Fifty years after Jacqueline Kennedy publicly expressed her gratitude for the outpouring of support following the death of President John F. Kennedy, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has opened a new series of condolence mail from the First Lady’s personal papers. The series contains condolence that was forwarded to and managed by Mrs. Kennedy’s personal secretaries. Of note, a letter from Maxine McNair, mother of Denise McNair, one of the four girls who were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in September 1963, was discovered among the documents in this series.
The Personal Papers of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis were donated, along with other historical materials, to the Kennedy Library by Caroline Kennedy and John F. Kennedy, Jr. The opening of this series follows the February 2012 opening of documents relating to Mrs. Kennedy’s White House restoration, and the September 2011 release of Jacqueline Kennedy’s 1964 oral history interviews.
In the aftermath of the assassination of President Kennedy, people from all over the world wrote to Mrs. Kennedy and her children expressing their sympathy and respect. On January 14, 1964, the still grieving widow recorded a message for national broadcast thanking people for their support, saying:
I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the hundreds of thousands of messages -- nearly eight hundred thousand in all -- which my children and I have received over the past few weeks. The knowledge of the affection in which my husband was held by all of you has sustained me. And the warmth of these tributes is something I shall never forget. Whenever I can bear to, I read them. All his bright light gone from the world. All of you who have written to me, know how much we all loved him and that he returned that love in full measure.
Unlike the condolence mail in the Library’s John F. Kennedy Papers, the documents released today were managed by Mrs. Kennedy’s personal secretaries because they required special handling or contained requests for charity, mass cards, photographs or other wishes. Each piece of condolence mail within this series includes an outgoing carbon response letter from Mrs. Kennedy’s office in lieu of the mass-produced response card that was sent for general condolence mail. The series contains about 22,000 items including telegrams, letters, cards, photographs, and other tokens of sympathy from the general public and various organizations, both American and international, government and foreign officials.
For further information visit the JFK Library and Museum online.