John F. Kennedy


Feb. 15, 2005, midnight | By Anthony Glynn | 15 years, 11 months ago


Photo: John F. Kennedy, former president and black civil rights activist.

Former President John F. Kennedy played a vital role in the civil rights movement, but his life was ended by an assassin's bullet before some of his greatest goals were realized.

Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, to a wealthy family on May 29, 1917, Kennedy's childhood was turbulent. He was stricken with the measles, chicken pox and scarlet fever during his adolescence, buy he continued to be extremely active in sports; he even ruptured a disk in his spine while playing football. Upon graduating Choate, a Connecticut boarding school, Kennedy pursued a degree from Harvard College between 1936 and 1940. He immediately joined the Navy after graduation, but when his patrol torpedo boat was rammed, Kennedy sustained grave injuries while managing to rescue another man and lead his surviving comrades to safety. He was presented the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his bravery in the line of duty.

Kennedy did not take an interest in pursuing politics until after his brother died in battle in 1944. In an attempt to fulfill his older brother's goal of being a successful politician, Kennedy ran in 1946 and was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives, where he served for three consecutive terms. In 1952, he also won a seat on the U.S. Senate and later was elected president after a close campaign against republican Richard Nixon. Kennedy stated the famous line, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" at his inaugural address.

Kennedy did much while in office for the civil rights movement. In 1962, he created the Voter Education Project and ordered federal troops to subdue rioting at the University of Mississippi after its integration. The following year, Kennedy created a comprehensive civil rights bill that addressed desegregation of restaurants, schools and hotels. Sadly, his bill would not pass until months after his death. In 1963, the March on Washington also took place, an event that Kennedy supported and during which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I have a dream" speech.

King stated in his eulogy at Kennedy's funeral that Kennedy lived his whole life to "move forward with more determination to rid our nation of the vestiges of racial segregation and discrimination."

Information has been compiled from The White House and The JFK Library and Museum.



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