Lincoln at her desk in the White House, 1961
|Personal Secretary to the President|
January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963
|Appointed by||John F. Kennedy|
|Preceded by||Ann C. Whitman|
|Succeeded by||Gerri Whittington|
Evelyn Maurine Norton|
June 25, 1909
Polk County, Nebraska
May 11, 1995 (aged 85)|
Arlington National Cemetery|
Evelyn Maurine Norton Lincoln (June 25, 1909 – May 11, 1995) was the personal secretary to John F. Kennedy from his election to the United States Senate in 1953 until his 1963 assassination. Lincoln, who was in the motorcade when Kennedy was assassinated, made a point of visiting Kennedy's grave every year on the anniversary of his death.
Lincoln was born Evelyn Maurine Norton on a farm in Polk County, Nebraska. Her father was John N. Norton, a member of the United States House of Representatives. In 1930, she married Federal worker Harold W. Lincoln, whom she had met as a law student at George Washington University.
Evelyn had always aimed to work on Capitol Hill for a future president, and she achieved this ambition in 1953 by becoming personal secretary to the newly elected senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy. She proved exceptionally suitable for the job, and remained close to the president up to the day of his assassination in Dallas, when she was travelling in the same motorcade. She made it a point to visit Kennedy's grave at Arlington National Cemetery every year afterward on the anniversary of his death.
Many noted the irony of her surname since Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln were succeeded by a President Johnson after they were assassinated. However, despite rumors to the contrary, there is no evidence that President Lincoln employed a secretary named Kennedy.
In 1968, she wrote a book, Kennedy and Johnson, in which she wrote that President Kennedy had told her that Lyndon B. Johnson would be replaced as Vice President of the United States. Lincoln wrote of that November 19, 1963 conversation, just before the assassination of President Kennedy,
|“||As Mr. Kennedy sat in the rocker in my office, his head resting on its back he placed his left leg across his right knee. He rocked slightly as he talked. In a slow pensive voice he said to me, 'You know if I am re-elected in sixty-four, I am going to spend more and more time toward making government service an honorable career. I would like to tailor the executive and legislative branches of government so that they can keep up with the tremendous strides and progress being made in other fields.' 'I am going to advocate changing some of the outmoded rules and regulations in the Congress, such as the seniority rule. To do this I will need as a running mate in sixty-four a man who believes as I do.' Mrs. Lincoln went on to write "I was fascinated by this conversation and wrote it down verbatim in my diary. Now I asked, 'Who is your choice as a running-mate?' 'He looked straight ahead, and without hesitating he replied, 'at this time I am thinking about Governor Terry Sanford of North Carolina. But it will not be Lyndon.'||”|
According to the National Archives, Lincoln gave away or sold many of Kennedy's documents and artifacts that she had been entrusted with managing by the Kennedy family after Kennedy's assassination. In 2005, a legal settlement was reached that enabled the National Archives, the Kennedy Library, and Caroline Kennedy to recover thousands of pages of documents and other items.
Lincoln died at Georgetown University Hospital in 1995, after complications that followed surgery for cancer. Her cremated remains were inurned in a niche at a columbarium in Arlington National Cemetery.
Lincoln was the author of two books:
- My 12 Years With John F. Kennedy
- Kennedy and Johnson, 1968
- New York Times Obituaries. Evelyn Lincoln, Secretary To Kennedy, Is Dead at 85 by Robert McG. Thomas Jr. May 13, 1995
- Robert Dallek, Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President, p. 142 (2003)(Oxford University Press)
- James M. Roth, Reclaiming Pieces of Camelot: How NARA and the JFK Library Recovered Missing Kennedy Documents and Artifacts, Prologue Magazine, Summer 2006, Vol. 38, No. 2.