Monday, July 18, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 2013


Edgartown, Massachusetts (JFK+50) President John F. Kennedy chronicled the stories of personal and political courage in his Pulitzer Prize winning book "Profiles in Courage," but according to Susan Donaldson James, his brother Senator Edward M. Kennedy showed a lack of courage after his automobile went off the Dike Bridge on the night of July 18, 1969.

While Ted managed to escape, his passenger, 28 year old Mary Jo Kopechne*, a Kennedy campaign worker, died.  The Senator said that he made seven or eight attempts to save Mary Jo, but then gave up and swam to Edgartown where he returned to his hotel room.   He showed up at police headquarters at 10:00 a.m. the next morning.

Senator Kennedy had hosted a reunion party on Chappaquiddick Island for six women who had worked in Senator Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign.  Ted and Mary Jo left the party at 11:15 p.m.  The Senator made a wrong turn onto an unlit dirt road that led to the bridge and his car went off the bridge into the water. 

On July 26, 1969, Senator Kennedy gave a televised address to the people of Massachusetts in which he presented  his side of the story.  The address sparked telegrams, letters and telephone calls supporting the Senator 100 to 1.

Senator Kennedy won re-election with 62% of the vote, but in the words of Susan Donaldson James"his presidential dreams died on Chappaquiddick."

She adds...

"Though his accomplishments are now legion, the ghost of Chappaquiddick has haunted (Ted) Kennedy over a lifetime, raising questions about his honesty and courage.  Some never forgave him."

*Mary Jo Kopechne (1940-1969) was born in Wiles-Barre, PA and graduated from Caldwell College for Women in 1962.  She taught for a year at the Mission of St. Jude in Montgomery, AL. In 1964, she joined Senator Robert Kennedy's secretarial staff and contributed to his 1968 presidential candidacy announcement.  At the time of her death, MJK lived in Georgetown.


"Chappaquiddick:  No Profile in Kennedy Courage," by Susan Donaldson James, August 26, 2009,

Dike Bridge at Chappaquiddick
Photo by Arwcheek (2008)

Note:  on the night of the accident there was no guard rail on the Dike Bridge.