JFK stands in the doorway with Jackie and Caroline before leaving for the Senate from his home on N Street in Washington’s Georgetown section. Photographed by Jacques Lowe, 1959.
On January 2, 1960, in the caucus room of the U.S. Capital, Senator Kennedy announces his intention to seek his party’s nomination for President of the United States.
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JFK spends the weekend with his son and daughter at Bailey’s Beach in Newport, Rhode Island, September 15, 1963. Photographed by Robert Knudson.
Jack Kennedy is photographed sailing off the Rhode Island coast in the Manitou by Robert Knudson, August 26, 1962.
Since 1968, the word hope has become the oratorical equivalent of an American flag lapel pin, a de rigueur rhetorical flourish amounting to a vague promise of better days. But the hope that Robert Kennedy offered was specific: that Americans’ belief in their integrity and decency could be restored. His assassination on June 5, eighty- two days after he had announced his candidacy, represented not just the death of another Kennedy or of a promising young leader, but the death of this hope. This explains why the most dramatic display of public grief for an American citizen who had never been elected to the presidency unfolded on June 8, 1968, when a twenty- one- car funeral train, its engine draped in black bunting, carried Kennedy’s body from his funeral in New York to his burial in Washington.
Crowds were expected, but no one imagined that on a steamy Saturday afternoon two million people would head for the tracks, wading through marshes, hiking across meadows, and slithering under fences, filling tenement balconies, clambering onto factory roofs, standing in junkyards and cemeteries, peering down from bridges, viaducts, and bluffs, placing 100,000 coins on the tracks, waving hand- lettered goodbye Bobby signs, and forging a 226- mile- long chain of grief and despair.
Many are still haunted by Kennedy’s phantom presidency. Two decades after his death, Ralph Bartlow Martin wrote, “I have no doubt at all that if nominated he [Kennedy] would have been elected. And if elected, a great President, maybe greater than his brother. But they would have killed him.” As Kennedy lay dying, Jack Newfield told John Lewis, “I can feel history slipping through my fingers.” Four decades later, Lewis says, “I thought that if this one man was elected president, he could move us closer to what many of us in the movement called ‘The Loving Community.’ ” Former Kennedy aide Peter Edelman still believes that his presidency “would have influenced the tone and direction of American politics for decades.” Edwin Guthman, who worked in the Kennedy Justice Department, writes, “To know anything about him is to know that had he lived and won in 1968, he would have been a great President.” Look correspondent Warren Rogers told an interviewer in 1997 that his presidency would have left “a far more decent, a far gentler and less uncouth country than we are today,” and the political commentator Mark Shields, who worked for him in the Nebraska primary, says, “I’ll go to my grave believing Robert Kennedy would have been the best President of my lifetime.”
JFK campaigns in West Virginia. Here he works Logan county, rugged country known for labor strife and hardball politics, Kennedy bulled with coal miners; visited backwaters like Omar, an old time mining camp, in pursuit of the porch and clothesline vote; wrote autographs for women shopping in a mine-company store; and when he spotted a crowd in Amherstdale, he used a campaign station wagon as a podium.
JFK vacations in Maine aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Guardian 1 in Boothbay Harbor. Seen here talking to Under Secretary of War Paul Fay and sister Patricia Kennedy Lawford, August 1962.
JFK and John Jr in the Oval Office, May 25th, 1962.
As JFK’s motorcade progressed down the Grand Concourse in the Bronx in New York City, a bride entering a hotel for her wedding reception hailed Kennedy. The candidate spotted her (top), leaped from his car and made her day with the two-handed handclasp that was his warmest greeting short of the kiss he reserved for babies and old ladies. Photographed by Paul Schutzer, 1960.
Young John Kennedy at the 1946 Bunker Hill Day parade in Charlestown, Massachusetts.
From the start, Ethel and Bobby were devoted to one another. Neither would ever seem to regret their decision to wed; the differences in their personalities meshed together to create what many of their peers considered to be the perfect couple. “The best thing I ever did was marry Ethel,” Bobby would later comment of the woman who was his partner, his supporter, his friend. “Whatever they did, they put their whole hearts and souls into it,” observed Mary Francis “Stancy” Newman, a neighbor of the Kennedy’s in Hyannis Port. “They were ideal in that way and seemed to have the kind of marriage most people of that time wanted. You could see in the way they looked at one another that they adored each other.”
John Jr. and Caroline greet their father as he arrives in Massachusetts to spend the weekend in Hyannis Port, August 23, 1963.