Becoming JFK: A Profile in Communication

By Vito N. Silvestri | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 5
Young Man in a Hurry: John F. Kennedy
as Senator, 1953-1960

He looked at time the way one of our Nebraska irrigation farmers looked at water. It was a crime to waste any of it.

Evelyn N. Lincoln

Kennedy assumed his senatorial duties amid a stir of interest because he had defeated longtime incumbent Henry Cabot Lodge by a sizable victory of 70,000 votes. 1 Richard Nixon, newly elected vice president and his colleague from the House of Representatives, had an office across the hall in the Senate Office Building. In the Senate chamber, Kennedy sat near liberal Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, and behind liberal Paul C. Douglas of Illinois. Nearby was Mike Mansfield of Montana. Conservative Robert A. Taft of Ohio led the Republican majority, while Lyndon Johnson of Texas assumed the duties of minority leader for the Democrats.

Kennedy consolidated his office operation, reducing his office staff in Boston and increasing his staff operation in Washington. In the process, he lessened the direct influence of his father, who had approved all of the main people in the Boston office. Kennedy's three-room suite in the Senate soon expanded to an additional room in the basement. He needed the extra space for a number of secretaries who typed responses to letters; Kennedy insisted that every letter be answered. He had few patronage jobs to give to anyone, but he could and did give service to his constituents. Thousands of letters and requests arrived annually, from Massachusetts Republicans as well as Democrats. 2 Kennedy supplemented his office budget with his own funds in order to meet the demands of his office as he saw them, in order to operate a continual campaign for national exposure and ultimately, for the presidency.

Ted Reardon continued to manage constituent requests and other local matters in Boston and Washington and assumed the task of handling special assignments. Evelyn Lincoln, a former law student, whose father once served in the House of Representatives, became his personal secretary in 1953. Kennedy also added another Nebraskan, Theodore (Ted) Sorensen, a young lawyer interested in politics and government. Sorensen

-51-

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