President John F Kennedy has remained a legend for various reasons. First and foremost his assassination after just three years into his Presidency created that aura of invincibility about him apart from the ‘what might have been’ mantra which continues to prevail up to this day. Although his assassination was obviously crucial in creating a demi God out of him, one has to consider the fact that Kennedy was already a hugely popular President and had built up considerable political capital ever since his election in 1960. The closeness of that election is forgotten by many since there were only around 150,000 votes between Kennedy and Nixon in the final result although the difference in the Electoral College was slightly more pronounced. There were also allegations of corruption in the voting process in large states such as Chicago and Texas where Kennedy strongmen such as Chicago mayor, Tom Daley and Senator Lyndon Johnson carried respectively with their unabashed political bribery. However these issues are now only relegated to the columns of history books with John F Kennedy described almost as a martyr.
J Edgar Hoover was consistently tormented as he could not come out on the issue of homosexuality which was obviously seriously taboo at the time. Add all that to his authoritarian style which also led him to fanatically bug most of President Kennedy’s private rooms to put a spotlight on the President’s notorious philandering, something which Hoover really abhorred and couldn’t stand. Hoover was also very much an autocrat on deciding which issues to investigate. He was particularly helpful when it came to scares about ‘Red’ or Communist people but on the issue of Civil Rights he was notoriously lukewarm. However to his credit he did not impede the investigation into the 1963 Philadelphia, Mississippi murders which eventually led to the federal convictions of five men on violation of civil rights charges. However by that time, Hoover’s influence at the FBI was fading and this could seem to explain the fact that he was technically no longer very much in control.
There is also a sense of drama and theatricality in the assassination itself which was almost carried live on television. As soon as Kennedy was shot at, the news services went into overdrive and the drama of the whole incident added to its incredible sense of theatrics. This contributed immensely to the legend of John F Kennedy. The dark spying allegations against Kennedy by the FBI particularly through its Director J Edgar Hoover have also impacted considerably on the people’s assessment of the assassination. The fact that Kennedy was also involved in starting negotiations to grant voting rights in the Deep South where there were considerable Civil Rights abuses have given the assassination added political clout.
One also has to consider the age in which Kennedy was assassinated since this was just when the media was coming out into the open and the era of 24 hour news had just begun. So one cannot really compare the intense coverage given to Kennedy when compared to the assassination of Lincoln or for example President McKinley in 1901. However the Kennedy family was to be continually plagued by several other tragedies such as the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968 which perhaps put the first Kennedy assassination firmly into the legendary firmament.
Kenney, Charles (2000). John F. Kennedy: The Presidential Portfolio. PublicAffairs.ISBN 978-1-891620-36-2.
Leaming, Barbara (2006). Jack Kennedy: The Education of a Statesman. W. W. Norton.ISBN 978-0-393051-61-2.