradlee wrote about his president and good friend in Newsweek following the assassination.

We have found the article, titled "He Had That Special Grace," on page 38 of Newsweek's Special Section in its issue dated December 2, 1963.  I have 2 copies of this issue, one that I received as a gift many years after publication and one that I purchased at Gateway Books on Gay Street here in Knoxville in November 1963.

I recall this copy was the last one on the shelf.  It has a letter and number written on the cover which I thought might have been the top copy in a bundle.

The gift issue does not have Mr. Bradlee's article, but my original copy does.
Today we will take an in depth look at the article.

The article begins...

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

Mr. Bradlee was spot-on in his first sentence.  While historians lament the shortness of JFK's presidency and his failures to get proposed legislation through the Congress, they almost always give him high marks for style.

Ben Bradlee was in a unique position being both a Washington newsman and a close personal friend of the President.  He writes from the heart.

"John Kennedy was a wonderfully, funny man, always gay and cheerful....You could see a laugh coming in his eyes before you could hear it from his lips."

JFK's humor ranks perhaps at or near the top of all of our presidents.  We tend to think of some on the list as rather dull and humorless....Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, William McKinley, etc.

You might have to go back to Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt or even Abraham Lincoln to find a man who shared JFK's sense of humor.

"John Kennedy was a forgiving man, far more forgiving than his friends.  He forgave many the excesses of their ignorance--many men who hold high positions...because of this forgiving.  He forgave quickly and for good, and soon found new quality in the forgiven."

An example of this quality is when Jacqueline Kennedy expressed misgivings to him about her feelings toward Governor John Connally on the Dallas trip.  He cautioned her not to think ill of him because he felt that attitude would reflect in how she interacted with the Governor on the trip.

The Bradlees and The Kennedys
Newport Country Club
Photo by Robert Knudsen
JFK Library Image

Mr. Bradlee divides the remainder of the article into three parts:  

An Appetite for Life, A Palmer in Power and A Laugh With Love.

We will continue our look at "He Had That Special Grace" in tomorrow's post.


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

Benjamin C. Bradlee
by Miguel Ariel Contreras