The Presidential election of 1960 was held in an atmosphere of strained international relations and increasing racial tension in the United States. In an extremely close contest, Democrat John F. Kennedy and his running mate, Lyndon B. Johnson, defeated the Republican candidates, Richard M. Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge. Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic and the youngest man to be elected President.

Kennedy called upon Americans to meet the challenges of a "new frontier—the frontier of the 1960's." He had served only two years and 10 months of his term when he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963. Upon succeeding to the Presidency Johnson promised to continue Kennedy's foreign and domestic policies. In 1964 Johnson and his running mate, Hubert H. Humphrey, won election by a landslide, defeating Republican candidates Barry M. Goldwater and William E. Miller. Johnson pledged his administration to the task of building a "Great Society."