Friday, November 22, marks the 50-year anniversary of the tragic assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy. Known to us all as the exemplification of a youthful epoch in American sentiment, his memorable speeches and, of course, his local ties to Massachusetts, JFK is often considered one of the greater presidents to grace the Oval Office, despite his limited time there.
But we often forget about the combined 14 years Kennedy spent as a congressman representing the Bay State in Washington D.C. – six years in the House of Representatives and eight years in the Senate. So to help celebrate and commemorate the youngest president ever elected, and acclaimed World War II naval veteran, here are five fun facts about JFK’s tenure in Congress.
1. JFK Succeeded JMC
In order to become representative of Massachusetts’ 11th District (now obsolete) Kennedy’s father Joe supposedly persuaded James Michael Curley – the popular former mayor of Boston, governor of Massachusetts and congressman – to seek a fourth term as mayor by offering to pay off debts Curley had incurred due to legal fees, as well as fund his mayoral campaign. Curley, eventually serving a term in jail for mail fraud, was so beloved that he was elected and served while behind bars.
2. Was in Favor of Unions
In the 2013 Boston Mayoral race, one of the knocks on Marty Walsh – despite having won election – was his deep-seeded union roots. It’s no secret the former labor union president received staggering amounts of money from unions nationwide, and, in doing so, the “union” became something of profanity in the race. As a member of the House, Kennedy adamantly opposed the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 as a member of the Education and Labor Committee, voicing that the bill would “strike down in one devastating blow the union shop, industry-wide bargaining, and so strangle collective bargaining with restraints and limitations as to make it ineffectual.”
3. Untrue to Truman
Harry Truman is renowned for having made one of the toughest decisions, not just in military history, but in world history, by opting to unleash the power of the atomic bomb on Japan during WWII. Kennedy, oft-remembered for his work on foreign relations – Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, etc. – was a staunch opponent to President Truman’s subsequent work in Asia, accusing the State Department of trying to force Chiang Kai-shek into a coalition with Mao Zedong and telling the House, “What our young men had saved, our diplomats and our President have frittered away.”
4. Pulitzer Prize Winner?
Known as the only president to procure the Pulitzer Prize, Kennedy drafted Profiles in Courage while on medical leave from the Senate. Inspired by those who ruled the chamber before him, the book is about senators who compromise their careers for their political beliefs. In 2008, though, it was revealed that Kennedy’s confidant Ted Sorenson penned first drafts for all of the chapters and devised the structure of sentences, as well as the general direction of the book. At Harvard, Kennedy had wanted to be a writer.
5. To the right
Despite being a Massachusetts Democrat, Kennedy’s voting record as a senator often favored Republicans. He was the only New England senator to approve an extension of President Eisenhower’s reciprocal-trade powers, the first Massachusetts congressman to vote for the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and was criticized for not taking a stance on Joseph McCarthy’s witch-hunt for supposed communists embedded in the government and community. McCarthy was a friend of Kennedy’s father, worked with his brother Bobby and even dated his sister Patricia.