While serving in Congress, Jack Kennedy’s interest centered on various economic and social issues such as Social Security, wages and housing. Not far behind those was foreign policy. After serving three terms as a congressman from Massachusetts, Kennedy now set his sites on the Senate.
During 1952, history buffs watch as a prior election event almost reoccurs. In 1916, Jack’s maternal grandfather, Honey Fitz, ran for the same Senate seat Jack now sought. Honey Fitz’s opponent at that time was Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. Lodge won the election and claimed the seat. In 1952, the grandsons of these two politicians – John F. Kennedy and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. – squared off against each other. As the polls closed on election night in 1952, all indications pointed to Lodge winning while riding President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s coattails. However, as with the Dewey-Truman presidential election of 1948, things sometimes look different in the morning. As the dust settled and the sun rose the following day, the citizens of Massachusetts learned their new senator was, instead, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
As if Kennedy did not have enough on his plate with the election, he added a large helping of romance to it. In May 1952, Jack attended a dinner party his friend, journalist Charles L. Bartlett, hosted. Included on their guest list was the “Inquiring Camera Girl” from the Washington Times-Herald, another of their friends by the name of Jacqueline Bouvier. The couple found a mutual attraction and began to date. Following the election, the relationship between Jack and Jackie became serious and on June 25, 1953, their engagement was announced. The wedding took place on September 12, 1953 at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island. Rev. Richard Cusing, Archbishop of Boston, officiated and Pope Pius XII sent a special blessing. The social event of the season was attended by 700 guests at the wedding ceremony and 1,200 at the reception, which took place at Hammersmith Farm, home of Jackie’s mother and stepfather. Jackie’s wedding dress was created by designer Ann Lowe of New York and is now on display at the Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts.
After a honeymoon in Mexico, the newlyweds set up housekeeping at 3321 Dent Street in Washington, D.C. The three story red brick townhouse had a walled-in garden where Jackie enjoyed spending time gardening and painting. Not long after the couple returned from their honeymoon, Jackie’s vow to Jack, “in sickness and health,” would be put to a major test.
Jack was seriously ill on a number of occasions; more so than he normally let on. During a visit to London in 1947, Kennedy collapsed. The doctors diagnosed him with Addison’s Disease and proclaimed “He hasn’t got a year to live.” Addison’s results from a disorder in the adrenal glands, creating a hormone deficiency, the outcome being weight loss, chronic stomach upset, low blood pressure and weakness. Had he contracted the disease a few years earlier, Jack’s chances of survival would have been slim to none. Thankfully by the time he was diagnosed, various drugs and injections were available to keep the condition in check.
Not to be left out of the picture, Jack’s old nemesis, crippling back pain, returned to plague him as well. Two operations were required to help with the situation. During the operations, Jack was told he had a 50/50 chance of surviving the surgeries. (The ability to walk again received little consideration at the time.) Despair sets in for Jackie and the Kennedy family during the second surgery when Jack lapsed into a coma and a priest was called in to administer the last rites. Jack, however, was not ready to call it quits and later regained not only consciousness, but also the ability to walk. Kennedy joked and said, “The doctors . . . tell me I’ll probably last until I’m forty-five.” (The shocking reality is – they only missed by one year; but then, illness had nothing to do with it.)
During his extended recuperation, Jackie prevailed on Jack to write another book; this one to be about various US senators who had put their careers on the line to fight for causes they believed in. Jack went to work on her suggestion and the result of his efforts profiled eight senators: John Quincy Adams (MA), Daniel Webster (MA), Thomas Hart Benton (MO), Sam Houston (TX), Edmund J. Ross (KS), Lucius Lamar (MS), George Norris (NE), and Robert A. Taft (OH). He titled the book Profiles in Courage and dedicated it to Jackie.
In 1957, two special events took place in Kennedy’s life. Profiles in Courage won him the Pulitzer Prize for biography and Jacqueline presented him a daughter, Caroline. (Though Caroline is referred to as the Kennedys’ first daughter, she was actually the first ‘live’ daughter. On August 23, 1956, stillborn daughter Arabella Kennedy arrived.)
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“For, in the final analysis, our most common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
― John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage