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New book re-examines JFK’s death via letters to Jackie

When U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, the nation – and the world – expressed its grief by sending over one million letters to his wife, Jackie “ some even came from Canada. Although there were far too many letters to sift through at the time, many were preserved in Boston’s John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Now, historian Ellen Fitzpatrick has collected 240 of those letters in Letters to Jackie: Condolences From a Grieving Nation (HarperCollins). From The Globe and Mail:

The notes reveal how many Americans perceived the first television president – as a war veteran and family man, a leader who endured relatively little public criticism by today’s standards, Prof. Fitzpatrick says.

“People really took delight in following the activities of a lot of this young family,” she said. “This collective grief response represented a change in America.”

To avoid copyright issues, Fitzpatrick had to seek out each of the letter writers or their surviving family members for permission to print their letters. The writers vary widely, from widows who felt empathy for Jackie, to the doctor who assisted in John Jr.’s birth and later attended the president’s inauguration ceremony. The presidential library still holds about 200,000 pages of letters “ the rest had to be destroyed because of storage limits.