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Archive for the month “January, 2012”


January 31, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (37920) Today JFK+50 reports on the 1st half of Chapter 7 of Chris Matthews’ new book, Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero, published by Simon & Schuster.

The title of Chapter 7 is MAGIC.

Chris begins in this chapter detailing a disagreement between Joe Kennedy, Sr, Jack & secretary Mary Davis.

Mary had been given the job of choosing JFK’s new senatorial staff “based on the standard (monetary) allocation from the Senate.”

Mary’s assignment of the pay levels for this staff was not satisfactory with Joe Sr., or for that matter, his son.

Chris writes that while Mary was looking at the “day to day” needs of the office, both Jack & Joe, Sr. were more interested in “building a wider constituency (that) extended far beyond Massachusetts.”

Jack’s attempt to win Mary over to his view were unsuccessful & Mary went to work for someone else.

Chris argues that this episode illustrates that while Jack was his own man when it came to “policy, politics & personal relationships,” when it came to the subject of money, Jack was “his father’s son.”

Chris writes that George Smathers was not too complimentary of Jack’s senate office after Mary Davis left.  Smathers described it as in “disarray (with no) organization.”

Smathers went on to say that he “never did feel that (Jack) was a well-organized man, either in his personal life…or in….running an office.   If the work got done, that was all that….concerned him.”

Chris tells us that just as JFK had seen the House of Representatives as a stepping stone to the Senate, so he saw the Senate as a stepping stone to the Presidency.

And who should be in the office right across the hall from JFK?  Who else?
Richard Nixon.

                     JFK in Senate Office
                  Photo by John Vachon
Library of Congress/JFK Library Photo

Chris tells us that the new senator gave a 5 minute interview to a 24 year old Nebraska lawyer named Ted Sorensen.  

Ted Reardon, according to Mr. Matthews, said that Jack was able to have guys around him, like Sorensen, not as “buddies” but “to get what he needed from them.”

Chris describes Ted Sorensen as the “ideal Kennedy staffer” & writes that JFK later would say that he “never had anyone who could write for (him) until Ted came along.”

I found it most heartwarming that Ted himself wrote of JFK:

“He was much the same man in private as he was in public…..a good & decent man (who) cared about….those around him.”

                        Ted Sorensen
                   JFK Speechwriter
        Photo by Abbie Rowe, NPS
                 JFK Library Photo


January 30, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 reports on the 2nd half of Chapter 6 of Chris Matthews’ new book, Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero published by Simon & Schuster.

The title of Chapter 6 is BOBBY.

Jack “saw the point,” Chris writes, of having brother Bobby running his Senate campaign, replacing Mark Dalton who “had seen it coming.”

Bobby, with a talent for organization & a “smooth(er) relationship” with Father Joe, “began working eighteen hour days.”

The KENNEDY TEAM began “digging” for weak spots in Senator Lodge’s voting record.

JFK’s congressional aide, Ted Reardon, compiled an inventory of that voting record dubbed “Lodge’s Dodges.”

Chris writes that a KENNEDY PARTY was created by putting all volunteers to work as non-paid team members.

At one meeting, one guy suggested that the Kennedys had money & could afford to pay, Bobby threw him out the door & said: “Would you mind getting lost….& keeping yourself lost.”

Chris tells us that instead of the customary practice of putting the major effort in the larger cities, JFK “hit every neighborhood….ignoring his physical well-being.”

And Lodge, for his part, had been preoccupied with Eisenhower’s presidential campaign.  Jack took advantage of that by criticizing Lodge’s absenteeism in the Senate.

Adding to Lodge’s problems, Jack was voted, in the summer of 1952, the “handsomest member of the House” & Jack took a course on using television to the best advantage.

Election Night 1952, however, was tense.

Republicans were winning Massachusetts in both the presidential & governor’s races, but the Kennedy Team stayed optimistic.

Chris writes that at 3 or 4 in the morning, with only the major cities having not reported in, word came that WORCESTER had been carried by Kennedy by 5000 votes.

Finally, after 6 a.m., Lodge conceded & “came over & shook Jack’s hand.”

Senator-elect Kennedy had won by 70,000 votes.

Democratic Senate majority leader, Lyndon B. Johnson, wasted no time in calling & giving his congratulations to Jack.

Chris concludes Chapter 6 by writing that while IKE-NIXON won by 7 million votes nationwide, Jack Kennedy had “taken on the best & had beaten the best.”

Senator-elect JFK & Senator Lodge
              November 10, 1952
                JFK Library Photo


January 29, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 reports on the 1st half of Chapter 6 of Chris Matthews’ new book, Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero, published by Simon & Schuster.

The title of Chapter 6 is: BOBBY.

He could have been a congressman from Massachusetts for life, Chris Matthews writes, but “by 1951, Jack Kennedy’s ambition (to reach the Senate) was clear.”

In September of that year, Jack & his younger brother, Bobby, traveled together on a 7 week fact-finding trip to the Far East.

Chris writes that the brothers were struck by the post-war nationalism that “was beginning to catch fire” in each country they visited.

It should be no surprise to learn that while overseas, Jack got sick…..again.

His temperature rose to 106 degrees & he was given last rites & Bobby never left his side.  He took on a role that would continue even after Jack’s death, that of his brother’s “protector.”

Jack recovered & after he returned home, he made an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.  It was December 2, 1951.

JFK was asked if the rumors were true that he would run for the Senate in 1952.

He answered: “I would like to go to the Senate….like…Smathers & Nixon & I’m seriously considering running.”

In his quest for the Senate, Jack recruited Lawrence (Larry) O’Brien who was “well-connected” in state politics.

              Lawrence “Larry” O’Brien
     Special Assistant to the President

Next, with Bobby’s help, he signed on Kenneth O’Donnell who had been Bobby’s college roommate. 

Kenny, like Jack, was a Harvard man who had served with distinction in WWII.

He knew the “lace-curtain Irish” & the working class of Massachusetts.

Chris writes that “winning….O’Donnell’s…loyalty….was one of Jack Kennedy’s crowning lifetime achievements.”*

                   Kenneth O’Donnell
    Special Assistant to the President
          Photo by Abbie Rowe (NPS)
                   JFK Library Photo

But beating incumbent Brahmin Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. would not be an easy task.

Lodge, who was Eisenhower’s campaign manager in the 1952 primary campaign, was popular with Irish Democratic voters.

Kenny’s 1st task was to distance Jack from his “old man” & “build a statewide organization.”

In the meantime, Jack had been waiting to make his final decision on running for the Senate based on the decision of Democratic Massachusetts Governor Paul Dever to seek re-election as governor or run for the U.S. Senate.

In a meeting at Boston’s Ritz-Carlton, the Governor confided to Jack that he would seek re-election.  Jack said, “Well, that’s fine. I’m a candidate for the Senate.”

We’ve all heard about the Kennedy TEA PARTIES given by mother Rose & sisters Eunice, Jean & Pat in the 1952 Senate campaign & Chris tells us that “(They) proved a brilliant strategy for claiming the majority of voters.”

Kenny O’Donnell described one of the tea parties held in his hometown of Worcester this way….

“(Jack) spoke, shook every single person’s hand in the room (but) he was on crutches (and for) the 1st time I realized he had substantial health problems.*

Two or three thousand people (attended). Nobody would leave until (Jack) left. I had never seen anything like it. I just felt this guy could go all the way.”

Even so, Kenny knew that Jack could not win unless they could get another KENNEDY on board who could “stand-up” to Jack’s father.

*Chris reports that Jack’s spinal x-rays of 1951 revealed the support bones in his spinal column had collapsed.

**Kenny O’Donnell would become President Kennedy’s appointments secretary.

In one of my JFK scrapbooks, I still have the letter sent to me in response to my letter to JFK telling him that we were coming to Washington in July 1962 & asking if it would be possible to “catch a glimpse of him” during our visit.  

                         THE WHITE HOUSE

                                         June 28, 1962

Dear John:

Thank you for your letter to the President.  He was pleased to hear that you are coming to Washington and hopes that you will enjoy your trip to the Nation’s Capital.

I wish I could give you a definite response to your query, but I am unable to do so.  The President’s engagements vary from day to day and it is not possible to name a time when you might catch a glimpse of him during your stay in Washington.  It is suggested that you check the newspapers while you are here because the press usually gives notice of his public appearances.

                             Kenneth O’Donnell
                                Kenneth O’Donnell
                     Special Assistant to the President


January 28, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 reports on Chapter 5 of Chris Matthews’ new book, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, published by Simon & Schuster.

The title of Chapter 5 is COLD WARRIOR.

Chris writes that, even before Jack Kennedy went to Congress, he saw it as a “stepping-stone” to the Senate where he intended to make foreign policy “his mark.”

In the meantime, JFK would have to prove himself in the House of Representatives until the time was right for a move up.

According to Chris, Jack started out making senior Massachusetts congressman  John McCormack wait for his arrival at a caucus while Jack had a “couple of eggs.”

Congressman Kennedy also faced a Republican majority elected in 1946 because voters had “had enough” with Democratic rule under the leadership of President Truman.

That Republican majority included a California congressman named Richard Nixon.  Both he & Jack were to serve on the Committee on Education & Labor.

Chris tells us that JFK put forth his own “dissenting opinion on the Taft-Hartley proposal” but listened to Mr. Nixon’s comments supporting the bill & said to a colleague, “This fellow is going places.”

Billy Sutton said that when Jack rose on the House floor to give his “maiden speech,”  he reminded him of Jimmy Stewart in the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

A few days later Kennedy & Nixon faced off in a out of town debate on Taft-Hartley.  While Nixon criticized organized labor, Jack charmed businessmen in the audience by saying the legislation “might go too far & lead to more trouble.”

Here is something I hadn’t heard before.  Chris writes that the two adversaries “shared hamburgers” after the debate & then rode back to Washington on the night train sharing the same sleeping car with Jack on the top bunk & Dick Nixon on the lower.

The two politicians, although from different parties, shared a “big picture view of the world” as well as a common response to the threat of communism.

When the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after WWII was proposed, Joe Kennedy, Sr. opposed it but his son, the Congressman, saw it as a way to “halt the Soviet advance” & “avoid repeating the mistake(s) of Munich.”

Chris writes that JFK’s view was “exactly what (his constituents) were feeling.”

In the day to day world of his Washington office, Congressman Kennedy was “very particular about his constituents” & also concerned about answering their letters.

Billy Sutton said that while riding back home together at the end of the day, Jack would say: “Well, what about John White?  What did you do for him?”*

*I appreciate Chris putting my name in the book.  I am honored even though I suppose “John White” was intended as a substitute for “John Doe”.

Chris tells us that Jack’s independent ways were frowned upon by the “club house” pols of the “regular party organization.”

Jack’s office secretary, Mary Davis, was even surprised by his abilities.  She said: “He knew what he was all about. He knew everything.”

I have heard Chris Matthews say that in doing his research for this book, he wanted to know what Jack was like, what made him tick.

When you consider that JFK went from freshman congressman to the White House in just 14 years (1947-1961), it does make us wonder what it was that drove him to such quick success.

I think the answer can be found in a conversation, described by Chris, between Jack Kennedy & his good friend in Congress, George Smathers of Florida.**

The subject of that conversation was “death”.

JFK told Smathers, “You’ve got to live each day like it’s your last.”

**George Smathers (1913-2007) was a groomsman at JFK & Jackie’s wedding.  In 1960, he managed JFK’s presidential campaign in the Southeast.  Ironically, he sold his house on Key Biscayne to Richard Nixon.

Senator George Smathers (1963)


One of President Kennedy’s favorite poems was Alan Seeger’s I Have a Rendezvous With Death.

According to the JFK Library, he often asked Jackie to recite it.

Here is the last part.

But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town
When spring trips north again this year
And I to my pledged word am true
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

                Alan Seeger (1888-1916)


January 27, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 reports on Chapter 4 of Chris Matthews’ new book, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, published by Simon & Schuster.

The title of Chapter 4 is WAR HERO.*

Chris writes:

“Ahead….loomed new ways for (Jack) to demonstrate the man he was becoming–the leader he would be.”

Mr. Matthews tells us that JFK’s status as a war hero “gave credibility” to the claim that his chronic back problems, as well as other health issues, were the result of his service during WWII.

We know that JFK loved reading poetry, but Chris writes that he was drawn to poems about “dedication, courage & overcoming obstacles.”

Chris debunks the story we have all read or heard that it was JFK’s father who pushed  him into politics after the war.

Chris writes that JFK “had his eye on the 11th Congressional seat in Massachusetts.”

In the meantime, JFK represented the Chicago Herald at the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco.

In one of his newspaper columns, JFK wrote:

“The war makes less sense to me now–& I would really like–as my life’s goal–to do something to help prevent another.”

From San Francisco, JFK was sent to London to cover “the fierce political struggle taking place.”

JFK was shocked that his hero, Winston Churchill, was in political trouble because of the post war economy in Britain.

In London, the British economist Barbara Wood describes JFK as “political to the fingertips” & when he returned home, chum Lem Billings said: “Nothing could have kept Jack out of politics.”

Chris tells us that JFK told his new friend, Charles Bartlett, in Palm Beach, “I’m going into politics & see if you can really do anything.”

So JFK set about becoming a congressman.

Jack “made the rounds of community groups–VFW, American Legion, Lions & Rotary Clubs” but Irishman Dan O’Brien told him that he would be “murdered (because he had) no….experience” & the disadvantage of “his father’s reputation.”

So Jack Kennedy sought help from “pols” from the district.  

He hired Billy Sutton “to help him trudge up & down the three deckers of the old neighborhoods.”  

And he brought on Dave Powers who was taken by the way Jack charmed the Gold Star mothers (moms whose sons had been killed in WWII) by saying “I think I know how you feel, my mother is a Gold Star mother too.”**

                     JFK Library Photo

But still, in 1946, Jack was down to 120 pounds & his voting address in the district was at the Bellevue Hotel. He was considered a “carpetbagger” by most local politicians.

While Chris discusses some behind the scenes, or under the table, episodes which helped insure a Kennedy victory, he also says that it was meeting the voters himself that “was his only means” to get to know them.

At one meeting with the other candidates, each one got up & told how difficult their lives had been, so when his turn came, JFK said: “I guess I’m the only one here who didn’t come up the hard way.”

With the June 1946 primary a day away, JFK marched in the annual Bunker Hill parade but collapsed before reaching the finish.

But the next day was his. JACK KENNEDY won the Democratic Primary, which in a strongly Democratic district meant he would be going to Congress.

*When he was President a young boy once asked JFK how he had become a war hero.  He answered: “It was easy. They sank my boat.”

**We had the once in a lifetime opportunity to meet David Powers at the Kennedy Library in June 1986.

I had written Dave telling him of my lifelong devotion to JFK & that we were coming to the library & would be honored to meet him.

He wrote back & told us to give our names to the personnel at the library & if he was in, he would be happy to see us.

When we did that, we were sent right up to Dave’s office & could hear him talking down the hall.  Many pictures of JFK were hung on the wall & there was a Kennedy rocker sitting in front of Dave’s desk.

When Dave came in, I introduced myself & my wife & he said: “Beverly, won’t you sit down in President Kennedy’s rocker?” (I never even got a chance to sit in it.)

Dave was so personable & so much fun to talk to.  He gave us almost an hour of his time.  What an absolutely amazing experience.

Two of the highlights of my life are meeting Dave Powers at the JFK Library in 1986 & Caroline Kennedy at Georgetown University in 2010.

    Congressman John F. Kennedy
         JFK Library Photo (1947)


January 26, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 reports on the 3rd chapter of Chris Matthews’ new book, published by Simon & Schuster, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero.

The title of Chapter 2 is: SKIPPER.

Chris begins by writing “War, for a time,  joined the two Jacks as one.”

He tells us that JFK’s war experiences would “transition him into a figure like those who previously consumed his imagination.”

On the way to a PT base in the South Pacific, JFK’s LST transport was attacked by a Japanese aircraft.  That was his introduction to WWII.

Chris writes:

“Lt. (JG*) Kennedy found for himself a new world in the navy.  What united the officers was merit.”

*Junior Grade

The naval officers were college men. Many, like JFK, were from “Ivy League” schools.

Just as he had done at Choate & Harvard, JFK quickly made new friends in the navy.  Men like Paul “Red” Fay & Jim Reed.

Jim Reed related that in the South Pacific one day, Jack said to him that “he’d never had an unhappy day in his life.”

And yet JFK slept on a plywood board & used a corset for his back problems, even before the crash of the PT109.**

**The story of the PT109 can be found on 2 previous postings on JFK+50 (see labels).  We will discuss the new things about the story we learned from Chapter 3.

Chris includes the transcript of a letter written by JFK after the PT109 crash to his girlfriend, Inga Arvad.  

In the letter, Jack writes:

“I received a letter…..from (Pappy McMahon’s) wife (who) thanked me for saving her husband.  She said: ‘I suppose….to you it was just part of your job, but (my husband) was part of my life & if he had died, I don’t think I would have wanted to go on living.'”***

***Pappy was the oldest man on the crew of the 109.  At his post in the engine room, he was so badly burned he couldn’t swim.  JFK put a life-preserver on him & with it’s strap clenched between his teeth, Lt. Kennedy did the breast stroke for 3 miles pulling him along behind.

                US Flag from the PT109
                      JFK Library Photo

While JFK won the Purple Heart & Navy & Marine Corps Medals for his heroics, he also contracted tropical malaria & was diagnosed with “chronic disc disease of the lumbar area.”

He had to spend a good deal of time at the Chelsea Naval Hospital when he came back stateside.

To this point, I don’t think we have found anything in Chris’s book that we have questioned or disagreed with, that is until now as Chris Matthews discusses the death of Joe Junior.

Chris writes that Joe Junior was killed “that August….(on) a mission to fly a plane packed with….TNT toward a V3 site on the French coast…”

Sorry, Chris, I always thought it was a V-2 site.  I don’t claim to be an expert on Hitler’s vengeance weapons, but I had not even heard of the V3.

I thought, could this just be a typographical error?  So I did some research on both the V2 & V3.  I did learn something new, there was a V3.

But according to “a fellow officer’s declassified report” posted on the JFK Library website:

“the mission….was to culminate in a crash-dive on the target, a V-2 rocket launching site in Normandy (France).”

Source: http://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/The-Kennedy-Family/Joseph-P-Kennedy-Jr.aspx

The V3 cannon was designed to fire barrages of small rocket projectiles from underground & although designed to reach London “was never used for this purpose due to Allied attacks…”.

And another source says “no shell from a V3 ever hit England.”****

****Sources: www.historynet.com & www.theotherside.co.uk/

Again, my apologies to Chris Matthews, but based on these sources, I would have to say that it was a V-2, not a V-3, launching site to which Joe Junior was headed at the time of the mid-air explosion.

                 Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.
                Ensign US Navy (1942)
                    JFK Library Photo

Chris writes that with Joe Junior’s death, as well as those of his sister Kathleen or “Kick” & her husband, Billy Hartington, JFK “was now ready” to accept his legacy & pursue the political profession.


January 25, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 reports on the 2nd chapter of Chris Matthews’ new book, published by Simon & Schuster, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero.

Chris begins Chapter 2 with these words:

“From an early age, there were two Jacks.”

Mr. Matthews goes on to write that Jack #1 chose to present himself to his classmates at Choate as “sunny…full of good humor (&) always ready for fun.”  

Later at Harvard, however, Jack #2’s serious side “comes into sharper focus.”

In his 1st year at Harvard in 1936, although Jack weighed just 135 pounds, he went out for football & ran for student office.

JFK joined the Spee Club, one of Harvard’s top clubs, in his sophomore year.

Chris tells us that when Joseph Kennedy, Sr. was appointed Ambassador to the Court of St. James by FDR, his son had the opportunity to enjoy “the continual round of parties & pleasures” of London.

With the rise of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, JFK “began to form….a notion of where Britain’s elected leaders had failed.”

By the time he returned to Harvard, JFK
“seemed a different person.”

JFK chose Appeasement at Munich as the title of his senior thesis.  It would be published under the title Why England Slept.

In the work, Jack Kennedy proposes “America be prepared to fight, not repeating Britain’s error.”

Chris tells us that Jack felt the “emotional weight” demanded by war & that his “best loved book was the autobiography of John Buchan.”*

In Buchan’s book, JFK read about Raymond Asquith, an upper class Englishman, whose “brave death on a French battlefield (WWI) stood for all that was fine.”**

Buchan writes:

“his youth has become eternal.  Debonair and brilliant and brave, he is now….immortal…(knowing) not age or weariness or defeat.”***

                         Raymond Asquith

Chris reminds us that “Jack loved courage (but) hated war” & concludes that that is the view which “will define how he viewed himself.”

*John Buchan was a Scottish novelist who became Baron Tweedsmuiir, Governor General of Canada, 1935 to 1940.  

His most acclaimed work as an author is a spy thriller titled “The Thirty Nine Steps”.

                     John Buchan, 1936

**Asquith died in September 1916 at the age of 37.

***The same was written about JFK upon his death at the age of 46.


January 24, 2012


Boston, Massachusetts (JFK+50) The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library announced today that is releasing the last 45 hours of recordings that were made secretly by President Kennedy.

Tom Putnam, JFK Library Director, said:

“We are thrilled (that) researchers will be fascinated with these recordings from JFK’s final days as President.”*

*Follow the link below to read the transcripts from the recordings or to hear and/or download excerpts.



John F. Kennedy used a Dictaphone recording machine both before & after he became President of the United States.

The Dictaphone was manufactured by American Dictaphone Corporation beginning in 1947.

The machine used a 3.5″ wide thin plastic belt which was placed on a cylinder.

A moving needle in the machine made the recordings on the belt.

                         The Dictaphone

As Senator & then as President, JFK used the Dictaphone primarily for dictating letters or notes which would then be transcribed & then printed on a typewriter by his secretary.

                 JFK with Ted Sorensen
             Dictaphone located on the 
               table behind JFK’s chair

In summer 1962, however, JFK put in a request to the Secret Service asking them to place recorders in the West Wing basement for the purpose of recording his meetings & conversations in the Cabinet Room & Oval Office.

The SS chose state of the art Tandberg reel to reel tape recorders & connected them to microphones placed in both rooms.*

*Tandberg tape recorders were made in Norway.

JFK had the option of turning the recorders on & off using switches placed in those two rooms of the West Wing of the White House.  In the Oval Office there was a switch at JFK’s desk & on the coffee table in front of his rocking chair.

“The most plausible explanation for Kennedy’s making secret tape recordings is that he wanted material to be used later in writing a memoir.”*


“The Presidential Recordings:  JFK, The Great Crises, Volumes 1-3,” by Philip Zelikow & Ernest May (2001).


Although President Eisenhower did make selective recordings at the White House, JFK “was the first president to extensively record his meetings & telephone conversations.”

JFK turned on the recording mechanism in over 300 meetings held in the Cabinet Room & Oval Office.  These were recorded onto 127 reel-to-reel analog tapes.

The President also turned it on for 275 of his telephone conversations.  They were recorded onto 73 dictabelts.

Only JFK, Evelyn Lincoln, his personal secretary & the technicians who installed & maintained the recording system knew of its existence.**


“History of Presidential Audio Recordings & the Archival Issues Surrounding Their Use” by John Powers, 1996.


January 23, 2012


Knoxville, TN (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 reports on the 1st chapter of Chris Matthews’ new book published by Simon & Schuster, Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero.


Chris tells us that it is “important to know” that it was not Jack, the 2nd son, but Joe Jr., the 1st son, who was expected by his parents to be “what they long(ed) to be.”

While Jack Kennedy had a hard act to follow as Joe Jr. became the perfect son his parents expected, unlike Joe Jr, “there was a lightness to (Jack), a wry Irishness that blended with the WASP manner rather than aspiring to it.”

Chris tells us that at Choate (prep school) Jack Kennedy’s “great success was to find ways to have fun.”*

*I remember, in a documentary made after JFK’s death, the pro football star quarterback Johnny Unitas describing Jack as a “fun-loving guy”.

Chris says it was the solitude of Jack’s many hospital stays that made him “crave for company” & that “new people…energized him (& brought out) his…wit & charm.”

At the end of Chapter 1, Chris writes that “perhaps the most significant legacy from Choate” was when headmaster George St. John told his students during an evening chapel:

“As has often been said, the youth who loves his alma mater will always ask not ‘what can she do for me?’ but ‘what can I do for her?”*

Does this sound vaguely familiar?

*George St. John was headmaster at Choate from 1908 to 1947.  Chris Matthews was shown the headmaster’s notebook which contains this quote. 

           Choate Rosemary Hall
        Wallingford, Connecticut


JFK attended Choate, located in Wallingford, Connecticut, from 1931 to 1935.

His academic record there is described as “unimpressive.”

JFK graduated in the 3rd quarter of his class, earning 62 in Physics & 85 in History.

Joe Kennedy, Sr. wrote of his 2nd son….“Jack has a brilliant mind for the things in which he is interested, but is careless & lacks application in those in which he is not interested.”*

*Source:  “JFK at Choate” 
                     by Blythe Gorssberg


January 22, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) In yesterday’s mail I received my copy of Chris Matthews new book Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero.*

*Chris’s book is published by Simon & Schuster (2011) Retail Price: $27.50.

I have been on the wait list for 6 weeks at my local library to check out one of their 4 copies, but as of yet have not received a call.

Thanks to EBAY seller ED in Rhode Island, I was able to get a copy at half-price with free shipping.

Last night I read the Preface & Chapter 1.  Today, I will discuss the Preface.

Right off the bat, I found it interesting to learn that, like me, Chris Matthews “grew up in a Republican family” & when KENNEDY “came out of nowhere”….”we’d never heard of him.”

For Chris that was in 1956 when JFK sought the Vice-Presidential nomination, but for me it was in 1960 when JFK won the Presidential nomination.

Chris goes on to write that while he supported NIXON in 1960, he was “entranced” by “the glamorous JFK.”  So it was for me.

Another difference, I learned, was that Chris “was overwhelmed & cried” when Nixon lost.  I don’t think I was that upset, but everyone in my family, all who had voted for Nixon, was surprised.

But we both “found JFK the most interesting political figure of the day…(&) wanted to meet him, be in the same room with him, study him.”

It is Chris’s last statement in the Preface which I find the most intriguing:

“In searching for Jack Kennedy, I found a fighting prince (who) was a far greater hero than he ever wished us to know.”**

**Chris was born on Dec 17, 1945 in Philadelphia while I was born on June 15, 1948 in Knoxville.  Like JFK Chris’s ancestry is Irish Catholic while mine is English Protestant.

                    Chris Matthews
        Host of Hardball on MSNBC
        Photo by chetlyzarko (2007)


“Chris Matthews sets the nation’s 1st Roman Catholic president in the context of his family (&) makes no secret of his adoration for Kennedy, but…offers a valuable reminder of Kennedy’s skill at uniting toughness with inspirational leadership.”*

*Review by Jacob Heilbrunn, nytimes.com, 11-6-2011

“Matthews, like millions of Americans, clearly still feels the spell cast by JFK even now, nearly a half-century after his assassination.”**

**Review by James Endrst, USA TODAY

“Largely sifting familiar material, (this) new portrait (of JFK) may be overly admiring, but it still beckons.”***

***Review by William McKeen, http://www.bostonglobe.com, 11-20-11

“It is hard for a book to be loving, affectionate & honest, but Chris…has done it. He captures JFK’s virtues & flaws.  JFK is an insightful piece of work & a great time.”****

****Review by Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal

JFK+50 will continue to do postings on JACK KENNEDY, ELUSIVE HERO as we read slowly through the book.  Please come back for future postings.


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