The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia

By Maurine H. Beasley; Holly C. Shulman et al. | Go to book overview
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KENNEDY, JOHN F. (29 May 1917, Brookline, MA–22 November 1963, Dallas, TX).

Prior to the nomination of John F. Kennedy (JFK) as the Democratic presidential candidate in 1960, Eleanor Roosevelt had exhibited a keen distrust of, and sometimes overt antagonism toward, the Massachusetts politician. Suspicious of the Kennedy family’s political aspirations and backroom maneuvering as well as harboring doubts about JFK’s lack of experience and refusal to espouse ER’s brand of liberalism, the former First Lady had thought JFK lacking in the qualities she believed essential for a successful presidency. JFK, on the other hand, needed ER’s support because in the late 1950s and early 1960s she commanded power and respect within the Democratic Party,* especially among its more liberal factions. With JFK’s capture of the Democratic nomination and subsequent election as president, however, ER began increasingly to praise him, although she never fully ceased her criticism of some of his policies.

ER’s wariness about JFK and his family existed long before he began his successful drive for the presidential nomination. She shared the anger of her late husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt,* toward JFK’s father, Joseph Kennedy, who served in the Roosevelt administration as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1934 to 1935 and as ambassador to England beginning in 1937. Resigning his ambassadorship in November 1940, the elder Kennedy publicly had joined the isolationist cause and disapproved of FDR’s decision to run for a third term. As a result of FDR’s contentious relationship with Joseph Kennedy, ER evinced a distrust of the family that predated JFK’s entry into the political arena.

For ER, the Kennedy family also symbolized the corruption that plagued certain segments of the Democratic Party. In a 1958 ABC-TV


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