Massachusetts

Senator John Kennedy Makes a Big Announcement. Sort Of.

Exactly no one was surprised on Jan. 2, 1960, when Massachusetts Senator John Kennedy stood under the crystal chandeliers in the red-carpeted caucus room of the Senate Office Building. He announced his candidacy for president of the United States.

John F. Kennedy and Jackie campaign in Appleton, Wisc.

Senator John Kennedy and Jackie campaign in Appleton, Wisc.

He was tanned and rested after a two-week vacation in Jamaica. His wife Jackie and his brother Bobby stood with him in the historic old room. So did 300 other people, half friends and supporters, half reporters.

Senator John Kennedy Non-Announces

Kennedy’s remarks started at 12:30 pm. He finished shortly thereafter on a note of hopeful heroism. “I have developed an image … of the American people as confident, courageous and persevering,” he said.

It wasn’t new. Kennedy had been saying things like that for months as he’d barnstormed across the country.

And as his press secretary Pierre Salinger recalled, an enterprising UPI reporter already broke the story two weeks earlier.

The reporter was wandering around the nearly empty Senate Office Building when he heard a clatter from Kennedy’s robotype room. A robotype is an automatic typewriter that produces thousands of letters and mailing labels.

The reporter then picked up one of the letters. It began, “I am announcing on January 2 my candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination.”

JFK20Campaign

The reporter knew he had a story. As soon as it hit the wire,  reporters besieged Salinger seeking confirmation. He said Senator Kennedy hadn’t decided yet. He also said the unsigned draft published by UPI “is but one of a number of drafts covering all possible eventualities concerning the senator’s decision.” Salinger then added he had “grave doubts” the senator had even seen it.

One newspaper editorialized it had “grave doubts about the future of Salinger’s job.” Salinger had no worries.


This story last updated in 2022.

B&w mage of Kennedy campaigning: By Kheel Center – John F. Kennedy, at the street-side podium, campaigns for ILGWU support with David Dubinsky at his side., CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78994087.

 

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