John F. Kennedy, Jr.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr. (November 25, 1960 – July 16, 1999), often referred to as JFK Jr. or John-John, was an American socialite, journalist, lawyer, and magazine publisher. He was the elder son of U.S. President John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy, Sr. and First Lady Jacqueline Lee "Jackie" Bouvier, and a nephew of Senators Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy and Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy. He died in a plane crash along with his wife Carolyn Jeanne Bessette and her elder sister Lauren on July 16, 1999.
White House years
Kennedy was born at Georgetown University Hospital seventeen days after his father was elected to the presidency. He was in the public spotlight for his entire life. Kennedy had two older sisters, Arabella Kennedy (who was stillborn) and attorney Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, as well as a younger brother, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, who died two days after his birth in August 1963. For most of the first three years of his life, Kennedy lived in the White House when his father was president. His nickname "John-John" came from a reporter who misheard JFK calling him ("John" spoken twice in quick succession).
After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent Kennedy a letter, explaining that it would be "many years before you understand fully what a great man your father was." The next day, his mother had him and his sister write a letter to their father, and to express how much they loved him. While Caroline wrote the letter, Kennedy marked an "X" on it.
President Kennedy's state funeral was held three days later on Kennedy's third birthday. In a moment that became an emotional and iconic image of the 1960s, Kennedy stepped forward and rendered a final salute as the flag-draped casket was carried out from St. Matthew's Cathedral. The image was captured by photographer Stan Stearns. After his father's burial, the Kennedy family returned to the White House to celebrate Kennedy's third birthday. The party was also assertion that the family would go on despite the death of his father.
Post–White House years
Following his father's assassination, Kennedy grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City. In October 1968, his mother Jackie married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, whom she had met in the early 1950s. Their marriage lasted until Onassis' death in March 1975. He and Onassis would often go on trips together, as opposed to his relationship with Caroline. Despite this, Kennedy came to regard his mother's new husband as "a joke."
Kennedy fell into smoldering coals of a fire built for a wiener roast, and was pulled out by Secret Service agent John Walsh. Kennedy suffered first and second degree burns on his right arm and hand, afterwards the Secret Service was granted further protection of the Kennedy family until 1969 by the House Judiciary Committee. On October 17, 1968, Kennedy went with his sister and mother through a number of people outside their home that had heard of the wedding between his mother and Aristotle and just two days later on October 19, he burst into tears when news reporters and photographers charged at him as he emerged from sleeping onboard the Christina. He returned to America, along with Caroline and his aunts Patricia Helen "Pat" Kennedy and Jean Ann Kennedy, on October 23.
Kennedy was at St. Francis Xavier on November 22, 1969, the sixth anniversary of his father's death, and assisted the priest at the memorial services. His friend Martin Luther King III accompanied him, Caroline, and Jackie back to Skorpios on December 7, 1969. On February 3, 1971, Kennedy returned to the White House for the first time since he was three years old with his sister and mother, during the Richard Nixon administration. Given a tour by his daughters Julie and Tricia, he was shown his old bedroom and shown the desk his father had once let him play under by the President.
Kennedy and his cousin Anthony Stanislaw Albert Radziwill were together for two weeks at Drake's Island Adventure Center in August 1971, where the two were in housed in a dormitory with four other boys. Included in a group of sixty-five boys, he rock climbed and went camping, which his mother decided to emulate for every summer afterward. On July 15, 1972, an announcement was made that authorities had made arrests of two gangs that had plotted to kidnap Kennedy. On November 22, 1973, the tenth anniversary of his father's death, Kennedy, his sister and mother came to a Mass at St. Bridget Roman Catholic Church in Peapack. The three sent a bouquet of baby's breath, heather and blue cornflowers to his grave. By March 1975, Kennedy and his family returned to Paris. By early next month, Kennedy was away again. He went with his cousins Timothy, Maria, and Bobby Shriver and their parents Eunice and Sargent Shriver on a tour of Russia, and previously had read books about the country with his mother.
At fifteen years of age, Kennedy was caught driving without a license by a Hyannis Port policeman. On November 25, 1976, his sixteenth birthday, Secret Service protection ended after a further extension. Jacqueline Kennedy arranged for him to spend the summer of 1978 in Wyoming working for six weeks as a wrangler at the Bar Cross Ranch. Owner John Perry Barlow assured Mrs. Kennedy that her son would be treated fairly, but later reflected: "His mother sent him out West. She rather unceremoniously kicked him out of the nest and dumped him into the lap of a Republican rancher from Wyoming." Kennedy surprised the ranch hands by his rigorous work and he was enjoyed by the workers for his warmth and sense of humor.
Kennedy attended the Collegiate School in New York City from third through tenth grades. He became best friends with actors Jason Beghe and David Duchovny. He later graduated from Phillips Academy (also known as Andover).
Prior to his registering at Brown University, Jackie took him to Africa. With the limited landmarks there and only partial visibility, Kennedy was appointed leader when his group lost their way and they went through the undergrowth with no food or water. Kennedy's main concern was the impact on his family "if his experience ever made newspaper headlines". The group was found two days after having encountered a rhinoceros, and Kennedy won points from his course director for his leadership. While signing up for enrollment to Brown University and standing in line on September 10, 1979, he was given unwanted attention by reporters. Kennedy kept a low profile, but when he was approached by others, he tried to see if they were interested in him as a person or just trying to talk to him because of his name. On October 20, the Kennedy Library was dedicated. On that day, Kennedy made his first major speech and recited the Stephen Spender's poem "I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great". Kennedy took interest in majoring in American history by September 1979, and relayed the thought after being confronted by a number of reporters while waiting in the registration line on the Providence campus.
Kennedy and another student formed a student discussion group, focusing on contemporary subjects such as South Africa's conditions, gun control and civil rights. A friend recalled that Kennedy "had definite opinions on things" while acknowledging that "he also argued on both sides of the issue." Kennedy was appalled when seeing the "horrors of apartheid" while visiting South Africa during a summer while at Brown. Kennedy was able to organize for U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young to speak about the topic at the university after becoming determined to "alert his fellow students" of South Africa's apartheid.
Jackie and Caroline remained the ongoing female presences in Kennedy's life and he was extremely close to them, despite being miles apart. His mother Jackie visited him at Brown whenever she could, and notably did not like the untidiness his room was kept in. Kennedy was known to be absentminded, even walking around with his keys attached to his pants "because he'd lose them all the time." His casual attitude towards losing things had a negative effect on friends, such as when a friend lent him a blazer and it got dirty when Kennedy was hit by a meatball while wearing it. Though Kennedy told his friend that he would "take it to the laundry", he did not and instead three weeks later, the classmate found it behind their couch, "all rolled up in a ball." The classmate reasoned that "you couldn't get mad at him. You cut him more slack than you did most people." By Kennedy's junior year at Brown, he had moved off campus to live with several other students in a shared house. He had began to keep his room clean, as well as his car and had acquired a girlfriend that was often mistaken for his sister and who his mother approved of. Kennedy graduated from Brown University in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in history.
University of Delhi
After Brown, Kennedy took a working break, traveling to India and spending some time at the University of Delhi, where he met Mother Teresa. He also worked with some of the Kennedy special interest projects, including the East Harlem School at Exodus House and Reaching Up. In summer of 1981, he worked at Terry Sanford's Center for Democratic Policy and was paid $100. He gave a short press conference at his uncle Ted's suggestion, and admitted to the press that he was teaching himself to play guitar. For the next summer, in 1982, he spent six weeks with his cousin Timothy Shriver teaching English to students with low-income families at the University of Connecticut.
From 1984 to 1986, he worked for the New York City Office of Business Development. He served as deputy director of the 42nd Street Development Corporation in 1986. He also did a bit of acting during that time, an activity which had been one of his passions; he appeared in many plays while at Brown. He expressed interest in acting as a career, but his mother strongly disapproved of it as a suitable profession. On August 4, 1985, Kennedy made his New York acting debut in front of an invitation-only audience at the Irish Theater on Manhattan's West Side. Kennedy's acting was praised, despite the short length of his performances. Executive director of the Irish Arts Center Nye Heron said that Kennedy was "one of the best young actors I've seen in years". On April 26, 1986, Kennedy and his mother Jacqueline attended the wedding of his cousin Maria Shriver, who married actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Kennedy served as an altar boy for the commemorative ceremony marking the twentieth anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination. Kennedy addressed the 1988 Democratic National Convention. He participated in his cousin Patrick J. Kennedy's campaign for a seat in Rhode Island's House of Representatives by visiting the district.
In 1989, Kennedy earned a J.D. degree from the New York University School of Law. He failed the New York bar exam twice before passing on the third try in July 1990. Kennedy was haunted by the shadow of his family, such as the fact that his father at age twenty-nine having already became a Massachusetts congressman and his cousins Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Michael LeMoyne Kennedy and Kerry Kennedy had all managed to get admitted to the bar. Kennedy's sister, Caroline, had managed to pass the bar on her first try. Kennedy then served as a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney's office for four years. Training in law would have been essential had he chosen to enter politics. "What really struck me was his restlessness," a lawyer who met Kennedy recalled and he stated "He couldn't sit still for more than ten minutes at a time. The classroom had a door that opened onto a little deck, and every day he'd get up and open the door three and four times for really no reason."
Several times, Kennedy was asked publicly if he was interested in following in his father's footsteps and choosing politics as a career; he would always decline for the time being, but he would not rule it out for the future. Kennedy was offered a position as an under-secretary in the cabinet of President Bill Clinton. Prior to his death, Kennedy was seen as a frontrunner for the New York Senate seat vacated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the state's senior senator. First Lady of the United States Hillary Rodham Clinton would run and be elected to the seat in 2000.
Kennedy's uncle Senator Ted Kennedy believed that politics were his destiny, and urged him to run in several offices in an attempt to ultimately lead him to the White House. By the summer of 1999, Ted believed that Kennedy's best chance to begin a "Kennedy Restoration" to the White House would be to run for Governor of New York in 2002. Kennedy told his uncle that his marriage with Carolyn had deteriorated to the point that he was contemplating divorce, which would have harmed his public image. Ted managed to New York's Cardinal John O'Connor to become involved in saving their marriage as a martial mediator, who served in that position until the couple's deaths.
In 1995, Kennedy and New York public relations magnate Michael J. Berman founded George, a glossy politics-as-lifestyle monthly which sometimes took editorial aim even at members of his own family. Kennedy controlled 50 percent of the company's shares. On September 8, 1995, Kennedy officially launched the magazine at a news conference in Manhattan, and joked that he had not seen so many reporters in one place since he failed his first bar exam.
The first issue was criticized for its image of Cindy Crawford posing as George Washington in a powdered wig and ruffled shirt. In defense of the cover, Kennedy stated that "political magazines should look like Mirabella." Kennedy said he and the editors of the magazine believed they could make politics "accessible by covering it in an entertaining and compelling way" which he stated would allow "popular interest and involvement" to follow. Kennedy did interviews with people such as Louis Farrakhan, Billy Graham, and Garth Brooks.
In late 1999, Kennedy tried pitching a partnership George with Microsoft. He wanted the corporation to partner with the magazine for a series of online chats with the 2000 presidential candidates. The chats were to be moderated by Harvard University's School of Government. Microsoft was to provide the technology and pay for it while advertising in George. After Kennedy's death, the magazine was bought out by Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, his partners in George, and continued for over a year. With falling advertising sales, the magazine folded in early 2001. Before his death, however, Kennedy had conceded that he "might have to wind it up by the end of the year".
On March 29, 1991, Kennedy's cousin William Kennedy Smith was in a bar with their uncle Ted and cousin Patrick Joseph Kennedy II when Smith met a 29-year-old woman and another woman, the two accompanying the Kennedys to a nearby home owned by the family. The 29-year-old alleged that William raped her, while he testified that they had consensual sex. On November 17, 1991, Kennedy appeared with William outside the Palm Beach County courthouse, where jury selection for the case would enter its final phase the next day. Kennedy insisted that he had not come to influence the case, saying "William is my cousin and we grew up together. I thought I could at least come down and be with him during some difficult times." Mother Jackie died in Manhattan on May 19, 1994. At the funeral in Arlington National Cemetery, he also paid tribute to his father and visited his uncle Bobby's grave before departing with his sister. Kennedy spent much of his time after her death with his sister sorting through Onassis's possessions, to find what they want to keep and want they wanted to donate to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Kennedy dated actress Daryl Hannah for five and a half years, with their relationship ending shortly after his mother's death. Kennedy and Hannah had known each other since the early 1980s, both having vacationed in St. Maarten in the Caribbean with their families. Kennedy and Hannah met with each other at the wedding of Lee Radziwill to director Herbert Ross in 1988.
The following year, Kennedy starting living with Carolyn Jeanne Bessette, the youngest daughter of William J. Bessette and Ann Messina Freeman. They married in a secret wedding on September 21, 1996, on Cumberland Island, Georgia. His older sister Caroline acted as the matron of honor and his cousin Anthony Stanislaw Albert Radziwill was his best man. Kennedy's ability to arrange allow-profile wedding led some[according to whom?] to joke that he should be in the Secret Service. Carolyn gave Kennedy advice on "various aspects" of his magazine. A friend said Kennedy did not "want a wife that went to the office. He liked the fact that she was there when he came home." Kennedy and his wife reportedly wanted to have children at the time of their deaths.
Kennedy opposed the President Clinton's impeachment and used the White House Correspondents Dinner to voice his opposition following the February 1999 vote by the senate against the impeachment. When asked about the 2000 senate races, he said "The big question is whether Hillary will run for the Senate and if it is unacceptable for someone born in Illinois who lived in Arkansas to run in New York" and referred to himself by stating "sort of as acceptable as someone who was born in Washington, D.C., coming to San Francisco to get you to buy an ad in a New York magazine."
Kennedy received his pilot license in April 1998, which he had dreamed about since he was a child.
Kennedy saw himself as blessed, not choosing to believe in the "Kennedy curse" and often joked about it. However, after the diagnosis of Anthony Radziwill and his approaching death, Kennedy began to think more about death. The death of his cousin Michael Kennedy brought about a change in Kennedy, making each death "just seem closer and closer."
His sister Caroline's friends referred to him as the "Master of Disaster" for putting himself in risky situations and managing to get himself out of them in the last minute. He and Caroline became closer after their mother's death, Kennedy even saying "She's an older sister, you know? We're obviously very close. And as a younger brother, you look up to your sister." Their final phone conversation was right before his death, with Kennedy telling his worrying sister that he planned to live to "a ripe old age".
On July 16, 1999, Kennedy, his wife Carolyn, and her sister Lauren were reported missing when the Piper Saratoga II HP he was piloting failed to arrive at its planned destination after Kennedy checked in with the FAA tower at the Martha's Vineyard Airport in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. The trio were en route to attend the wedding of Kennedy's cousin, Rory Kennedy. A search commenced more than 15 hours later to locate them, finally ending in the late afternoon hours of July 21, when the three bodies were recovered from the ocean floor by Navy divers. The bodies were taken by motorcade to the county medical examiner's office. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the plane had crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Martha's Vineyard, the probable cause being pilot error: "Kennedy's failure to maintain control of the airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation." Kennedy was not qualified to fly a plane by "instruments only", though the crash occurred in conditions not legally requiring such qualification. Other pilots flying similar routes reported no visual horizon due to haze. In the evening of July 21, autopsies at the county medical examiner's office revealed that the crash victims had died upon impact. At the same time, the Kennedy and Bessette families announced their plans for memorial services. In the late hours of July 21, the three bodies were taken from Hyannis to Duxbury, where they were cremated in the Mayflower Cemetery crematorium. On the morning of July 22, their ashes were scattered from the Navy destroyer USS Briscoe off the coast of Martha's Vineyard.
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