Jacqueline Bouvier “Jackie” Kennedy (July 28, 1929 - May 19, 1994) is most often remembered for her strength, beauty and grace in the face of unthinkable pain as she, her family and the country mourned the death of her husband President John F. Kennedy, following his assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963. But, that was only a small portion of the person who would become America’s youngest First Lady of the 20th Century. As a girl, Jacqueline enjoyed a charmed life taking classical ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan as well as equestrian lessons at a young age, a passion that stuck with her for her entire life. She attended Vassar College where she studied art, literature, history and French, spent a year in Paris studying abroad and finished his education at George Washington University in Washington D.C. Her first job was with the Washington Times-Herald newspaper as the “Inquiring Camera Girl” tapped to photograph and interview people in and around the Washington D.C. area. Among other events that Bouvier covered were the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first inauguration. Around this time, she met a young congressman from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy and their courtship began. He would soon be elected Senator and the two married in September 1953. Jackie, now-Kennedy, reportedly urged the young Senator from Massachusetts to chronicle his life in the service and write about those individuals in Congress who courageously fought for what they believed in despite the potential pitfalls. While Jack Kennedy recovered from two back surgeries, he penned Profiles in Courage and in 1957 was presented with the Pulitzer Prize for biography. In 1957, the couple also welcomed their first child Caroline.
In January of 1960, John F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Presidency of the United States, but having recently become pregnant, Jackie was unable to accompany the Senator on his campaign tour of the nation. She tirelessly answered letters, gave interviews and wrote a weekly newspaper column, Campaign Wife. Kennedy won the presidential election over Richard Nixon and only weeks later, John F. Kennedy, Jr. was born. When the young family moved into the White House in January of 1961, Jackie was astonished at how pedestrian the mansion was and felt that it should reflect the history, art and culture of the United States. Kennedy began by converting the sun porch into a nursery for their children and 12 to 15 others and adding a kitchen to the family residence. After spending her allotted budget almost immediately, Jackie began a fine arts committee that was to restore and fund the restoration project. Prior to the Kennedy’s arrival that the White House, former Presidents and their families were allowed to remove and keep whatever they fancied from the people’s mansion. Kennedy found this to be inappropriate and sought out artifacts that had previously been housed in the White House, quite often, former President’s personal items and furniture. Over the course of two years, Jackie furnished the people’s house with American artwork, literature, furniture and creations from the hands of the American people and turned the state house into a museum of American history. In 1962, Jackie famously took a television audience of better than eight million viewers on a tour of the White House.
On November 22, 1963, the world changed forever as President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while visiting Dallas. Jackie sat beside him as shots rang out and felled the beloved President while his young wife attempted to both save him and preserve his dignity. Still wearing her now-iconic pink Chanel suit soaked in the President’s blood, Jackie stood beside President Kennedy when he was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital and then stood next to Vice President Lyndon Johnson on Air Force One when he took the oath of office for the Presidency. Following the horrific death of her husband, Jackie handled all of the arrangements for John F. Kennedy’s state funeral, similar to that of President Abraham Lincoln’s. Kennedy laid in state in the United States Capitol Rotunda for hundreds of thousands of Americans to pay their final respects and then a funeral mass was held at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, followed by a procession down Pennsylvania Avenue and his ultimate burial at Arlington National Cemetery. At her request, the eternal flame, which she lit, was affixed to the beloved President’s tomb. With the nation and virtually the entire world in a state of shock and sadness, Jackie Kennedy carried an air of strength and grace about her that has yet to be matched by any other since.
Not long after the death of President Kennedy, Jacqueline oversaw the establishment and building of the John F. Kennedy Library Presidential Library and Museum that overlooks Boston Harbor. Following the family’s departure from the White House, Jackie sought privacy for herself and two children moving to an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1968, shortly after the assassination of Robert Kennedy. When Aristotle, who was 23-years her senior, died in 1975, “Jackie O” as she was dubbed, became a widow for the second time by the age of 46. Seeking personal fulfillment as her children were grown, Jackie took a job as an editor with Viking Press and then went on to work as a senior editor at Doubleday until her death in 1994. Jackie Kennedy, or Jackie O, continued to seek the preservation of the American history, culture and heritage and is responsible for the restoration of not only the White House, but also Lafayette Square across from the White House and the saving and restoration of New York’s Grand Central Station, which was scheduled to be demolished.