«NOVEMBER 22, 1963 (Friday) 12:00 AM (Nov. 22, 1963) Nine Secret Service agents drinking at Pat Kirkwood’s bar the “Cellar Door” in Fort Worth, ...»
July 22, 1999 The ashes of JFK, Jr., his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister Lauren Bessette are buried at sea today.
NEW YORK (AP) - (By John Hendren) Eric Saldarriaga was born a decade after President Kennedy was assassinated. He’s a little unclear what ``Camelot’’ means. But here he stands amid the freshly laid roses at the site of John Kennedy Jr.’s memorial service, lamenting the loss of an era he never knew. “JFK Jr. is the last of the Camelots,’’ he said. The Kennedy mystique may have survived Vietnam, Watergate, the Reagan ``revolution’’ and unflattering revelations about the 35th president. But now that another John Kennedy is dead, can the myth endure? An aura has surrounded the Kennedys for decades because the family’s tale has all the elements of a good myth, says John Hellmann, author of “The Kennedy Obsession: The American Myth of JFK.’’ ``A great mythology is a story... in which people see their highest beliefs and values - along with their greatest fears - mirrored,’’ says Hellmann, an English professor at Ohio State University, in Lima. “If anything, this may enhance it.’’ The myth that began with Camelot bridges celebrity and politics. Both JFK and JFK Jr. seemed equally at ease with political and movie stars. JFK’s portrait still hangs next to the pope’s in homes from Boston to Belfast. His son’s photo adorns college dormitory walls and teen magazines. The parallels carry through to death. The father was brought down by an assassin at 46; the son died in a plane crash at 38. “The reason John F. Kennedy Jr. and Sr. continued to dominate the news for so long is because they managed to make the transition from serious culture to pop culture,’’ says Larry Sabato, director of government studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The elder JFK, he says, became ``the political Marilyn Monroe.’’ When David McCullough asks college students to name their favorite president, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of ``Truman’’ always gets the same response: JFK. The highest rated show on his PBS program, “The American Experience,’’ featured the Kennedys. The death of the younger JFK is unlikely to alter that, says McCullough, who quit a magazine job to work for the U.S. Information Agency under President Kennedy. ``Yes, the myth will endure. And, yes, the myth will be in some ways misleading and not representative. But it won’t be untrue,’’ he says. “The heroic young man, potential leader of his people, who was cut off, destroyed before his time.... People will be telling this story 100 years from now.’’ Historians trace the mystique of Camelot to JFK’s widow, Jacqueline, who told a reporter for Life magazine that her husband liked the score of ``Camelot.’’ The bittersweet musical recounting the legend of King Arthur’s medieval court opened on Broadway a month after JFK’s election. His favorite line: ``Don’t let it be forgot that once there was a spot for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.’’ When actor Louis Hayward reached those words in a Chicago performance after JFK’s death, the play stopped while audience members wept. “It was a magical time, in some respects,’’ McCullough recalls. ``Never, never had there been a president who was himself and with his family as glamorous as anything on the screen.... We respond to beauty in all manifestations.’’ Others say the myth began in World War II when JFK was injured while he commanded PT-109, which was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. He later downplayed his heroism: “It was involuntary. They sank my boat.’’ The younger JFK might never had entered politics. But he would not have lacked opportunities. JFK Jr. had taken a local prosecutor’s job that launched other aspiring politicians. But he quit to publish the magazine George, a novel blend of politics and celebrity. ``He thought politics should be an integral part of our popular culture, and that popular culture should be an integral part of politics,’’ Sen. Edward Kennedy said Friday in a eulogy for his nephew. ``He transformed that belief into the creation of George.’’ Many hoped the younger JFK would follow his father’s career. ``His father began as a journalist who turned to politics,’’ says historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who later chronicled the elder JFK’s career. ``I think young John was moving in that direction.’’ Within the last year, Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., unsuccessfully urged JFK Jr. to represent New York in the Senate. His uncertain future in politics may only solidify JFK Jr.’s place in the Kennedy mythology. ``There’s no more certain means of establishing a place in history that reflects the qualities Americans admire most than to die young,’’ Torricelli says. ``John Kennedy Jr.’s untimely death now adds one more element of permanent youth to the Kennedy mystique.’’ Over two centuries, Americans have favored political dynasties, electing two presidential families: the Adams and the Roosevelts. And, political analyst Sabato says, ``who’s the leading candidate for president right now? The son of a president.’’ While JFK Jr. had never proven himself in politics, the standing ovation he received at the 1988 Democratic Convention revealed one party’s hopes for a third. But, unlike Kennedy, George W. Bush began his political ascent years ago and has already been elected governor of Texas twice. To Sabato, another JFK presidency is just part of the myth. “The people who would’ve been attracted to JFK Jr. as a presidential candidate are people who read teen magazines,’’ says Sabato, ``and they don’t vote.’’ Even before JFK Jr.’s death, the Kennedy mantle had grown frayed. Joseph Kennedy Sr., the family patriarch and ambassador to England, expected to pass it to his eldest son, Joe Jr.
When the younger Joe’s plane exploded during World War II, the father’s presidential aspirations were passed to John. With his assassination in 1963, the family’s leading political role passed to his brother, Robert F. Kennedy. “There was this dream of the Kennedys returning to the White House,’’ says Ohio State’s Hellmann. “There was this sense of restoration.’’ When RFK died, many then looked to a young Edward Kennedy. His aspirations were dashed in 1969, when he drove off a bridge on Massachusetts’ Chappaquiddick Island and killed Mary Jo Kopechne. Then, says Hellmann, ``in whatever subliminal sense, the attention turned to John Kennedy Jr.’’ That ended last weekend when JFK Jr.’s plane plunged into the waters off Martha’s Vineyard, leaving no apparent heir to President Kennedy’s legacy. With both the father and son, ``we’ve had to leave to our imaginations what might have been,’’ says Tom Dardenne, who last week visited the site where President Kennedy was shot. Whether the myth that began with the elder JFK endures depends largely on younger Americans. Judging from the freshmen in Sabato’s politics course, it has already faded. “They connected with his celebrity and his dashing appearance, but for the most part John F. Kennedy was ancient, dusty history,’’ Sabato says. “There was no emotional connection whatsoever. And John F. Kennedy Jr. was just another rock star.’’ At Dealey Plaza in Dallas, 21-year-old Michelle Wells, too, sees the slain president as a subject of study. ``My parents really liked him,’’ she says. ``Of course you say, ‘Oh, sure, I know JFK,’ but I don’t really know any history.’’ Among her parents’ generation, it clearly lives on. Hundreds placed bouquets to wilt in the hot sun outside the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, where admirers queued to sign a condolence book for the JFK Jr.’s sister, Caroline, who has shunned the political spotlight. “As sad as it is, I think his death is the end of the Kennedy mystique,’’ says Donna Dimarzo, a 48-year-old accountant from Norwood, Mass. ``It’s the end of Camelot.’’ A moment later, she took it all back: ``Caroline has a son, Jack. Maybe he’ll grow up to do something special.” August 3, 1999 A three judge arbitration panel has decided that the Zapruder family will receive $16 million in exchange for the actual film of the assassination, which has been in cold storage in the National Archives. The family will continue to hold reproduction and royalty rights.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Just days after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, appealed to Soviet leaders to continue peaceful relations with the United States, Soviet documents show. In conversations with Soviet officials at her husband’s funeral and in a handwritten note to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev a week after the shooting, Jacqueline Kennedy asked the Soviets for “continuation of self-control and restraint” in Cold War relations and to pursue peace with the United States, the documents state. KGB and Soviet diplomatic documents about the Kennedy assassination, which Russian President Boris Yeltsin gave to President Clinton a few months ago, are being released today by the National Archives and Records Administration, which collects, maintains and makes public Kennedy assassination records. The documents are just a fraction of the six volumes of Soviet records on presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald that a federal panel had tried, but failed, to obtain in 1996. Experts said the revelation of Jacqueline Kennedy’s efforts was significant because high-level U.S. officials, including Kennedy’s successor in the White House, Lyndon B. Johnson, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, were concerned in the immediate days after the assassination that killer Lee Harvey Oswald may have been connected to the Soviets. Those concerns included CIA information about a meeting Oswald had with a top KGB official in Mexico City just weeks before the killing. The administration official said it was unclear how much of the KGB files was actually turned over. “I find it interesting that Jacqueline Kennedy is trying to smooth the waters,” said John Newman, a former military intelligence officer and University of Maryland history professor who has written books on Kennedy and Oswald. “It makes me wonder if she wasn’t aware of these concerns and was using her good auspices to try to allay these concerns,” Newman said. The administration official said the documents detail the Soviets’ fascination with the intense U.S. media coverage of the assassination and express chagrin at news reports linking Oswald to “leftist” elements and Soviet agencies. The KGB denounced American media reports suggesting Soviet complicity in Kennedy’s death as “slander” and suggested they only served to hide “who is really behind the assassination,” the official quoted the documents as saying. The documents portray Oswald’s efforts prior to the assassination to gain Soviet citizenship as adamant and clearly denote that the KGB opposed his request for asylum, the official said. Diplomatic memos and notes also show that the Soviets -- media reports aside -- were pleased by high-level U.S. contacts immediately after the assassination that left them confident the shooting in Dallas wouldn’t harm U.S. relations, the official said. The documents indicate that Secretary of State Dean Rusk quickly engaged in conversations with Soviet diplomats, talking about a wide range of issues that included nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, possible arms deals and a proposed U.S.-Moscow air route, the official said. The Soviets described the contacts as a sign that it would be “business as usual” with the United States, the official said. Though less official, Jacqueline Kennedy’s overtures were also duly noted. The presidential widow approached two Soviet officials attending her husband’s funeral reception at the White House to “reiterate her husband’s desire for peace” and to encourage them to find ways to “continue this endeavor and bring it to completion,” the official quoted the Russian documents as saying. About a week after the assassination, the documents indicate that Jacqueline Kennedy followed up with the handwritten letter to Khrushchev, the official said.
August 6, 1999 NEW YORK (AP) -- Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone -- or at least without the benefit of Soviet conspirators, according to the newly released Soviet Kennedy assassination papers. The 80 pages of Russian language documents, which were given to President Clinton by Russian President Boris Yeltsin during an economic summit in Germany earlier this year, show Oswald to be a nuisance to the Soviets. In fact, they found attempts by the American press to link him to a Soviet conspiracy insulting. “The American press has disseminated various slanderous fabrications regarding some Soviet and Cuban “connections” of Lee Harvey Oswald....
In addition some organs of American press are attempting to support their insinuations by referring to the fact that Oswald lived in the Soviet Union,” says one memo. But the Soviets themselves thought conspiracy accusations leveled by the American press showed that Oswald had help. “The thrust of the draft statement is that the murder of Oswald himself reveals now even more clearly the identity of the groups who are behind President Kennedy’s assassination and who are obviously trying to cover their tracks,” the document states.