Biographies & Memoirs




Cecil Stoughton, White House/John F. Kennedy Library


Kennedy for President


Jack's reelection to the Senate in 1958 was never in serious question. He was skyrocketing now as a public figure. The camera emphasized his youth, his elegance, his good looks, his quick wit. But while his reelection to the Senate was not in doubt, the marginof victory was very important. Jack's presidential ambitions in 1960 were now a given, at least within the family and closest advisers. That required that every public step along the way be marked with as much evidence of achievement as possible.

A great deal of Jack's charm, of course, was substantive, a factor of his unconcealed principles. His political candor was as fresh and bold as his style, and like his style, it won over audiences who might have resented it in any other candidate. He'd drawn a standing ovation in Jackson, Mississippi, after a talk in which he endorsed school desegregation; he won the support of the governor of Kansas even though he had earlier voted against high farm price supports. He accepted speaking dates before southern Protestant ministers and the American Jewish Congress in New York.

Bobby had managed Jack's first Senate campaign, but now he was absorbed as chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee under Chairman John L. McClellan. His lacerating exchanges with the powerful Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa were earning him national attention. So Jack asked me to run his campaign. I relished the opportunity. I was still a year from law school graduation and was courting Joan, but the chance to help my brother, while at the same time getting a baptism in electoral politics, was irresistible.

So after my final examinations in June, I hurried home to Massachusetts and joined the senator's reelection team. Jack named me campaign manager, though I was glad to have such able hands as Larry O'Brien, Kenny O'Donnell, and Jean's husband, Steve Smith, to show me the ropes. Here were three immensely talented and loyal political professionals at the core of a group whose names would forever be associated with that of President John F. Kennedy. "A mixture of amateurs, professionals, eggheads and hardheads," the New York Times admiringly called them.

Larry O'Brien was an army veteran, a former union president at age twenty-two, and a Democratic operative when he came aboard my brother's 1950 Senate campaign. Like Bobby, Larry was passionate about organization. The slightly younger Kenny O'Donnell was also an army vet who was Bobby's roommate at Harvard after the war. A principled and politically sensitive man, he, along with Larry, remained at Jack's side through the presidential years as a special assistant and member.

Steve Smith was more than a brother-in-law; he was like a brother in our family. A soft-spoken and elegant man, Steve had been an air force lieutenant before joining his father's vast New York tugboat and barge empire, Cleary Brothers, Inc. An eventual heir to the fortune, he developed a genius for financial management--eventually overseeing the Kennedy family's investment operations--as well as for personnel supervision. Steve would go on to manage Bobby's Senate campaign, and my own.

A fourth member of the team was Ted Sorensen, who was virtually inseparable from Jack. (The two of them toured fifty states together between 1956 and 1959.) Ted had signed on to be the new Senator Kennedy's legislative aide in 1953, as an earnest, horn-rimmed twenty-five-year-old just a couple of years out of Nebraska. And there was Pierre Salinger. Jack had recently hired the dapper thirty-three-year-old journalist and veteran press officer on Bobby's recommendation. Pierre had impressed Bobby as an investigator for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee. He would serve as press secretary to Jack.

I took Joan to the house at Hyannis Port for a week in June to get her acquainted with my mother and father. And then we all set to work getting Jack reelected.

We held our first strategy meeting at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. All the volunteers assembled in a meeting room upstairs, and Jack looked at me and said, "All right, Teddy--now you go on up and give them a speech. Talk about the organization and what you're going to do in the campaign, and then I'll say a few words." I'd never given a campaign strategy talk before. I said, "What exactly do you think I ought to say?" Jack ticked off several details about how he thought the organization should go, and then sent me up. I guess I did okay. Then Jack spoke, and, as usual, charmed and inspired everyone.

Our biggest challenge was overcoming the apathy of people who thought Jack was a shoo-in for reelection. (He probably was, but as I say, the margin was what counted.) And so we focused on generating turnout. We set up telephone banks and sent volunteers out for door-to-door efforts. I shuttled weekly between Massachusetts and my law classes at the University of Virginia.

We stumbled upon some unexpected controversies. One of them reflected the ancient tensions between the Irish and the Italians in Massachusetts, still intense in the late 1950s.

We'd come up with a campaign slogan for Jack, simple yet geared to our goal of a large turnout. It was: "Make your vote count. Vote Kennedy." We discovered that it wasn't so simple--certainly not in the Italian community. A group of Italian-American leaders from around the state converged on Boston and demanded a meeting with me at my brother's headquarters at the Bellevue. They sat down at a conference table opposite me and said, "This is an insult to Italians!"

I told them I didn't understand. "What we're trying to do is say, 'Make your vote count. Your vote counts for Senator Kennedy in 1958 and it's also a vote, really, for 1960. Your vote is important. Make your vote count.'"

They said, "No, no. The way we interpret it is that the vote counts if it's for an Irishman, but it doesn't count if it's for an Italian. [The Italian they had in mind was Vincent J. Celeste.] So therefore it's directed at us, and we resent it."

Pretty soon, the head of every Italian-American organization in the state was denouncing the slogan. We had to tear up all the literature and change it. I mentioned the crisis to Jack, who was as baffled as I. "I don't know. We'll work it out."

We worked it out by calling Dad up from the Cape.

We all sat down with one of his friends, an advertising man named John Dowd. Dowd worked at it all day long, trying out slogan after slogan. He was wearing a pinstriped suit, as I recall, with white checks on it, and he had suspenders and a mustache that moved when he talked, and dark, very groomed hair. He had five different pencils and pads of paper. He'd write out a slogan and hand it to Dad, and Dad would look at it and say, "No, that doesn't work, Dowd. That's not good. You can do better than that. That's not good." And then Dad went across the street to Bailey's restaurant and had his lunch, a chocolate soda. That's all he'd eat. He loved ice cream, but he didn't want to gain weight, so he had just this one chocolate soda.

He came back in half an hour. "How are you doing now, Dowd?" Dowd wasn't doing so well. By this time he was perspiring, and the dye in his hair was starting to run. After several more hours of frantic scrawling, he handed Dad yet another slip of paper with yet another slogan: "He has served Massachusetts with distinction." I thought that one, frankly, to be a little like a Schenley's whiskey ad, but my father liked it. So that became the slogan. "Kennedy. He has served Massachusetts with distinction."

One person not ready to agree that Jack had served Massachusetts with distinction was Vincent Celeste. Celeste may have understood that he had little hope of winning, but he and his people were not about to go down without a fight. I recall the night that he took the fight, almost literally, to Jack's window.

Jack had rented an apartment at 122 Bowdoin Street in Boston. This was the subject of much amusement in the family because so many Kennedys were registered to vote with that as their address. It was a small apartment, but Jack and Jackie, Bobby and Ethel, and I were all registered out of this small apartment.

Jack loved to take his bath at 122 Bowdoin to soak his back and refresh himself before evening campaign events. This was the time he valued the most in his day, in certain ways. He was then at his most relaxed and funniest, and he came away with a sense of purpose and seriousness. I always sat in the bathroom with him as he called out instructions and asked questions.

Just outside the apartment was a fairly large parking lot. One evening, while Jack was in the tub, I heard noises down there, went to the living room, and looked out the window. I saw eight or ten people lighting a bonfire in the parking lot--a sizable bonfire. Then someone began to speak at the top of his voice. It was Vincent Celeste.

Jack called to me to ask what in the world was going on. I said, "Vincent Celeste is having a rally." "What's he saying?" "He says you're a phony, your supporters are phonies, and he's going to whip you."

That caught Jack's interest. As Celeste ranted on, he kept asking from the tub, "What's he saying now?" And I'd repeat what Celeste was saying. I could see it was getting under my brother's skin, even though there were only about forty people in the crowd. But then some of the press started to show up, and so of course it became a big deal, especially to my brother. It was funny and ridiculous, and Jack laughed--but it really did get under his skin.

In the election, we got the margin we'd hoped for, and then some. Jack defeated Celeste by 874,000 votes, garnering nearly 75 percent of the votes cast, the most lopsided victory in the state's history.

On November 29, 1958, in St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Bronxville, New York, Virginia Joan Bennett and I were married. Cardinal Spellman performed the ceremony. Jack was my best man; Joan was escorted by her father, Harry Wiggin Bennett, and her sister Candace was her maid of honor. My sisters were among the attendants. Among the ushers were Bobby, Joe Gargan, Lem Billings, my law school classmates John Tunney and John Goemans, and my Harvard classmates Claude Hooton and Dick Clasby. My father and mother and Mrs. Bennett were looking on.

Joan wore a white satin wedding gown and carried a bouquet of white roses. My wedding gift to her was a clover-shaped pin that had belonged to my mother.

We weren't able to take an extended honeymoon because of my law school schedule. We made up for that later. For the short time we had available, we accepted the invitation of Lord Beaverbrook to spend our honeymoon at his beautiful estate in the Bahamas. Since his time in London, my father had remained friendly with Beaverbrook, the imperious and eccentric publisher of the Daily Express and other British newspapers. The truth is that Joan and I hadn't expected to be quite so friendly with him on our honeymoon. When we arrived at his estate, he didn't seem to know quite what to do with us. He certainly didn't make himself scarce. We ate every meal together. For him--and therefore for us--that meant a baked potato, and only a baked potato, for lunch. Dinner was not much better. We were served exactly one daiquiri apiece before dinner and then something that was definitely not standout cuisine. Our host recommended several times that we visit a nearby little island that was completely deserted. That sounded tantalizing, but somehow his lordship never got around to providing transportation there. And so we spent all our time on his estate. We got to know it... well.

I graduated from law school the following June, and Joan and I finally took that deferred honeymoon vacation, a five-week trip through Chile and Argentina. We were in some of the most challenging skiing country in the world. Joan was in the early stages of her pregnancy with Kara, and was not a big skier, but she did not hesitate when I offered to help her to learn in the Chilean Andes. She grew adept in an amazingly short time. We trekked on southeastward to Argentina, traveling by riverboat and in the backs of trucks over bumpy roads, and staying at inns that had no heat. Finally we succumbed to a little luxury at a beautiful resort in Bariloche, Patagonia. We visited Buenos Aires, and then returned home, where we were massing to launch Jack's presidential campaign.

That campaign started in earnest after a meeting at Hyannis Port after Labor Day weekend 1959. It was decided that Bobby would return to his role as the overall coordinator of Jack's campaign. Steve Smith would set up the administrative and financial operations. Larry O'Brien would supervise the state primaries. Only sixteen of those existed at that time, and thus a great deal of influence over delegates was still wielded by the political establishment in each state.

Every state was critical, because Jack's nomination was a long shot. Even had he not been young, Catholic, and relatively unknown, he'd still have had to contend with Democratic party lions such as Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Adlai Stevenson, Stuart Symington of Missouri, and Mayor Robert Wagner of New York. Only Jack and Humphrey actually entered most of the Democratic primaries, and they yielded only 584 out of a total of 1,521 votes that would be cast at the convention. Thus several other hopefuls were focused on courting party leaders around the country for delegates. (Bobby predicted early on that LBJ, not Humphrey, would emerge as Jack's main rival, and he was right.) Nor would the perils decrease should he survive the primaries and emerge as the party's nominee: public opinion polls showed that even though Democrats were in good favor, Jack would face very stiff competition in the general election against the likes of Nelson Rockefeller or Richard Nixon.

I was assigned to campaign in the eleven western states. I'd volunteered for those states--and in the back of my mind I always kept alive the possibility of moving out there after finishing school. Joan and I had seriously discussed living in California after my sister Pat urged us to come, but we vetoed it in the end because Dad didn't think too much of the idea.

And so I never became a westerner. Not officially. But the months I spent barnstorming the Rocky Mountain states for Jack turned out to be a series of action-packed escapades that featured bucking broncos, coldeyed strangers with six-shooters drawn, hair-raising close calls in small airplanes, and even the prospect of a guided missile attack.

The western states posed several especially thorny challenges. Support for Jack on the Great Plains and in California was anemic at the time; no one had invested much work in establishing his credentials out there. Their populations tended to be scattered, so the business of introducing his record and his agenda would entail covering a lot of terrain. I left Massachusetts the Thursday after Labor Day for Montana and the state nominating convention that would produce twenty delegates. Montana was the home of Senator Mike Mansfield, who was destined to become an American statesman: the longest-serving majority leader in Senate history, ambassador to Japan, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Mansfield was supporting Lyndon Johnson, and at least eight of the delegates were sympathetic to Humphrey. I had work to do.

I hitched a ride into the site of the convention, the small town of Miles City, in a twin-engine airplane owned by a friend of mine named Joe Reber. I was a licensed pilot myself by this time, having learned to fly while at the University of Virginia, but that day I relied on someone else to handle the controls. Joe and I made our way over to the convention hall where I was to speak at noon. I was wearing a suit and shined shoes, and I carried a briefcase filled with campaign materials, such as circulars. The hall was nearly empty. I asked a man, "Where is everybody?"

He said, "Ever'body's down to the rodeo."

So Joe and I went down to the rodeo. We saw pickup trucks, bleachers filled with folks who were yelling and waving cowboy hats, a loudspeaker, a lot of wranglers, and a lot of dust. Something told me there were a lot of Democratic delegates among those hat-waving fans.

The rodeo people were just getting ready for the last event of the day--the bucking bronco competition. I found someone who looked like he might be in charge, introduced myself as John F. Kennedy's western campaign manager, and asked if I could be introduced. He said nope. The only way to be introduced is if you're riding one of the broncos. I said okay, I'd ride one of the broncos.

Joe shot me an incredulous look. I knew it was risky, but something told me that unless I gave it a shot, nothing I'd say to those delegates would matter much.

The wrangler shrugged and jerked his thumb at a trailer truck. "You can go back there and get some ridin' gear and get changed," he said. "We got two ways of mountin' you up. A saddle horse. Or a horse with a surcingle."

"I don't want a saddle," I told him. "I'll try a surcingle."

I didn't know exactly what a surcingle was, but I soon found out. It is a leather strap that you fasten around a horse's middle when you ride bareback. It comes with handholds attached. That sounded reassuring.

I also came up with a cowboy hat, a black Stetson.

In the trailer, a bowlegged cowpoke introduced himself as Shorty, and asked me, "You ever done this before?"

I said I hadn't. "What can you tell me?"

Shorty said, "Well, I'm number one. They're going to let you go, I guess, after me."

I looked more closely at Shorty. His cowboy hat was beaten and tattered. His riding gloves were soaked with sweat, practically a part of his skin. For some reason they had little bells sewn on the sides. His shirt was dirty and torn in places. He looked like he'd just come from the losing end of a bar fight.

And Shorty was the bronco-riding expert.

"I'll show you how to do this thing," he said. "Watch me." I watched as Shorty climbed atop a slatted frame and balanced himself on the wood above a horse that was about a foot and a half below him. The horse seemed to be trying to kick the pen to splinters. When his turn came, Shorty dropped onto the mount and wrapped his fingers around the surcingle, his forearm rippling with muscles. The gate opened and the horse came crashing out, kicking his hind legs side to side. Shorty stayed on top, tipping his hat. He stayed on for about ten seconds--pretty good--and then tried to switch from the bucking steed to the tamed horse that had cantered up alongside. He missed the remount and fell to the dust. The horse he'd been riding did something that I later learned few horses do: he began to "corkscrew"--jump and twist and pivot, directly above Shorty. Shorty rolled, his shirt buttons popped, and he finally got to his feet and came limping, caked with dust and blood, back to the corral.

I blurted out, "Shorty! Are you okay?"

Shorty said, "You're next."

I'm next? I'm next?! "Is there anything else I ought to know?" I shouted to Shorty's retreating back. He didn't hear me. He was disappearing into the trailer, looking for ice.

My horse was named Skyrocket. I think he got his name by sending everyone who tried to ride him straight up into the air. He was already crashing against the pen. Boom! Boom! Boom!

I grabbed the surcingle. The gate opened, and out I lurched, the world looking like a piece of film running through a broken sprocket. I could hear the crowd--either cheering or laughing, I couldn't tell which.

Somehow, I lasted seven seconds before Skyrocket launched me where he'd launched all the others. When my head cleared I realized I was stretched out on my back, breathing dust. No bones were broken. I pushed myself upright, swatted my pants, and walked back to the corral. But it all paid off. When I walked out onstage to address those cowboy conventioneers that afternoon, they were still cheering. I didn't need my campaign literature. I didn't even have to give a talk. I just said, "You know, there's a horse called Skyrocket"--here they all cheered again--"and he wants you to vote for John Kennedy!"

We picked up about half the delegates.

My reputation must have preceded me to Rock Springs, just under forty miles to the north. There, they wanted to shoot a cigarette out of my mouth. I was a good sport on that one until I heard the sound of the pistol being cocked, and then decided I'd take a pass on that adventure.

After Montana, I went on to Idaho, where, through the efforts of some energetic supporters, we managed to gain a split of that delegation as well. And from there to Utah, where I had my first run-in with a real-life gunslinger. He got the drop on me when he caught me trying to rustle his car.

I'd been flying over desert land toward a political luncheon in Price, a small town at the foot of a steep mountain. My escort was a young Kennedy supporter named Oscar McConkie, the son of a prominent judge in the area. As we descended, our pilot noticed that the desert was covered by a ground fog as far as the eye could see, except for some highlands on our side of the town. We were faced with the choice of either trying to land somewhere on those highlands or fly to Salt Lake City and miss the luncheon.

Flying low, the pilot spotted a rugged dirt road and said he thought he could land there. Oscar and I jumped out of the plane after it came to a rest, and when we looked around, the pilot was taking off again.

We had no transportation. Price was fifteen miles away. We started walking. Oscar's shoes hadn't been made for walking on rocky land. Nor had mine, but since this was my show, I told my friend to wait while I walked on ahead and looked for a car to flag down. The car I found didn't need flagging; it sat by the side of the road unoccupied, a green 1956 Ford station wagon. I looked around for the owner, but the terrain was empty.

I thought, "Well, if I don't get to Price in the next twenty minutes, I'll miss the luncheon, so I might as well take the car. I'll get one of our supporters to drive it back here as soon as Oscar and I arrive."

I reached through a side window and unlocked a door. I started rummaging in the glove compartment and under the seat for a key, but came up empty. I figured I would start the car by crossing the wires. I'd never done that before in my life, but I'd seen it in the movies.

Then I heard a sound and looked out the car's window into a pistol pointed right at my belt buckle, held by about as tough-looking a customer as I'd ever seen. He'd been out in the desert trapping, I later found out. Now he'd found some quarry.

I thought fast. Before the stranger could say anything, I began jabbering about how glad I was to see him and how I'd sure appreciate some help because I'd really be in trouble if I didn't get to Price in a hurry. The pistol stayed aimed at my midsection, but the cowboy's steely gaze softened just a bit.

At this point the cavalry, in the form of McConkie, arrived. He recognized the trapper as a fellow his father the judge had once given a break to in a court case. The trapper drove us into town, where I finally talked the county Democratic convention into giving Jack's campaign what I'd come there seeking: half a delegate.

Oscar McConkie did all right for himself over the years, by the way. In 2007 the Utah State Bar named him Lawyer of the Year.

Arizona was next. As in Montana and Idaho, the old-line Democrats were supporting Lyndon Johnson; the key was to get various district committee people elected who were sympathetic to Jack, and the districts were widely separated by rugged terrain.

Flying myself in a Tri-Pacer, a single-engine plane that I'd chartered, I hopscotched from Tucson to Phoenix and several smaller towns from south to north: Globe, Show Low, Flagstaff, Prescott, and Yuma among them. I'd stocked the plane with an armload of maps, checked the weather, and then launched myself into the sky. Two things were quickly impressed on my mind as an amateur pilot flying over Arizona. One was that the terrain lacked the visual navigation aids that are common in the East: air stations, towers, lakes, rivers, railroads, and highways. The second was that airports were even scarcer than landmarks. Luckily, one could glide for many miles in any direction to find a refueling stop.

I spotted Globe easily enough from the air, after an hour's flight, and touched down for a luncheon with county Democrats and a radio interview. Afterward, Barry DeRose, the county chairman, hitched a ride with me over to Show Low, a town high up on the Mogollon Rim of eastcentral Arizona. (It is called Show Low, according to legend, because a couple of cowpokes who couldn't stand each other played a card game to decide who'd have to move out. The low-card holder got to stay. One of the men drew the deuce of clubs, for which the main street is named.) We tried to talk a third fellow, whose name I recall as Sadovich, into coming with us, but Sadovich doubted my piloting skills and changed his mind at least six times on the way to the plane. DeRose finally talked him on board. I got the engines going and had started to taxi when I noticed that Sadovich was twitching like a rabbit. I decided to calm him by giving him something to do. "Take this chart," I told him, "and hold on to it. And keep your eye on the main highway, because if we lose sight of it we're lost." Unaccountably, this did not ease Sadovich's mind. "Screw you fellows," he blurted, fumbling at his seat belt. "I'm not about to go with you two."

Actually, he was about to go with us, because we were nearly airborne. But Sadovich opened the door and jumped for it. DeRose and I could hardly stop our laughter, but I managed to get the plane in the air.

Sadovich missed a great experience. The hop from Globe to Show Low was beautiful. The rugged plateaus and pine forests were covered with a light country snow that sparkled in the sun. DeRose and I were enjoying the view so much, in fact, that damned if we didn't lose track of the highway. I shifted the bearing more and more to the north in hopes that it would reappear, but to no avail. A smog-covered town emerged beneath us, with an airport tower that peeked just above the mist. DeRose asked me the name of the tower. I checked the chart and could find nothing in the vicinity that corresponded to it. "It must be a new one," I told him, "that hasn't been put on the map yet." Something in my voice must have tipped him off that I did not entirely believe this, because he was not convinced. "Let's go back and take another look," he told me. I thought that was a pretty good idea myself.

As we circled lower, DeRose peered hard and then gasped, "My God! That's Fort Apache! I know it because I'm a counsel for the Apache Indians. I've been here before!"

This discovery meant that we were off course by some fifty miles to the east, blown by winds we hadn't been aware of. I frantically scanned the chart again and noticed that the highway leaving Fort Apache to the north continued directly to Show Low. So we followed it on to the town.

That was when we discovered that our troubles were only beginning. Neither of us could locate the Show Low airport. Everything was covered with white--the result of a four-foot snowfall. We couldn't turn back because we didn't have enough gas to get us anywhere else. I started my descent. DeRose, sounding just a little like Sadovich, asked me whether I knew how to land in snow. I assured him that I'd never had any trouble in the past--which was not a complete lie, given that I had never tried to land in snow in the past.

The landing proved to be perhaps the best I ever made, as the snow acted to slow my plane down. Two men inside the hangar, looking at us dubiously, came out to gas up the plane. DeRose and I met at a nearby roadhouse with a committee of county chairmen--all three of them. I felt as though I were winning the West, one Democrat at a time.

I took off from Show Low after eight taxis down the runway to pack the snow down, and headed for Flagstaff.

The next day started out uneventfully; in fact my flight to Prescott took only thirty minutes instead of forty-five, thanks to eighty-mile-anhour tailwinds. I enjoyed a good breakfast meeting with another handful of party leaders, and then reboarded the Tri-Pacer to fly to Yuma. And that is when I discovered that I might be a missile target.

As I took off in the early-morning glow of the sun, I heard something through the radio static about air-to-air missiles, ground-to-air missiles, and that sort of thing. This failed to activate any warning lights in my mind--after all, I was flying over Arizona, not the Soviet Union--so I spun the radio dial until I picked up Frank Sinatra. I hummed along for a while, and then glanced down at my chart. I noticed that I'd crossed into what appeared to be a restricted zone. I flipped the chart over and read that the missile zone was open to civilian aircraft--except at times when they were conducting missile testing operations, which was in the early morning.

By this time I was in the middle of the zone, with no possibility of rezoning myself, as it were. For the next twenty minutes, I flew onward hunched over the wheel with visions of every newsreel I'd seen of those hound-dog missiles going after a drone plane and never missing. I made it through, and arrived in Yuma. I landed at the wrong airport. On the other hand, I landed.

I was surprised--perhaps I should not have been--that the question of Jack's religion troubled some Democrats' minds in the West. Some people were concerned when I raised the issue; others when I did not. Either way, it served to let me know that my brother would have to deal with the matter of his faith in every corner of the country.

At the University of Wyoming in Laramie in the late fall, I addressed a Young Democrats meeting with my usual talking points. I talked about the upcoming election and the national and international issues facing the candidates, Jack's strengths and relative weaknesses, and so on. I came to the topic of religion and dwelt on it for a few minutes, dismissing it as not a major issue in the election. Then I opened things up to questions from the audience.

As I stood talking to students afterward, an elderly man approached me and said, "Mr. Kennedy, I am a professor of psychology at the university here, and I would like to make just one comment about your discussion. I cannot for the life of me understand why you discuss religion as either a plus or a minus for your brother. It seems to me that from your very raising of this question, you are showing that the Kennedy people are hypersensitive about this issue, and from your discussion here tonight, I fear you are going to make a good many people conscious of that factor who otherwise might not be."

I appreciated this line of thought, and thanked the professor for his candor. I said that since I was just a beginner in giving political speeches, I found his comments especially helpful. I left the campus believing that I'd been given valuable advice on the religion issue, and that I should avoid it from then on unless it surfaced as a direct question.

The following evening I spoke again at an open meeting about the coming election. Again, I covered Jack's prospects, his strengths and liabilities, and steered clear of religion entirely. In the question-and-answer session that followed, another professor of psychology stood up, this one from the University of Colorado. "You've made a great mistake," he admonished me, "in not talking about the role that religion could play in Jack's race. It's a question that everyone is concerned about. By not bringing it up, Mr. Kennedy, you appear hypersensitive about the whole question. It's quite evident from your discussion tonight that you are going to make many people conscious of a factor, which otherwise might not be the case."

I thanked the professor for his candor. And continued on my sojourn through the West.

Looking over my faded notes from that priceless adventure of nearly fifty years ago, rereading the brief, earnest stump speech I delivered at breakfast meetings and auditoriums and college dining halls, I find a capsule glimpse of the vast changes in American politics since Jack's era. I find some constants as well, but it is the changes that interest me, because so many of them sprang from Jack's initiatives.

Twin-engine airplanes of course have long since been replaced by jets, closed-circuit TV, and the Internet. Retail politics still flourishes--putting shoe leather on the ground, pressing flesh, traveling to localities around the country.

My stump speech as written ran a little less than six double-spaced pages. While I didn't actually read it--I spoke off the cuff--I probably stayed fairly close to the general outline, usually speaking for about ten minutes in addition to the opening thanks to my hosts. I always covered three main topics: federal aid to education, medical care for the aged, and foreign policy.

Federal aid to education, in 1959, was mostly about how to pay for school construction, teachers' salaries, and school buses. Brown v. Board of Education was just five years old; its enforcement was a matter for the states, and not yet a part of the national dialogue. How the government should address the needs of poor and minority students, students with learning disabilities, the question of evolution versus creationism, school prayer--these were unimaginable topics in a presidential campaign, as were literacy levels, charter schools, the contents of text and library books, and guns in the classroom. Just five years later, the War on Poverty created Head Start, federal aid to low-income students, and other transformative measures. Lyndon Johnson is justly credited with steering this program to reality, but the groundwork was laid by Jack, who had been appalled at the living conditions of the rural poor when he campaigned in West Virginia, and then was galvanized in 1962 by Michael Harrington's landmark study of poverty, The Other America.

Medical care for the aged was an issue of some concern back then, but the problem and its solutions were only generally defined. Both candidates acknowledged a need for reform. Richard Nixon was campaigning, rather liberally, on a proposal to pay for it with a direct tax levied on every taxpayer--but disbursed only to those who would sign "a pauper's oath," as my speech argued. Jack envisioned a program to be set up under the Social Security program, covering those working men and women who paid a small fraction of their earnings into it.

This was the root idea of Medicare, which Jack was laying out in his own campaign speeches, and which came to fruition in that same breakout year of 1965, as part of Johnson's Great Society. Then there was the burning issue of World War II and Korea, which were still fresh in the American memory. The fear of communism was all-consuming. Yet the issues I addressed in that stump speech--the Hungarian revolution, the nationalist uprising in Algeria, and those monumentally strategic islands of Quemoy and Matsu--seem almost benign when contrasted to the dangers at large in the world today.

I still treasure those faded notes and the brittle pages of that earnest stump speech of half a century ago.

By early February, the West was behind me. Primary voting was set to begin in March, with New Hampshire, the traditional "first" state, leading off on March 8. Now my services were required back east, which was just fine with me for several reasons. The most important was that Joan was about to have our first baby.

She was with me out west during the earlier days of campaigning, but that became more difficult as her pregnancy advanced. She had been incredibly supportive during my long absences. She was only twenty-three then, not long out of college, and about to become a mother in a family that was busy trying to get one of its own elected president. She went to live with her parents in their Bronxville house, where she was given love and support during the late stages of her pregnancy. She and I were in constant contact by telephone during my western swing, and I'd told her that when the baby was due I would be at her side.

It was during the last of my four visits to New Hampshire that the call came. I left the campaign and arrived at the hospital in time to do the traditional pacing in the waiting room, along with Joan's family and other expectant fathers. Joan gave birth to Kara Ann Kennedy on February 27, 1960. I had never seen a more beautiful baby, nor been happier in my life. Kara's name means "little dear one," and she was then and always has been my precious little dear one. Soon afterward I reluctantly left Joan and Kara and hurried to Wisconsin, where I spent the balance of that state's primary campaign.

Jack took New Hampshire with 85 percent of the vote.

Jack understood that Wisconsin was more important to his chances than its thirty-one-delegate count indicated. Since it lay adjacent to Humphrey's home state of Minnesota, the outcome there had the potential to embarrass Humphrey, "Wisconsin's third senator," and end his bid for the nomination if he lost.

Humphrey knew this, and campaigned accordingly, with an angry, accusatory edge at odds with his usual sunny persona. He tore into Jack's voting record on farm issues in an attempt to shred my brother's "liberal" credentials, and asserted that John Kennedy had "voted with [then senator] Nixon" in the past. Humphrey surrogates painted Jack as "soft on McCarthyism." Hubert even resorted to incendiary language--incendiary for the genial Hubert, at any rate--demanding that Jack drop "the razzle dazzle, fizzle fazzle." These charges and rhetoric drew rebukes from officially neutral Wisconsin Democrats such as Governor Gaylord Nelson and Senator William Proxmire, who worried about the risk of shattering party unity.

Jack's response was brilliant. At his introductory press conference in Madison on February 16, my brother made the following pledge:

This will be a positive, constructive campaign. Let me make it completely clear right now that I do not intend to attack my Democratic opponent, to review his record, or to engage in any arguments or debates with him. I do intend, when his name is mentioned, to speak well of him. I request, moreover, that everyone working on my behalf in this state abide by the same principles.

For this is not a campaign against anyone. This is a campaign for the presidency.

But he didn't hesitate to play some other formidable cards: Kennedys, and lots of them. Mother came to Wisconsin, where she charmed the farm wives and small-town women at teas and talks. Several of my sisters joined her in crisscrossing the state, winning over audiences with their charm. (Humphrey was heard to grumble that when the sisters or I donned raccoon coats and stocking caps, people thought they were listening to Jack.)

Bobby threw himself back and forth over the state's long country roads, gaunt and fatigued by his double role as campaign manager and speechmaker, but crackling with competitive fire. The most eye-catching Kennedy of all, of course, was Jackie. She gamely did her share of stumping for her husband and endeared herself to reporters and crowds alike. Even James Reston of the New York Times allowed himself a sidelong glance at her "carelessly beautiful scarlet coat." Jackie's soft empathy and references to Caroline, her two-year-old daughter back home, won her many fans. She filled in for several of Jack's speaking engagements when he had to fly back to Washington for a vote on the civil rights debate, and acquitted herself well, with self-effacing kindness.

As for me, I helped with organizing volunteers and telephone canvassers. And I reprised my role as the campaign's designated stuntman.

It began with a dawn flight, courtesy of my friend Don Lowe, from Green Bay to Madison so that I could witness the famous Blackhawk Ski Club's ski-jump competition. I'd assumed that I was being invited as a spectator, but figured that if by some chance there was a downhill event, I might ski the course, perhaps carrying a kennedy for president banner. But since there were only jumping events, this left me out--or so I thought.

Ivan Nestingen, the mayor of Madison and a strong supporter, picked me up at the airport. On the way in, he suggested casually that as long as I was going, I might as well put on some ski clothes so that I'd look like part of the crowd. I did so, at Ivan's house. When we arrived at the site, a friend of Ivan's asked me--just as casually--whether I wanted to borrow his boots and skis and at least take a run down the slope. That sounded like fun, though I noted that his skis were jumping skis. I climbed up the hill and took the run, and enjoyed it.

When I'd climbed the hill again, Ivan said, "Why don't you go over to the practice jump and take a look at it? But don't bother going off unless you want to."

I told myself there was no chance in hell that I would "go off" on a ski-jump run, having never attempted anything other than quite small ski jumps before, but sure, I'd go up to the top and take a look around. I climbed up with four other fellows, two of whom I learned were scheduled to compete in the "big jump" later on. When we reached the top, I heard the sounds of a brass band below. It was the Marine Band, playing "The Star-Spangled Banner." For the first time, it occurred to me that I was going to have quite a time climbing back down from the ramp without disgracing myself.

The next thing I knew, the announcer introduced the first of the four skiers. The fellow went hurtling down the ramp and off the jump, disappearing over the lip of the hill. Then the second skier went, and the third, and the fourth, and suddenly I was the only one left up there. The announcer bellowed, "Now at the top of the jump--Edward Kennedy, the brother of Senator John F. Kennedy! Edward has never jumped before, but maybe if we give him a big hand, he will try it!" Then I heard the sound of nine thousand people cheering and shouting.

Then I heard the announcer again: "Here he comes, ladies and gentlemen! What a true sport he is! I am sure the senator would be proud of him!"

The die had been cast. I bent down and clamped the skis to my boots as the Marine Band gave me a drum roll, and then I launched myself, doing my darnedest to "snowplow" slowly down the ramp. But snowplow or not, the ramp eventually came to an end. I reached it and shot into the air, 190 feet above the ground.

The next thing I recall is struggling to my feet in the snow at the bottom of the run and being escorted to the broadcast booth, where they let me say a few words. I asked the crowd whether anyone had seen Hubert Humphrey at the top of that jump, and then asked them all to support my brother John. The crowd yelled and cheered. It was the best reception I'd enjoyed since Skyrocket.

I still have a photo of that jump on my wall.

Jack's reward for weeks of long car rides and countless appearances was 55 percent of the Wisconsin vote, despite an overwhelming lead in the early polls. He'd won, but was not especially cheered by the results. He needed a larger margin to score the knockout punch against Humphrey that he had hoped for. Wisconsin voters should have been Jack's natural constituency; the labor-minded Catholic voters in cities such as Madison and Milwaukee were the ones who gave him his margin of victory. But the farmers in the great network of small towns had stuck with Humphrey. Jack had failed to break away from his rival, who was embarrassed by his defeat "next door" but still in the race. Which meant we'd have to start all over again in West Virginia.

I rushed down to be at Jack's side there after the Wisconsin victory, and found my brother gaunt and hoarse as he struggled with an unexpected crisis. He'd built up another comfortable lead over Humphrey in the early polls, and now was facing more sudden bad news. The Catholicism issue had surfaced again, but with far more intensity than I'd encountered in the West. Criticism of Jack's faith was spreading throughout the state's hills and hollows. As it did so, his poll numbers dropped, until, just four weeks before balloting, he was suddenly twenty points behind Humphrey.

West Virginia, to my young eyes, was a desolate and depressing place, an impression hardly improved by the rain that never let up while I was there, turning the many hillside dirt roads into muddy quagmires. Yet I quickly gained respect for its people: stern, resolute, gritty folk who bore their hardships with dignity. Of course West Virginia in time became a cherished state for us. In those late winter weeks of 1960, Jack forged a rapport with hardworking miners and farmers and teachers and truck drivers. But it took an all-out effort, a mobilization of resources directed by a candidate who virtually willed himself not to lose on the issue of his religion.

Dozens of friends, political allies, and volunteers flooded into the state. Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., the bearer of a hallowed name, arrived and hit the hustings. The usual banks of telephones were set up, the household receptions arranged.

I spent about four days in West Virginia, mostly in the northwest corner. Shortly after I arrived, I made a visit--a scheduled visit, I thought--to the famous Coal House in Williamson, a building made entirely of coal that housed the local chamber of commerce. When I entered, the chamber president stood up in amazement. He thought I was to be there the following month. He grabbed his telephone and spent the next hour making calls to round up the Democrats.

During a break, the chamber man suggested that he and I pay a visit to the nearby five-and-dime store. As we crossed the street, I could hear music blaring from several loudspeakers in front of the store. Inside, along one wall, were a record turntable and a radio microphone, manned by a fellow who apparently did live interviews with customers between the tunes he played. My host introduced me to him and asked whether he would like to interview me. The radio man seemed very reluctant, and I was about to suggest that we all forget about it when he finally agreed.

For the next twenty-five minutes, the questions were these: Is it not true that Catholics are dictated to by their priests? Is it not true that the Catholic Church is a sovereignty within a sovereignty? Is it not true that people left Europe for America so that they could escape domination by the Roman church?

Before long, a crowd of about three hundred people had gathered outside the store, where the loudspeakers were carrying our interview throughout the town. My interviewer's questions were getting to be almost like speeches in themselves. By this time, all propriety had vanished. My interviewer felt no compunctions against interrupting me whenever he felt the urge, which was often, and I found myself trying to grab the microphone from the man before he could finish his questions. At the end of the interview, the local personality invited me to have the last word. As I started to rattle off something about bigotry, he slapped an Elvis Presley record on the turntable, thanked me, and sent me on my way. I had no idea how I'd be treated by the crowd as I stepped outside, but a number of the people called out supportive comments to me, which went a long way toward calming me. Later I learned from the chamber of commerce president that the radioman was a Baptist minister, and that he had treated me to one of his past sermons.

The rest of my appearances were not nearly so unpleasant. I showed up at dance halls, and probably sang "Sweet Adeline" a time or two. At community parties, I bought beers for strangers, solemn-eyed Appalachians bound to a culture of hard work and deep patriotism.

I got to know West Virginia at ground level--and below. I descended beneath the earth to grab the sooty hands of coal miners, strengthening my awareness and respect for these men and the millions of hardscrabble workers like them around the country.

I'll never forget a scene I witnessed outside a mineshaft somewhere in that state. It was nothing out of the ordinary--and that is what made it so powerful to me. The workers were emerging from the mine as their shift ended. Faces blackened, clothes heavy with sweat and soot, they trooped out one by one, slowly. I followed them into a little woodframe shack where they changed their clothes. The miners would trudge into the room, not looking at anything or anyone, and drop down onto a bench. There was no shower. The men would sit for five or six minutes, not so much as moving. Complete silence reigned. One of them would finally stand up, take off his jacket, and drop down again. Another would stand up, strip off his shirt, and sit down again. Only after a long time were these men able to complete their change of clothes, and they were still covered with dirt. Then, one by one, they would shuffle out of the room and get into their cars and drive away. The whole process took about forty-five minutes. During that time I went around the room talking to them, asking each to support my brother. I felt humble in their presence.

Jack's obvious concern for these West Virginians' plight overshadowed the resistance to his religion that he'd expected to find. So did his stamina. He gave speeches, sometimes as many as twenty a day. He literally talked himself hoarse. As I stood at that remote mineshaft, watching those exhausted men drive away, a sheriff 's car pulled up beside me, and the sheriff leaned out the window and asked, "Are you Kennedy?" I said I was. "Your brother wants you."

We drove out to a little airstrip, where I boarded a single-engine plane and we took off for Ravenswood, a town of four thousand on the state's western border, the Ohio River. George Washington surveyed and purchased the land on which it lies. Sure enough, there was Jack, waiting to whisper, "I can't speak anymore." I traveled for two and a half days with him, giving talks from notes that he'd write out. On one occasion I got a little carried away by the sound of my own fine ringing voice. "Do you want a man who will give the country leadership?" I heard myself orating. "Do you want a man who has vigor and vision?" Jack grabbed the microphone and rasped, "I would just like to tell my brother that you cannot be elected president until you are thirty-five years of age." It wasn't long afterward that he decided to send me back to the coal mines.

Some of the most colorful, old-fashioned raconteurs in the nation hailed from West Virginia. One of them was a wonderful character named A. James Manchin. He seemed to do a little bit of everything for a living: high school civics teacher, football coach, youngest state legislator ever to hold office, and Baptist minister. He went on to become West Virginia's secretary of state. His nephew Joe Manchin III was elected governor in 2004.

I'll never forget his introduction of me one night. I know I can't do it justice. He was spellbinding. But I'll give it a try.

He took out a copy of the book PT 109 and asked the assembled crowd, "Do you know what this is? This is the book about a war hero, about a man who risked his life for his country and his crew. It's a story about the man who is going to be the next president of these United States. It's about John F. Kennedy."

Then he took out a Bible and placed it on top of the book and said, "You know what this is. It's the Good Book. It's the word of the Lord. It's the word that guides the good people of West Virginia and that guides John F. Kennedy too. And I'm gonna place it here on top of the story about this great war hero. Yes I am. The Good Book on top of the story about the great war hero, John F. Kennedy.

"And here's Old Glory, the red, white, and blue. The blue is as blue as a West Virginia sky, the white as pure as a West Virginia heart, and the red as red as the blood of all the West Virginia patriots who gave their lives in defense of this great country."

And then Manchin took out a single candle, a long taper, and he held it up and, right on cue, all the lights went out in the room. It was pitch black. The crowd gasped. Then we heard the crackle of a match as he lit the candle. "And this is the light that every coal miner in West Virginia knows. This is the light that leads you out of the darkness of the mines. This is the light to safety. This is the light that leads you home. Well, I'm here to tell you that John Kennedy is that light. John Kennedy, that war hero, who led his men to safety. John Kennedy who follows the word of God. John Kennedy who risked his life in defense of his country."

The lights went back up in the room and Manchin said, "And now we're going to hear from his brother Ted, who's going to tell you more about him."

Lucky me.

The landslide victory in West Virginia was the breakthrough for Jack's nomination. Hubert Humphrey dropped out of the presidential race after losing and heartily praised his rival--although it took years for his private bitterness to heal.

The 1960 Democratic convention opened on July 11 inside the recently finished Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, adjacent to the Coliseum on Figueroa Street south of the USC campus. A sense of transition was in the air, symbolized by the curving, modernistic entrance to the arena. Loudspeakers crackled, not with the old-time "Happy Days Are Here Again," but with the recorded voice of Frank Sinatra. Sinatra had met and befriended Jack through Peter Lawford, the husband of our sister Pat. His contribution to the campaign was to update his big hit of the previous year, "High Hopes," with Sammy Cahn rewriting his own original lyrics as a campaign song: "K-E, double-N, E-D-Y / Jack's the nation's favorite guy." With Lyndon Johnson and Adlai Stevenson having come in from the cold to announce their candidacies, we were thankful for every edge we could muster.

We found one further indication of transition in Los Angeles: protesters, five thousand of them, marching in the streets toward the arena. These first-ever demonstrators at a national convention were civil rights advocates. They'd been organized by the young socialist Michael Harrington and the thirty-one-year-old Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The delegates, aware of the protesters' visibility before the photographers and TV cameras, did in fact write a mild civil rights plank into their platform. Jack endorsed the strongest version of the plank, and affirmed his commitment to fight discrimination in a speech to the NAACP and later to King himself in a private conversation.

Jack's nomination was far from certain. Johnson declared his candidacy on July 5 and came out strong. He pounded at Jack's physical condition, demanding a public report on my brother's health. In private, LBJ denounced Jack's supposed dependency on his rich father, whose prewar diplomacy he also slurred, and pleaded with President Eisenhower to speak out against Jack. (Eisenhower refused.) Johnson infuriated Bobby, who had faced Johnson's scorn himself in the past, and intensified the mutual dislike between my brother and the Texan.

Johnson's assault on Jack, coupled with the doubts that party elders still harbored about his Catholicism and his brevity of political experience, raised the stakes for a first-ballot victory. This was to be the last national convention at which a roll-call vote actually could determine defeat or success, and all of us, Bobby especially, understood the psychological importance of putting Jack over the first time around. (Since the 1936 convention, only the 1952 balloting had gone beyond the first round.)

Balloting would occur on the third day. Bobby set up a command post at the Biltmore Hotel. He canvassed the state party leaders with even more than his usual obsessive energy. He knew the count to the precise half-ballot. His numbers told him that as things stood on the first day, John Kennedy was assured of 710 delegates of the 761 needed for the nomination. He believed that with an extra push we could put Jack over on the first ballot. The last thing we wanted was for the balloting to go to a second round, because by then new coalitions could be developing and victory would be less certain. We wanted to wrap things up on the first ballot, and all of us launched into making that push.

Our team would meet at 7:30 every morning and Bobby would walk us through all the states and their tallies. Then we'd fan out, contacting every delegation chairman on the floor to see whether we could coax any movement in Jack's direction.

By the third night, Bobby was fatigued, but as clear as ever in his calculations of probable votes. He'd worked it out that Wyoming, the last state on the roll call, could conceivably put Jack over. Before the roll call began, Jack had ten and a half of the state's fifteen votes. We knew we'd need more than that. We'd need every one. Bobby told me to get the hell over to the Wyoming delegation and nail down those votes.

This was where my hard work in the West paid off: my months of crisscrossing those states, riding the broncos, meeting the chairmen, getting to know them, remembering their names, forging personal ties. I had made seven trips to Wyoming alone, and I had developed friendly relationships. I hurried over to Tracy McCracken, a crusty newspaper editor, lawyer, Democratic National Committee member, and the person who held the most influence over the remaining votes in the delegation. I knew that McCracken personally favored Lyndon Johnson. I had to get him to commit to Jack, and in a way that would make it impossible for him to renege at the last moment. I thought I had an idea how to do that.

I walked over to McCracken within earshot of Teno Roncalio, Jack's great supporter who had become my friend in Wyoming and was the leader of the state's delegates supporting my brother. Teno and I made sure we were standing close enough to all of the Wyoming delegates that they could hear our conversation above the general echoing uproar. Speaking as much for their benefit as for his, I shouted to McCracken, "We know you have ten and a half Kennedy votes! My question is this: if we're within five votes when Wyoming is called, if Wyoming will make the difference in giving John Kennedy the nomination, will you give us the whole fifteen?"

It seemed to me that McCracken thought he was agreeing to something that he never believed was going to happen, so he said, "Sure." He got to look expansive in front of me and his delegation, by agreeing to an extremely unlikely scenario. But he didn't have Bobby's knack for counting votes.

When the roll call started, McCracken wasn't paying attention at all. But as it progressed, and the votes for John Kennedy began to pile up, he began to have a look of concern on his face. Could Wyoming really be the state that put him over for the nomination? I was standing there with Teno and the rest of the Wyoming delegation as the roll call continued.

I wanted to make sure McCracken held up against his Johnson people. As the roll call got closer and closer, I could see Tracy's jaw begin to clench, and the sweat starting to form. Vermont voted. And then Virginia. Washington. West Virginia. Wisconsin. Now we were within twelve votes of a first-ballot victory.

The Lyndon Johnson delegates were screaming at McCracken, "You can't do this! Lyndon can deliver for us! We're not going for that!" McCracken was between a rock and a hard place, and he had to decide in only a few seconds. He realized that he had given his word, in the presence of the entire delegation.

The chairman's voice boomed through the loudspeakers: "Wyoming!"

Back came McCracken: "Mr. Chairman, the Wyoming vote will make a majority for Senator Kennedy..."

It wasn't exactly soaring oratory, but it was the sweetest speech I'd ever heard. The arena's instant eruption into bedlam supplied all the drama the announcement itself lacked. It took several minutes before things quieted enough that McCracken could officially state that all fifteen delegate votes would go to my brother. Then we all yelled and cheered again, and I waved the Wyoming standard alongside people who'd been strangers just weeks earlier, but were now dear friends. All but four and a half of them, anyway.

Jack broke tradition and arrived in the convention hall immediately after he had been nominated, to thank the delegates--and to offer a surprised Lyndon Johnson the vice presidential spot, which LBJ immediately accepted. He entered the arena to thunderous cheers and exploding flashbulbs that lit up his famous smile, with Jackie, pregnant with John Jr., and our mother Rose at his side. Dad had already slipped out of the convention hall with no fanfare. He was proud of Jack beyond all measure, but he didn't want to be a distraction. He was on the phone and constantly in touch, but he knew this was Jack's show.

On the following night, to great cheers, Jack strode beneath the blazing Coliseum lights to the podium and formally accepted the nomination. He declared that he would offer the American people challenges, not comforting promises; and he introduced a thrilling new phrase as the descriptive term for his program. "Today our concern must be with the future," he called out. "For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do."

And then:

The problems [of the past] are not all solved and the battles are not all won. And we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier. The frontier of the 1960s. A frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.

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