John F. Kennedy Jr.
|John F. Kennedy Jr.|
|Born||John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr.
November 25, 1960
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Died||July 16, 1999
Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Martha's Vineyard
Cause of death
|Alma mater||Brown University (A.B.)
New York University (J.D.)
|Occupation||Journalist, lawyer, magazine publisher|
(m. 1996–1999; their deaths)
|Parent(s)||John F. Kennedy
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. (November 25, 1960 – July 16, 1999), often referred to as JFK Jr. or John-John in the press, was an American lawyer, journalist, and magazine publisher. He was the only surviving son of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, and younger brother of Caroline Kennedy. His father was assassinated just before his third birthday.
From his early childhood onwards, Kennedy was the subject of great media scrutiny, and he became a popular social figure of Manhattan. Trained as a lawyer, he worked as a New York City Assistant District Attorney for four years. In 1995 he launched George magazine, using his political and celebrity clout to publicize it.
Kennedy died in the crash of a small plane he was piloting, along with his wife Carolyn Bessette, and her elder sister Lauren, on their way to a family wedding on Martha's Vineyard.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Mother's remarriage
- 3 Education
- 4 Early career
- 5 Acting
- 6 Family activity
- 7 Nonprofit work, graduation from law school
- 8 Politics
- 9 George magazine
- 10 Personal life
- 11 Relationships
- 12 Marriage
- 13 Flying history
- 14 Death
- 15 Legacy
- 16 See also
- 17 References
- 18 External links
Kennedy was born at Georgetown University Hospital two weeks after his father was elected president. He had an older sister, Caroline, and a younger brother, Patrick, who died two days after his birth in 1963. His putative nickname "John-John" came from a reporter who misheard JFK calling out "John" twice in quick succession. (It was not used by his family.) 
Kennedy lived in the White House during the first three years of his life, until his father’s assassination. The state funeral was held three days later on John Jr.'s birthday. In a moment that became an iconic image of the 1960s, John Jr. stepped forward and rendered a final salute as the flag-draped casket was carried out from St. Matthew's Cathedral. They continued with their plans for a birthday-party, to demonstrate that the Kennedys would go on despite the death of their father.
Following his father's assassination, Kennedy moved to the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City with his mother and sister, where he grew up. In 1967, his mother took him and his sister Caroline on a six-week "sentimental journey" to Ireland, where they met President Eamon de Valera and visited the Kennedy ancestral home in Dunganstown.
After his uncle Robert was assassinated in 1968, his mother took him and his sister out of the United States, saying: "If they're killing Kennedys, then my children are targets ..... I want to get out of this country." The same year, she married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, and the family went to live on his private island of Skorpios. Kennedy is said to have considered his stepfather "a joke."
In 1971, Kennedy returned to the White House with his mother and sister for the first time. President Richard Nixon's daughters gave Kennedy a tour that included his old bedroom, and Nixon showed him the desk under which his father had let him play. When Onassis died in 1975, he left Kennedy $25,000, though Jacqueline was able to renegotiate the will, and acquired $20 million for herself and her children.
In 1976, Kennedy and his cousin visited an earthquake disaster zone at Rabinal in Guatemala, helping with heavy building work and distributing food. The local priest said that they "ate what the people of Rabinal ate and dressed in Guatemalan clothes and slept in tents like most of the earthquake victims", adding that the two "did more for their country's image" in Guatemala "than a roomful of ambassadors." On his sixteenth birthday, Kennedy's Secret Service protection ended. He spent the summer of 1978 working as a wrangler in Wyoming, where the ranch-hands enjoyed his warmth and sense of humor.
Before attending Brown University, Kennedy accompanied his mother to Africa. On a pioneering course, he rescued his group, which had got lost for two days without food or water, and won points for leadership. In 1979, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated, and Kennedy made his first major speech, reciting Stephen Spender's poem "I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great".
Kennedy attended private schools in New York City, starting at Saint David's School and moving to Collegiate, which he attended from third through tenth grade, and completed high school at Phillips Andover Academy, Massachusetts. After graduating, he went to Brown University where he majored in American history. Here he co-founded a student discussion group that focused on contemporary issues such as apartheid in South Africa, gun control, and civil rights. Visiting South Africa during a summer break, he was appalled by apartheid, and arranged for U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young to speak about the topic at Brown.
By his junior year at Brown, he had moved off campus to live with several other students in a shared house, and spent time at Xenon, a club owned by Howard Stein. Kennedy was initiated into Phi Psi, a local social fraternity which had been the Rhode Island Alpha Chapter of national Phi Kappa Psi fraternity until 1978. He graduated in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in history, and then 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.
After the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco, Kennedy returned to New York and earned $20,000 a year in a position at the Office of Business Development, where his boss reflected that he worked "in the same crummy cubbyhole as everybody else. I heaped on the work and was always pleased.” From 1984 to 1986, he worked for the New York City Office of Business Development and served as deputy director of the 42nd Street Development Corporation in 1986, conducting negotiations with developers and city agencies. In 1988, he became a summer associate at Manatt, Phelps, Rothenberg & Phillips, a Los Angeles law firm with strong connections to the Democratic Party. Here Kennedy worked for Charlie Manatt, his uncle Ted Kennedy's law school roommate.
Meanwhile he had done a bit of acting, which was one of his passions (he had appeared in many plays while at Brown.) He expressed interest in acting as a career, but his mother strongly disapproved of it as an unsuitable 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. Executive director of the Irish Arts Center, Nye Heron, said that Kennedy was "one of the best young actors I've seen in years". Kennedy's director, Robin Saex stated, "He has an earnestness that just shines through." Kennedy's largest acting role was playing a fictionalised version of himself in the season eight episode of sitcom Murphy Brown, called 'Altered States'. In this episode Kennedy visits Murphy at her office in order to promote a magazine he is publishing.
Kennedy addressed the 1988 Democratic National Convention, introducing his uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy. He invoked his father's inaugural address, calling "a generation to public service", and received a two-minute standing ovation. Republican consultant Richard Viguerie said he did not remember a word of the speech, but remembered "a good delivery" and added, "I think it was a plus for the Democrats and the boy. He is strikingly handsome."
On November 22, 1988, the 25th anniversary of his father's assassination, Kennedy, joined by his sister and mother, attended a private mass at St. Thomas More. Kennedy participated in his cousin Patrick J. Kennedy's campaign for a seat in the Rhode Island House of Representatives by visiting the district. He sat outside the polling both and had his picture taken with "would-be" voters. The polaroid ploy worked so well in the campaign that Patrick J. Kennedy used it again in 1994.
Nonprofit work, graduation from law school
From 1989, Kennedy headed Reaching Up, a nonprofit group which provided educational and other opportunities for workers who helped people with disabilities. William Ebenstein, executive director of Reaching Up, said, "He was always concerned with the working poor, and his family always had an interest in helping them."
In 1989, Kennedy earned a J.D. degree from the New York University School of Law. He then failed the New York bar exam twice, before passing on his third try in July 1990. Kennedy vowed, after failing it for the second time, that he would take it continuously until he was ninety-five years old or passed, though if he’d failed a third time, he would have been out as a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney's office, where he worked for the next four years. On August 29, 1991, Kennedy won his first prosecution.
In summer 1992, he worked as a journalist and was commissioned by The New York Times to write an article about his kayaking expedition to the Aland Archipelago, where he saved one of his friends from the water when his kayak capsized. He then considered creating a magazine with his friend, public relations magnate Michael J. Berman - a plan which his mother thought too risky. In his 2001 book The Day John Died, Christopher Andersen wrote that Jacqueline had also worried that her son would die in a plane crash, and asked longtime companion Maurice Tempelsman "to do whatever it took to keep John from becoming a pilot".
Kennedy was asked publicly if he was interested in politics as a career. He replied no, for the time being, but would not rule it out for the future. Just 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. Ted Kennedy believed that politics were John's destiny, and urged him to run for several offices. By the summer of 1999, Ted believed that the best chance to return a Kennedy to the White House would be for John to run for Governor of New York in 2002.
In 1995, Kennedy and Michael Berman founded George, a glossy, politics-as-lifestyle and fashion monthly, with Kennedy controlling 50 percent of the shares. Kennedy officially launched the magazine at a news conference in Manhattan on September 8, and joked that he had not seen so many reporters in one place since he failed his first bar exam.
Each issue of the magazine contained an editor's column and interviews written by Kennedy, who believed they could make politics "accessible by covering it in an entertaining and compelling way" which would allow "popular interest and involvement" to follow. Kennedy did interviews with Louis Farrakhan, Billy Graham, Garth Brooks and others.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter wrote in a column that George was "truly a political magazine, not a Democratic magazine". Coulter said Kennedy had admired an article she wrote attacking a congressman representing the fourth district of Columbia, and in one of their last conversations, Kennedy mocked one of the magazine's liberal columnists for being a "predictable bore."
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."
In July 1997, Vanity Fair had published a profile of Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani claiming that the mayor was sleeping with his press secretary (which both parties denied). Although tempted to follow-up on this story, Kennedy decided against it. The same month, Kennedy wrote about meeting Mother Teresa, declaring that the "three days I spent in her presence was the strongest evidence this struggling Catholic has ever had that God exists."
The September 1997 issue of George centered around temptation, and featured two of Kennedy’s cousins, Michael LeMoyne Kennedy and Joseph P. Kennedy II. Michael had been accused of having an affair with his children's underaged babysitter, while Joe had been accused by his ex-wife of having bullied her. John declared that both his cousins had become “poster boys for bad behaviour” - believed to be the first time a member of the Kennedy family had publicly attacked another Kennedy. He said he was trying to show that press coverage of the pair was unfair, due to them being Kennedys. But Joe paraphrased John's father by stating, "Ask not what you can do for your cousin, but what you can do for his magazine."
By early 1997, Kennedy and Berman found themselves locked in a power struggle, which led to screaming matches, slammed doors, and even one physical altercation. Eventually Berman sold his share of the company, and Kennedy took on Berman’s responsibilities himself. Though the magazine had already begun to decline in popularity before Berman left, his departure was followed by a rapid drop in sales.
David Pecker, CEO of Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, who were partners in George, said that this was because Kennedy refused to "take risks as an editor, despite the fact that he was an extraordinary risk taker in other areas of his life." Pecker said, "He understood that the target audience for George was the eighteen-to-thirty-four-year-old demographic, yet he would routinely turn down interviews that would appeal to this age group, like Princess Diana or John Gotti, Jr., to interview subjects like Dan Rostenkowski or Vo Nguyen Giap, an obscure North Vietnamese general." Shortly before his death, Kennedy had been planning a series of online chats with the 2000 presidential candidates. Microsoft was to provide the technology and pay for it while receiving advertising in George. After his death, the magazine was bought out by Hachette, but folded in early 2001.
When Kennedy's mother Jacqueline died in Manhattan on May 19, 1994, he supported his sister Caroline against his uncle Ted, who argued for a large public observance while Caroline preferred a private family funeral. Caroline's husband Edwin Schlossberg and Maurice Tempelsman also supported her. At the funeral in Arlington National Cemetery, Kennedy and his sister did brief readings. He also paid tribute to his father and visited his uncle Bobby's grave, before departing with his sister. After their mother’s death, he and Caroline became closer; their final phone conversation was just before his death, with Kennedy telling his worrying sister that he planned to live to "a ripe old age."
On January 22, 1995, Kennedy’s grandmother Rose died from complications of pneumonia. Kennedy was present at her bedside at the time of her death, and attended her funeral accompanied by his future wife Carolyn Jeanne Bessette, the first time Bessette had attended an important Kennedy family occasion.
Kennedy had two godchildren; Phineas and Olivia, the son and daughter of Sasha Chermayeff. Chermayeff met Kennedy when he was a teenager and the pair continuously celebrated their birthdays together. She related that Kennedy was most relaxed with a group of longtime friends since he was not "the central figure" and would often sleep over her house. Chermayeff said she and Kennedy had dinner together days before his death and while walking together, he admitted that he wanted a child.
While attending Brown University, Kennedy met Sally Munro, whom he dated for six years, and they visited India in 1983. Also while at Brown, he had met Brooke Shields, with whom he was later linked.
Kennedy also dated models Cindy Crawford and Julie Baker, as well as actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who said she enjoyed dating Kennedy but realized he "was a public domain kind of a guy." Parker claimed to have no idea what "real fame" was until dating Kennedy and felt that she should "apologize for dating him" since it became the "defining factor in the person" she was.
Kennedy had known actress Daryl Hannah since their two families had vacationed together in St. Maarten in the early '80s. After meeting again at the wedding of Lee Radziwill in 1988, they dated for five and a half years, though their relationship was complicated by her feelings for singer Jackson Browne, with whom she had lived for a time.
After his relationship with Daryl Hannah ended, Kennedy began living with Carolyn Jeanne Bessette, who worked in the fashion industry and was the youngest daughter of William J. Bessette and Ann Messina Freeman. They were engaged for a year, though Kennedy consistently denied reports of this. They married in a secret ceremony on September 21, 1996, on Cumberland Island, Georgia, where his sister Caroline was matron of honor and his cousin Anthony Radziwill was best man.
The next day, Kennedy’s cousin Patrick revealed that the pair had married. When they returned to their New York home, there were a mass of reporters on the doorstep. One of them asked Kennedy if he had enjoyed his honeymoon, to which he responded "Very much". He added "Getting married is a big adjustment for us, and for a private citizen like Carolyn even more so. I ask you to give her all the privacy and room you can."
But Carolyn was, in fact, badly disoriented by the constant attention from the paparazzi. The couple were permanently on show, both at fashionable Manhattan events, and on their travels to visit celebrities such as Mariuccia Mandelli, Gianni Versace and Donald Trump. She also complained to her friend, journalist Jonathan Soroff, that she could not get a job without being accused of exploiting her fame.
John and Carolyn began consulting with a marriage counselor in March 1999; they attended independent therapy sessions as well. Carolyn had been prescribed antidepressants by her therapist, but during one of their combined sessions, Carolyn stormed out of the room when the subject of drugs came up.
Kennedy began taking flying lessons at the Flight Safety Academy in Vero Beach, Florida. In April 1998, he received his pilot's license, which he had dreamed about since he was a child. Kennedy admitted to the press that the only person willing to fly with him was his wife and that "even she has her doubts". The death of his cousin Michael brought about a change in Kennedy, making death "just seem closer and closer." Kennedy felt so distressed that he took a hiatus from his piloting lessons at Flight Safety International in Florida for three months. His sister Caroline had hoped his decision to stop taking piloting lessons would be permanent, but when he resumed, she resigned herself to the "fact that she could do little to stop him."
On July 16, 1999, Kennedy piloted a Piper Saratoga II HP carrying his wife, Carolyn, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, to attend the wedding of his cousin, Rory Kennedy at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. He had purchased the plane on April 28, 1999, from Air Bound Aviation. Carolyn and Lauren were in the second row of seats. Kennedy had checked in with the FAA tower at the Martha's Vineyard Airport, but when the plane failed to arrive, the three were reported missing.
Officials were not optimistic about finding survivors after debris from the aircraft were recovered in the Atlantic Ocean, as well as a black suitcase that belonged to Bessette. President Clinton gave his support to the Kennedy family during the search for the three.
On July 18, a Coast Guard admiral declared an end to hope that Kennedy, his wife and her sister could be found alive. On July 19, the fragments of Kennedy's plane were found by the NOAA vessel Rude using side-scan sonar. The next day, navy divers were allowed to descend into the 52 °F (11 °C) water. The divers found part of the shattered plane strewn over a broad area of seabed 120 feet (37 m) below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. The search ended in the late afternoon of July 21, when the three bodies were recovered from the ocean floor by Navy divers, and taken by motorcade to the county medical examiner's office. The discovery was made from high-resolution images of the ocean bottom. Divers found Carolyn and Lauren's bodies near the twisted and broken fuselage while Kennedy's body was still strapped into the pilot's seat. Admiral Admiral Richard M. Larrabee of the Coast Guard said that all three bodies were "near and under" the fuselage, still strapped in.
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." Other pilots flying similar routes reported no visual horizon due to haze.
On 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. On July 21, the three bodies were taken from Hyannis to Duxbury, where they were cremated in the Mayflower Cemetery crematorium. Ted Kennedy favored a public service for John while Caroline Kennedy insisted on family privacy. On the morning of July 22, their ashes were scattered from the Navy destroyer USS Briscoe off the coast of Martha's Vineyard.
Kennedy's last will and testament stipulated that his personal belongings, property and holdings were to be "evenly distributed" among his sister Caroline Kennedy's three children, who were among fourteen beneficiaries in his will.
A memorial service was held for Kennedy on July 23, 1999 at the Church of St. Thomas More, a church Kennedy had often attended with his mother and sister. The invitation-only service was attended by hundreds of mourners, including President Bill Clinton, who presented the family with photo albums of John and Carolyn on their visit to the White House from the previous year.
John F. Kennedy Jr. was the first child ever born to a President-elect of the United States. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the assassination, the New York Daily News re-ran the famous photograph of the three-year-old Kennedy saluting his father's coffin. Photographer Dan Farrell, who took the photo, called it "the saddest thing I've ever seen in my whole life".
In 2000, Reaching Up, the organization which Kennedy founded in 1989, joined with The City University of New York to establish the John F. Kennedy, Jr. Institute. On September 19, 2003, the ARCO Forum at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government was renamed to the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum of Public Affairs. An active participant in Forum events, Kennedy had also been a member of the IOP's Senior Advisory Committee for fifteen years. Kennedy's uncle Senator Ted Kennedy said the renaming would symbolically link Kennedy and his father while his sister Caroline stated the renaming represented his love of discussing politics.
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