15 Things You Didn't Know About John F. Kennedy

By: James Sheldon

The life and death of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is steeped in legend, lore and supposition. The man most frequently referred to as JFK fascinated his contemporaries, and has continued to posthumously intrigue every generation since his untimely death by assassination. There are more strange facts about that fateful, November day in 1963 than we could possibly list, but we’ll stick to a variety of “Did you know…?” about the former president. Consider these 15 facts about President John F. Kennedy. It will only add to the mystery of the man who has become American iconography.


15. Supreme Fuel For Conspiracy Theorists

There may be no love for John F. Kennedy greater than from the faction known as “Conspiracy Theorists.” If you’re not a conspiracy theorist, you may change your tune after reading the totality of this list. There was some definitively weird stuff swirling around JFK. The assassination theories are like a river that runs deep and wide. From multiple assassins to government conspiracies to a coup d’etat planned and executed by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, the topic has been addressed, readdressed, and readdressed again. Arguments include facts as well as theories. Generally speaking, the findings by the Warren Commission are less than satisfactory. The suggestion that a poor marksman was able to assassinate a moving target from the sixth story window, using a bolt action rifle and striking the target multiple times? It would have been, and is still considered, a gross improbability.


14. If The Suit Fits

Here’s one that will stick in your memory. President John F. Kennedy struggled physically throughout his life with digestive problems and a bad back. The reason being that he was a little asymmetrical. Considering his physiology, he had one leg that was 3/4″ longer than the other, really throwing things out of whack. Because of this, when he found a healthy weight and enjoyed the ability to feel as normal as possible, he liked to maintain that weight. So, naturally, he became obsessed with not getting heavier than what his body could most easily manage. In order to keep an eye on his fluctuation, the six foot tall president took a scale with him everywhere he went. Whether traveling for a quick visit or an extended stay, his staff was to bring the scale along in the event one wasn’t accessible at his destination or in his hotel.


13. Bond…James Bond

John F. Kennedy was a huge fan of James Bond. He loved Ian Fleming’s novels, but he loved the movies even more. That knowledge is pretty basic. Diving below the surface, here’s where JFK’s love of James Bond gets extremely weird. During the final year of his presidency, and within the latter months, he took to writing his own James Bond story, starring himself, his family and the United States federal regime. Within this story, a high ranking government official executed a coup d’etat against the seated government and president, successfully assassinating him in the presence of his wife and the Secret Service. Is this true? It is. And it’s damn creepy to think about with all that hindsight. We’d imagine as soon as JFK felt the first bullet pierce his body—before the shot that killed him—he thought to himself, “Yep. I knew it.”


12. Parlez-vous français?

Jacqueline Kennedy was fluent in the French tongue, as she was raised Jacqueline Bouvier. However, John was a little envious of her bilingual skill and pursued an education in the French language. He desperately wanted to be able to speak the language. So much so, he even asked one of Caroline’s teachers to offer him lessons. Unfortunately, the president was never able to lock down a French language class schedule. It’s a pity that language learning wasn’t as accessible then as it is now. He’d have been Mr. Rosetta Stone.


11. Many People Wanted JFK Dead

John F. Kennedy was a polarizing figure. Should he have been? No, definitely not. Unfortunately, he was fighting for democracy when much of the world was being painted red. It’s somewhat disturbing to see the throes of world history getting past Nazism and falling straight into Communism. Everything was painted red, and here stands John F. Kennedy trying focus on things like the space race. Instead, his administration was handing down instructions to schools nationwide on what to do if the sirens went off and they came under nuclear attack. Sweet mercy. So, it’ll come as no surprise that there were multiple attempts on John F. Kennedy’s life before the assassination on November 22, 1963. Individuals attempted to assassinate the president in Palm Beach, Florida, Chicago, Illinois, and in Tampa, Florida. The latter two were planned a few weeks before 11/22/63.


10. He Cheated Death More Than Once

Not considering the thwarted and failed assassination attempts, President Kennedy had three experiences before his presidency in which a priest was called to offer last rites. For those who are unaware as to what exactly that means: prayers were offered for Jack Kennedy, in his presence, while he was on what he (and others) thought was his deathbed. And yet, he came through in each of those instances. Each of the three times a Catholic priest was called to offer the sacrament was due to disease, illness, or infection following a surgery. So, in some way…everything, and everyone was trying to kill JFK: disease, infection, his Vice President…!? The final time the president was offered sacramental last rites was after he was murdered on November 22, 1963. It was posthumous, and that’s not uncommon.


9. He Was a Charitable Man

JFK served in the political realm for several years before he was elected to the office of President of the United States in 1960. President Kennedy had served in United States Congress for 12 years before making his run at the White House, and when he elected POTUS in November of 1960, he remarked that one thing wouldn’t change with his advance in office. While serving as a legislator, John F. Kennedy never put his salary to use for personal benefit, rather donated every check to a charitable organization. The same thing happened while he was the resident of the White House. His salary was set at $100,000 annually, and he gave every one of his paychecks to charity. He didn’t need the money, and he didn’t get into politics for the money or power play. He was considered to be one of the few public servants to win the presidency.


8. Greatest Paperweight in History

Many people are unaware of JFK’s military service. He was medically discharged from the man’s Army because of the issues with his back and gut; however, with connections of his very influential father, he was able to score a ride in the United States Navy and made rank of lieutenant. Lt. Kennedy was the Commander of a PT-109 in the Pacific Theater during WWII when his ship was hammered by a Japanese destroyer. His crew was marooned on the Solomon Islands and Jack did what he could. Having no manner of communicating a message to the allies, or a nearby base, he carved a message into a coconut husk, and had natives deliver it to the PT base.  “NAURO ISL…COMMANDER…NATIVE KNOWS POS’IT…HE CAN PILOT…11 ALIVE…NEED SMALL BOAT…KENNEDY.” The husk was eventually encased, and became his Oval Office paperweight.


7. All His Beloved Laid Him to Rest

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 he was only 46 years old. He felt his assassination was imminent, and when it finally happened, he said goodbye to patriarchs as well as his dependents. His two surviving children, Caroline and John Jr., were present at the funeral procession. John Jr. famously tucked his shoulders, and offered a salute to his father’s coffin as it paraded among mourners. The entire nation saw this and wept. It’s not so strange for a child to bury their parent, but in stark contrast, it was unique that John F. Kennedy was the first, and only president to have died before one of his grandparents. At the time of his death, his grandmother was 98 years old, and the family chose not to tell her of his assassination—ever. Mary Josephine “Josie” FitzGerald passed some 10 months later.


6. JFK: The Worry Wart

John F. Kennedy was a man with a preoccupied mind. That has to be an occupational hazard for serving as the President of the United States, but for JFK, he was always worried about something. As mentioned, he was rightly concerned that he was going to lose his life at the hands of an assassin, and there was nothing the Secret Service could do to protect him. He was also worried about his weight, health and how personal misgivings might lead to a fractured family. In short, he had several mistresses, and it was widely accepted that he struggled most in this area of his life. Regardless of obsessing over his life concerns, President Kennedy always presented an amiable front in the public eye. There was no way he was comfortable on the day of his death, but he remained smiling until a series of bullets separated body and soul.

5. Hollywood Player

There is a well-known film entitled Seven Days In May, starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner and Fredric March. The film was based on the novel of the same name, which was based loosely on the events occurring during the United States at the time. The story was set in the near future (early 1970s), and it involved a coup d’etat in the United States due to warring parties within the government. President Kennedy was so taken by the novel, he made phone calls to a few Hollywood players and expressed his desire to see this as a film in an effort to thwart any chance high ranking government and military officials could attempt a coup in the United States. The president was so supportive of the production, he left the White House for a week so director John Frankenheimer could capture exterior shots on location.

4. 75% of Americans Don’t Believe The Official Assassination Story

Shortly after the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the American public took pleasure in the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of killing the beloved president. It didn’t take long—especially after the Warren Commission—for people to question the official story. There were those four words uttered by Lee Oswald that continued to echo through popular American culture: “I’m just a patsy.” As years passed, more and more people began to question the official government story, and the validity of the Lyndon B. Johnson-appointed Warren Commission. This doubt gained more validity after the murder of Bobby Kennedy in 1968. In a poll taken in 2013, 75 percent of people offering a response suggested the official assassination story was unbelievable, rather President Kennedy was assassinated as part of a much larger conspiracy, as opposed to a man acting alone.

3. Giving Jumbo The Boot

What’s up with all this talk about Lyndon B. Johnson having something to do with the assassination of JFK? Johnson never really vibed with President Kennedy, and vice-versa. It was a political alliance serving for sway in 1960, but ideologically, the two were night and day. Historical lore would claim Bobby Kennedy once confronted Johnson about “killing” his brother. How would any of this fit into the box labeled “True” or “Plausible?” President Kennedy discussed ditching Johnson in his bid for reelection in 1964. He was concerned he might have to run against George Romney (father of Mitt), and felt Romney would a formidable, political foe. He was also concerned that winning re-election might set Johnson up for a presidential win in 1968. Simply put, John F. Kennedy would have dismissed the services of his Vice President when campaigning in 1964.

2. The Inaugural Dance Party

John F. Kennedy broke ground socially, and it wasn’t by making claims or offering his opinion about the way things should be. He was ready to push his progressive agenda, socially, as well as ignite the space race and quell the American fears when it came to all things Red. As with the presidents before him, John F. Kennedy enjoyed an Inaugural Ball when elected in 1960, and sworn into office in 1961. Coming out of a decade that saw domestic race wars associated with the civil rights movement, JFK made quite the statement about desegregation when he became the first president to dance with a black woman at his Inaugural Ball. Presumably, this took the party to the next level, because it was thing. It had to have been a thing. A big thing. Obviously. We’re still talking about it 55 years later.

1. Keep the White House “White”

This has to come on the heels of #2 because it could easily be misleading. Clearly, John F. Kennedy was accepting of people regardless of skin color, social-economic background or even political allegiance. When he boldly proclaimed that he was changing things to keep the White House white, it had nothing to do with the color of the residential exterior, or who would be allowed to enter the presidential home. This was John Kennedy’s bold statement about his past transgressions against his wife and family with various mistresses. In 1963, only months before John’s assassination, he and wife Jackie lost their infant child, Patrick. This solidified a bond between the couple that had never been seen before. They were holding hands in public, and John was transparent about his need to progress as a man, as well as offer more respect and “purity” to the office of President.