John F. Kennedy, Jr.

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John F. Kennedy, Jr.
Kennedy greets invited guests at the HBO and Imagine Entertainment premiere held at Kennedy Space Center in 1998.
BornJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr.
(1960-11-25)November 25, 1960
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DiedJuly 16, 1999(1999-07-16) (aged 38)
Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Martha's Vineyard
Cause of death
Plane crash
Other namesJFK Jr.
Alma materBrown University (A.B.)
New York University (J.D.)
OccupationJournalist, lawyer, magazine publisher
ReligionRoman Catholicism
Spouse(s)Carolyn Jeanne Bessette
(m. 1996–1999; their deaths)
ParentsJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy, Sr.
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier
SignatureJohn Kennedy Jr. Signature.svg
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For Australian footballer John Kennedy Jr., see John Kennedy, Jr. (Australian rules footballer).
"John-John" redirects here. For people named John John, see John John.
John F. Kennedy, Jr.
Kennedy greets invited guests at the HBO and Imagine Entertainment premiere held at Kennedy Space Center in 1998.
BornJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr.
(1960-11-25)November 25, 1960
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DiedJuly 16, 1999(1999-07-16) (aged 38)
Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Martha's Vineyard
Cause of death
Plane crash
Other namesJFK Jr.
Alma materBrown University (A.B.)
New York University (J.D.)
OccupationJournalist, lawyer, magazine publisher
ReligionRoman Catholicism
Spouse(s)Carolyn Jeanne Bessette
(m. 1996–1999; their deaths)
ParentsJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy, Sr.
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier
SignatureJohn Kennedy Jr. Signature.svg

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr. (November 25, 1960 – July 16, 1999), often referred to as JFK Jr. or John-John in the press, was an American lawyer, journalist, and magazine publisher. He was the son of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, and a nephew of Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy. He died in a plane crash along with his wife Carolyn Jeanne Bessette and her elder sister Lauren on July 16, 1999.

Early life[edit]

Kennedy with his father, John F. Kennedy, at the White House in 1963

White House early childhood[edit]

John F. Kennedy. Jr. was born at Georgetown University Hospital seventeen days after his father was elected to the presidency. His birth was announced by White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, who said to reporters, "We have just been advised that Mrs. Kennedy has given birth to a baby boy. Both mother and son are doing well."[1] He was in the public spotlight for his entire life. Kennedy had an older sister, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, as well as a younger brother, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, who died two days after his birth in August 1963. His parents had a stillborn daughter, Arabella, before Caroline's birth. For most of the first three years of his life, he lived in the White House when his father was president. His putative nickname "John-John", not used by the family, came from a reporter who misheard JFK calling him ("John" spoken twice in quick succession).[2]

After President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent Caroline and John a letter, explaining that it would be "many years before you understand fully what a great man your father was." The next day, his mother had him and his sister write a letter to their father, and to express how much they loved him. While Caroline wrote the letter, John marked an "X" on it.[3]

President Kennedy's state funeral was held three days later on John's third birthday. In a moment that became an emotional and iconic image of the 1960s, John stepped forward and rendered a final salute as the flag-draped casket was carried out from St. Matthew's Cathedral.[4] The image was captured by photographer Stan Stearns.[5] After his father's burial, the Kennedy family returned to the White House to celebrate John's third birthday. The party was also to demonstrate to the children that the family would go on despite the death of their father.[6]

New York City and Skorpios[edit]

Following the assassination, the family moved to the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City, where John grew up. In the summer of 1967, their mother took John and Caroline on a six-week "sentimental journey" to Ireland, where they met President Eamon de Valera and visited the Kennedy ancestral home at Dunganstown.[7]

In 1968, after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, Jacqueline took the children out of the United States saying: "If they're killing Kennedys, then my children are targets ..... I want to get out of this country."[8] They went to Skorpios, Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis' island. Jacqueline had met Onassis in the early 1950s; she married him in October 1968.[9] Their marriage lasted until Onassis' death in March 1975. John and Onassis would often go on trips together.[10] Despite this, Kennedy is said to consider his mother's new husband as "a joke."[11]

Kennedy was at St. Francis Xavier on November 22, 1969, the sixth anniversary of his father's death, and assisted the priest at the memorial services. His friend Martin Luther King III accompanied him, Caroline, and Jackie back to Skorpios in December 1969.[12] In February 1971, when Richard Nixon was president, Kennedy returned to the White House with his sister and mother for the first time since he was three years old. Nixon's daughters Julie and Tricia gave him a tour that included his old bedroom, and Nixon showed him the desk under which JFK had let him play.[13]

On November 25, 1976, his sixteenth birthday, his Secret Service protection ended.[14] His mother arranged for him to spend the summer of 1978 in Wyoming working for six weeks as a wrangler at the Bar Cross Ranch. Owner John Perry Barlow assured her that her son would be treated fairly, but later reflected: "His mother sent him out West. She rather unceremoniously kicked him out of the nest and dumped him into the lap of a Republican rancher from Wyoming." Kennedy surprised the ranch hands by his rigorous work and the ranch employees enjoyed his warmth and sense of humor.[15]

Prior to his registering at Brown University, Jackie took him to Africa. With the limited landmarks there and only partial visibility, Kennedy was appointed leader when his group lost their way and they went through the undergrowth with no food or water. Kennedy's main concern was the impact on his family "if his experience ever made newspaper headlines". The group was found two days after having encountered a rhinoceros, and Kennedy won points from his course director for his leadership.[16] On October 20, 1979, the Kennedy Library was dedicated. Kennedy made his first major speech and recited Stephen Spender's poem "I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great".[17]

Education and early adulthood[edit]

Kennedy attended private schools in New York City, starting at Saint David's School and moving to Collegiate which he attended from third through tenth grade.[7] He completed high school at Phillips Andover Academy, a prestigious prep school in Andover, Massachusetts. After graduating from Andover, Kennedy went to Brown University where he majored in American history.[18] At Brown he co-founded a student discussion group that focused on contemporary subjects such as apartheid in South Africa, gun control, and civil rights. A friend recalled that Kennedy "had definite opinions on things" while acknowledging that "he also argued on both sides of the issue." Kennedy was appalled when he saw the "horrors of apartheid" while visiting South Africa during a Brown summer break, and, determining to "alert his fellow students," he arranged for U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young to speak about the topic at Brown.[19] During his college years, he remained close with Jackie and Caroline despite their living miles away.[20] By his junior year at Brown, he had moved off campus to live with several other students in a shared house.[21]

Kennedy was initiated into Phi Psi, a local social fraternity which had been the Rhode Island Alpha Chapter of national Phi Kappa Psi fraternity until 1978.[22] In the summer of 1981, Kennedy worked at Terry Sanford's Center for Democratic Policy and was paid $100. He gave a short press conference at his uncle Ted's suggestion, and told the press that he was teaching himself to play guitar.[23] In the summer of 1982, together with his cousin Timothy Shriver, he spent six weeks at the University of Connecticut teaching English to students from low-income families.[24]

Kennedy graduated from Brown University in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in history. After Brown, Kennedy took a working break, traveling to India and spending some time at the University of Delhi, where he met Mother Teresa. He also worked with some of the Kennedy special interest projects, including the East Harlem School at Exodus House and Reaching Up. From 1984 to 1986, he worked for the New York City Office of Business Development and served as deputy director of the 42nd Street Development Corporation in 1986. During that time he did a bit of acting, an activity which had been one of his passions; he appeared in many plays while at Brown. He expressed interest in acting as a career, but his mother strongly disapproved of it as a suitable profession.[25] On August 4, 1985, Kennedy made his New York acting debut in front of an invitation-only audience at the Irish Theater on Manhattan's West Side. Kennedy's acting was praised, despite the short length of his performances. Executive director of the Irish Arts Center Nye Heron said that Kennedy was "one of the best young actors I've seen in years".[26]

Kennedy served as an altar boy for the commemorative ceremony marking the twentieth anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination.[27] Over the summer of 1988, Kennedy worked as an intern for a Los Angeles law firm[28] and addressed the 1988 Democratic National Convention. On November 22, 1988, the 25th anniversary of his father's assassination, Kennedy, joined by his sister and mother, attended a private mass at St. Thomas More.[29]

He participated in his cousin Patrick J. Kennedy's campaign for a seat in Rhode Island's House of Representatives by visiting the district.[30] He sat outside the polling both and had his picture taken with "would-be" voters. Independent filmmaker Josh Seftel remembered a woman "hugging John, inhaling his air, sniffing his skin, and departing with a satisfied smile on her face." The polaroid ploy worked so well in the campaign that Patrick J. Kennedy used it again in 1994. Kennedy also had a chance meeting with Jack Skeffington, who was Patrick J. Kennedy's opponent on the ballot. Kennedy explained that he was only there to support his cousin and that he wished good luck to in the election. Skeffington was amazed by Kennedy's candor and said he was most impressed with Kennedy's "common touch."[31]

In 1989, Kennedy earned a J.D. degree from the New York University School of Law.[32] He failed the New York bar exam twice, which received considerable press coverage, before passing on the third try in July 1990.[33] Upon his admission to the bar, Kennedy served as a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney's office for four years.[34]


Several times, Kennedy was asked publicly if he was interested in following in his father's footsteps and choosing politics as a career; he replied that he was declining to do so for the time being, but would not rule it out for the future.[35] Just prior to his death, Kennedy was seen as a frontrunner for the New York Senate seat vacated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the state's senior senator.[36] First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton would be elected to the seat in 2000.

Senator Ted Kennedy believed that politics were his nephew John's destiny, and urged him to run for several offices. By the summer of 1999, Ted believed that Kennedy's best chance to return a Kennedy to the White House would be for John to run for Governor of New York in 2002. Kennedy told his uncle that his marriage with Carolyn had deteriorated to the point that he was contemplating divorce, which would have harmed his public image. At Ted's request, New York's Cardinal John O'Connor served the couple as a marital mediator, which role he was performing until the couple's deaths.[36]

George (1995 - 1999)[edit]

In 1995, Kennedy and New York public relations magnate Michael J. Berman founded George, a glossy politics-as-lifestyle and fashion monthly which sometimes took editorial aim even at members of his own family. Kennedy controlled 50 percent of the company's shares.[37] On September 8, 1995, Kennedy officially launched the magazine at a news conference in Manhattan, and joked that he had not seen so many reporters in one place since he failed his first bar exam.[38]

Each issue of the magazine contained an editor's column and interviews written by Kennedy.[39] The first issue was criticized for its image of Cindy Crawford posing as George Washington in a powdered wig and ruffled shirt. In defense of the cover, Kennedy stated that "political magazines should look like Mirabella."[40] Kennedy said he and the editors of the magazine believed they could make politics "accessible by covering it in an entertaining and compelling way" which he stated would allow "popular interest and involvement" to follow.[41] Kennedy did interviews with people such as Louis Farrakhan, Billy Graham, and Garth Brooks.[41]

Ann Coulter, one of the magazine's contributors and known as a conservative commentator, wrote in a column that George was "truly a political magazine, not a Democratic magazine" and was hired by Kennedy a year and a half after they met at luncheon. Coulter says Kennedy was fond of an article Coulter wrote attacking a congressman representing the fourth district of Columbia and one of their last conversations had Kennedy mocking one of the magazine's liberal columnists for being a "predictable bore."[42]

In his July 1997 column, Kennedy wrote about meeting Mother Teresa mere months before she died. Kennedy wrote that she "commandeered me to drive her to the airport, where she was to receive a shipment of donated clothing from New Delhi." He wrote that the "three days I spent in her presence was the strongest evidence this struggling Catholic has ever had that God exists."[39] That same month, Vanity Fair published a profile of Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani claiming that the mayor was sleeping with his press secretary. Both Giuliani and the press secretary denied it. In response, Kennedy held a "not-so-routine editorial meeting." He asked his staff if George should follow suit and publish the same story. A individual said "Rudy's fair game," but Kennedy told that person that he wasn't sure if that was reason enough to write that Giuliani was having an affair.[43]

In late 1999, Kennedy tried pitching a partnership George with Microsoft. He wanted the corporation to partner with the magazine for a series of online chats with the 2000 presidential candidates. The chats were to be moderated by Harvard University's School of Government. Microsoft was to provide the technology and pay for it while advertising in George.[44] After Kennedy's death, the magazine was bought out by Hachette Filipacchi Magazines,[45] his partners in George, and continued for over a year. The magazine folded in early 2001.[46]

Berman's departure and decline[edit]

By early 1997, Kennedy and Berman found themselves "locked in a power struggle" which led to a physical altercation where Kennedy grabbed Berman and ripped his shirt. Several days later, Kennedy sent his publishing partner an expensive new shirt and a note of apology. Most arguments resulted in "loud screaming, slammed doors and angry threats." The situation was made worse by Kennedy and Berman's friendships. Eighteen months after helping Kennedy to "get George off the ground," Berman sold his share of the company and was asked by Hatchette, the company responsible for the magazine, to remain as head of its film and television department. Kennedy never replaced Berman and took on his responsibilities. Though the magazine had already began to lose interest before Berman left, his departure was followed by a rapid decrease in sales.[47]

David Pecker claimed the magazine "went into decline" because Kennedy refused to "take risks as an editor, despite the fact that he was an extraordinary risk taker in other areas of his life." Pecker said, "He understood that the target audience for George was the eighteen-to-thirty-four-year-old demographic, yet he would routinely turn down interviews that would appeal to this age group, like Princess Diana or John Gotti, Jr., to interview subjects like Dan Rostenkowski or Vo Nguyen Giap, an obscure North Vietnamese general."[47]

Personal life[edit]

In 1989, Kennedy and his mother visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum to publicize the creation of the Profile in Courage Award.[48]

On March 29, 1991, Kennedy's cousin William Kennedy Smith was in a bar with their uncle Ted and cousin Patrick when Smith met a 29-year-old woman and another woman, the two accompanying the Kennedys to a nearby home owned by the family. The 29-year-old alleged that Smith raped her. Smith testified that they had consensual sex. On November 17, 1991, John appeared with Smith outside the Palm Beach County courthouse, where jury selection for the case would enter its final phase the next day. He insisted that he had not come to influence the case, saying, "William is my cousin and we grew up together. I thought I could at least come down and be with him during some difficult times."[49]

On January 22, 1995, Rose Kennedy died from complications of pneumonia. Kennedy was present at her bedside at the time of her death and during Rose Kennedy's service, was accompanied by Carolyn Bessette. It was the first time she had ever attended an important family occasion. After meeting her for the first time, his aunt Jean pulled John aside and warned him not to mess up his relationship with Bessette, stating that she "seems like a good girl."[50]

Kennedy opposed the President Clinton's impeachment and, following the February 1999 Senate vote against impeachment, voiced his opposition at the White House Correspondents Dinner.[51] When asked about the 2000 senate races, he said, "The big question is whether Hillary will run for the Senate and if it is unacceptable for someone born in Illinois, who lived in Arkansas, to run in New York," and referred to himself by stating "sort of as acceptable as someone who was born in Washington, D.C., coming to San Francisco to get you to buy an ad in a New York magazine."[52][53]

On May 17, 1996, Kennedy acted as "Principal of the Day" at the Hungerford School, an institution for children with special needs. The school's full-time principal, Mary McInerney, remembered Kennedy staying far longer than the one hour originally intended. Kennedy's sole demand was that the media not be informed of his presence.[54] On October 8, 1997, Kennedy entered Lenox Hill Hospital to undergo hand surgery, accompanied by his wife and sister.[55]

Kennedy saw himself as blessed, not choosing to believe in the "Kennedy curse" and often joked about it.[56] However, after Anthony Stanislaw Radziwill's diagnosis and approaching death, Kennedy began to think more about death. In mid-May 1999, Kennedy addressed the class of 1999 at Washington College. He told the students that by becoming college graduates, they had "accomplished something the great man George Washington never did".[53] His sister Caroline's friends referred to him as the "Master of Disaster" for putting himself in risky situations and managing to get himself out of them in the last minute.[57] He and Caroline became closer after their mother's death, Kennedy even saying "She's an older sister, you know? We're obviously very close. And as a younger brother, you look up to your sister." Their final phone conversation was right before his death, with Kennedy telling his worrying sister that he planned to live to "a ripe old age".[57]


Kennedy dated actress Daryl Hannah for five and a half years. Their relationship ended shortly after his mother's death.[58] Kennedy and Hannah had known each other since the early 1980s, when they had met while the families of both were vacationing in St. Maarten. Kennedy and Hannah saw each other again in 1988 at the wedding of Lee Radziwill and director Herbert Ross.[59] One reason for strains in their relationship were Hannah's feelings for singer Jackson Browne, whom she had lived with for a time. Hannah would get close to Kennedy, but kept getting drawn back to Browne and tried to work things out with the singer. The two became close following a confrontation between Hannah and Browne, after which she and Kennedy began living together in her New York City apartment.[48] Kennedy also dated models Cindy Crawford and Julie Baker, as well as actress Sarah Jessica Parker.[48]

Mother's death[edit]

Kennedy's mother Jackie died in Manhattan on May 19, 1994. The next day, May 20, Kennedy made an announcement to the press and media who gathered in front of her Manhattan apartment. Kennedy said his mother "did it in her own way and on her own terms and we all feel lucky for that."[60] Kennedy supported his sister Caroline against his uncle Ted, who argued for a large public observance while Caroline preferred a private family funeral. Kennedy's brother-in-law Edwin Schlossberg and Maurice Tempelsman also supported her.[61]

At the funeral in Arlington National Cemetery, he also paid tribute to his father and visited his uncle Bobby's grave, before departing with his sister.[62] After their mother's death, Kennedy spent much of his time with his sister sorting through their mother's possessions, to determine what they wanted to keep and want they wanted to donate to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.[63]

In the weeks following Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's death, her children reacted to the death differently. While Caroline rarely mentioned her, John, Jr. spoke of her "all the time," according to Billy Way. Way said the two went out drinking one night and Kennedy "began telling me how different his mother was from everyone he'd ever known. She didn't look like anyone else, didn't talk like anyone, wasn't at all like anyone in the family. He went on from there. He must have done a half-hour soliloquy on his mother. It was all positive and full of love."[64] Kennedy rarely saw Caroline's husband, Edwin Schlossberg, after his mother's death and preferred to meet with Caroline alone.[65]

Two weeks after his mother's death, Kennedy sent President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton a handwritten letter. In the letter Kennedy stated, "I want you both to understand how much your burgeoning friendship with my mother meant to her," and continued, "Since she left Washington, I believe she resisted ever connecting with it emotionally". Kennedy attributed the resistance to her unwillingness to "being cast in a lifelong role that didn't quite fit."[64]

On August 17, 1994, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani signed a bill into law designating the Central Park Reservoir be renamed in honor of Kennedy's mother. Kennedy's initial suggestion was to have the Grand Central Terminal renamed after his mother, but changed his position and believed that the reservoir would be a more fitting tribute. On the name change, Kennedy said that like his mother, "the Central Park Reservoir gives an impression of stillness, as it harbors its own secrets."[66]

Kennedy's annual Memorial Day weekend party was held over the Fourth of July weekend, because of his mother's death. A houseguest recalled that his North Moore Street loft had a sofa and chairs moved into it. The loft's significance stemmed from it containing one of his mother's antique coffee tables. He covered the table with candles and a "choice selection" of his mother's art books.[66]


After his relationship with Daryl Hannah ended, Kennedy began living with Carolyn Jeanne Bessette, the youngest daughter of William J. Bessette and Ann Messina Freeman. Carolyn, who worked in the fashion industry, accepted Kennedy's proposal the week prior to his unveiling of George on September 7, 1995. Carolyn had kept Kennedy waiting for three weeks.[67] They married in a secret wedding on September 21, 1996, on Cumberland Island, Georgia.[68] His sister Caroline acted as the matron of honor and his cousin Anthony Radziwill was his best man.[69]

Sixteen days after their wedding, Kennedy and his wife returned to New York. As their cab pulled up on 20 North Moore Street, a horde of reporters approached the two. A reporter asked Kennedy if he had enjoyed his honeymoon, which he responded to with, "Very much". After he and Carolyn went into the building, Kennedy came back outside and stated to reporters, "Getting married is a big adjustment for us, and for a private citizen like Carolyn even more so. I ask you to give her all the privacy and room you can."[70] Carolyn gave Kennedy advice on "various aspects" of his magazine including fashion issues.

The couple became a Manhattan staple in that they were social, attended events and were constantly photographed coming and leaving. However, Carolyn was never happy. Despite loving Kennedy and being privately content with him, she did not enjoy the intrusion of paparazzi wherever she went, even if she was not with Kennedy, quickly became more than she could handle. Carolyn understood that Kennedy was notable, but was still frustrated by the constant attention she received. Publicist R. Couri Hay, a friend of the Kennedys, recalled Carolyn's public image as having changed once more images surfaced of her "looking really pissed off" and stories began to surface about her, leading some to question, "what right does she have to be so unhappy?"[50]

In early March 1996, Kennedy and his wife traveled to Italy. In Milan, Kennedy met several of Carolyn's relatives. The couple dined with Italian fashion firm Krizia founder Mariuccia Mandelli. Carolyn had known her from New York and she found Kennedy to be "absolutely charming." They finished their stay in Milan by attending a soccer match. After this, the couple left Milan to the Lake Como estate of Gianni Versace.[71] In February 1997, Kennedy and his wife visited Donald Trump at his estate in Palm Beach. In early spring 1997, John and Carolyn traveled to Boston to host a benefit at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Journalist Jonathan Soroff, who was friends with Kennedy's wife Carolyn, had been assigned to cover the event for The Improper Bostonian. Kennedy's wife and Soroff entered a length but pleasant conversation, where she admitted that she had not acquired a job and that it was impossible for her to get one without others saying it was because of her husband.[72] On May 25, 1999, Kennedy and his wife took a commercial airline to San Francisco and dined with Steve Jobs. The following day, May 26, Kennedy spoke at a luncheon meeting of the San Francisco Advertising Council, which consisted of seven hundred members.[53]

Pilot license[edit]

In April 1998, Kennedy received his pilot's license, which he had dreamed about since he was a child.[38] After getting his license, Kennedy admitted to the press that the only person willing to fly with him was his wife and that "even she has her doubts".[73] At the time Kennedy got his license, he had a total of 53 hours in the air, 43 hours with an instructor and 10 hours by himself.[74] The death of his cousin Michael LeMoyne Kennedy brought about a change in Kennedy, making death "just seem closer and closer."[75] Michael Kennedy's death distressed Kennedy so much that he opted to take a hiatus from his piloting lessons at Flight Safety International in Florida for three months until he resumed in March 1998. Kennedy's sister Caroline had hoped his decision to stop taking piloting lessons would be permanent, but when he resumed, she resigned herself to the "fact that she could do little to stop him."[76]


On July 16, 1999, Kennedy piloted a Piper Saratoga II HP also carrying his wife Carolyn and her sister Lauren for the three to attend the wedding of Kennedy's cousin Rory Kennedy. Kennedy had purchased the plane on April 28, 1999 from Air Bound Aviation.[77] Carolyn and Lauren were in the second row of seats, which faced the rear of the plane and were back to back with the pilot seat. Kennedy tested the engine of the plane and Carolyn unbuckled herself to shut off the Hyundai's antitheft alarm, triggered by the nose propeller after it sent out a cloud of grit and exhaust when Kennedy gunned the plane.[78]

Kennedy had checked in with the FAA tower at the Martha's Vineyard Airport in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts but when the plane failed to arrive, the three were reported missing. More than 15 hours later, a search to locate them commenced. On July 17, 1999, the day after Kennedy's disappearance, Anthony Stanislas Radziwill told the press that if Kennedy was still alive "he'll find a way to get out. He possesses the will to survive, enough will for all three of them."[79] Officials were not optimistic about finding survivors after debris from the aircraft were recovered in the Atlantic Ocean as well as a black suitcase that belonged to Lauren Bessette. "There is always hope," Coast Guard Lt. Gary Jones said on July 17. "But unfortunately, when you find certain pieces of evidence, you have to be prepared for anything."[80]

That same day, President Clinton spoke with Kennedy's sister Caroline and called his uncle Ted Kennedy. Clinton also spoke with Andrew Cuomo, who at the time was married to Caroline and John Jr.'s cousin Kerry Kennedy. "He wanted to let them know he was thinking about them, that we'll do everything we can, and that our prayers are with them," Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart said.[80]

On July 18, a Coast Guard admiral declared an end of hope that Kennedy, his wife and her sister could be found alive. President Clinton said that afternoon that the Kennedy family had "suffered much, and given more." He also called for the Kennedy and Bessette families to feel "the strength of God, the love of their friends and the prayers of their fellow citizens." The Coast Guard regional commander had conceded that the average crash victim afloat in waters like these clings to life less than a third of the 40 hours that had passed. State police divers were told later that night they would begin searching for bodies and wreckage at "first light." "It gives the family a sense of closure when you recover someone," William Freeman of the Massachusetts Underwater Recovery Unit said in an interview. "That's the only gratifying thing about it. Otherwise, you have to be a very different person to do the job. That's not to say it doesn't bother you."[81]

On July 19, the fragments of Kennedy's plane were found by the NOAA vessel Rude using side-scan sonar. The next day, navy divers were allowed to descend into the fifty-two degree water. The divers found part of the shattered plane strewn over a broad area of seabed 120 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.[82]

The search ended in the late afternoon hours of July 21, when the three bodies were recovered from the ocean floor by Navy divers. The bodies were taken by motorcade to the county medical examiner's office.[83] The discovery was made after the research vessel, named Rude, painted a three-dimensional map of the ocean bottom, which resulted in high-resolution images.[84] Divers found Carolyn and Lauren's bodies near the twisted and broken fuselage while Kennedy's body was still strapped in the pilot's seat.[79] Admiral Richard M. Larrabee of the Coast Guard said that all three bodies were "near and under" the fuselage, still strapped in.[85]

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the plane had crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Martha's Vineyard, the probable cause being pilot error: "Kennedy's failure to maintain control of the airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation."[86] Kennedy was not qualified to fly a plane by "instruments only." The crash occurred in conditions not legally requiring such qualification. Other pilots flying similar routes reported no visual horizon due to haze.[87]

In the evening of July 21, autopsies at the county medical examiner's office revealed that the crash victims had died upon impact. At the same time, the Kennedy and Bessette families announced their plans for memorial services.[83] In the late hours of July 21, the three bodies were taken from Hyannis to Duxbury, where they were cremated in the Mayflower Cemetery crematorium.[88]

On the morning of July 22, their ashes were scattered from the Navy destroyer USS Briscoe off the coast of Martha's Vineyard.[89] A group of about 15 relatives carried the "cremated remains" of Kennedy, his wife and her sister Lauren onto the USS Briscoe. The Briscoe spent about half an hour off the Vineyard's southwest coast. It was two or three miles away from the crash site.[90] Kennedy's last will and testament, signed on December 19, 1997, stipulated that his personal belongings, property and holdings were to be "evenly distributed" between his sister Caroline Kennedy's three children. They were among fourteen beneficiaries in the will.[79]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ O'Brien, Michael (2006). John F. Kennedy: A Biography. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 500. 
  2. ^ Kennedy Year in Review CNN.
  3. ^ Leigh, pp. 89-92.
  4. ^ Lucas, Dean (2007-07-22). "Famous Pictures Magazine – JFK Jr salutes JFK". Famous Pictures Magazine. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  5. ^ Flegenheimer, Matt (March 5, 2012). "Stan Stearns, 76; Captured a Famous Salute". The New York Times. p. B10. 
  6. ^ Leamer, p. 1.
  7. ^ a b Heymann, pp. 145-146.
  8. ^ Seely, Katherine (July 19, 1999). "John F. Kennedy Jr., Heir to a Formidable Dynasty". The New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2009. 
  9. ^ As We Remember Her: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the Words of Her Family, by Carl Sferrazza Anthony
  10. ^ Caroline Kennedy A&E biography
  11. ^ Davis, p. 690.
  12. ^ Leigh, p.176.
  13. ^ Leigh, p.182.
  14. ^ Leigh, p. 137.
  15. ^ Landau, p. 77.
  16. ^ Leigh, p. 235.
  17. ^ Leigh, p. 251.
  18. ^ Leigh, pp. 236-237.
  19. ^ Landau, p. 78.
  20. ^ Landau, p. 79.
  21. ^ Landau, p. 82.
  22. ^ Robert T. Littell, The Men We Became: My Friendship With John F. Kennedy, Jr. (St. Martin's Press 2004), passim.
  23. ^ Leigh, p. 259.
  24. ^ Leigh, p. 265.
  25. ^ A&E Biography
  26. ^ Bly, p. 279.
  27. ^ Bly, p. 292.
  28. ^ Heymann, p. 278.
  29. ^ Heymann, p. 308.
  30. ^ Bly, p. 297.
  31. ^ Heymann, p. 306.
  32. ^ Heymann, Clemens David (2007). American Legacy: The Story of John & Caroline Kennedy. Simon and Schuster. p. 323. ISBN 0-7434-9738-4. 
  33. ^ Blow, Richard; Bradley, Richard (2002). American Son: A Portrait of John F. Kennedy, Jr. Macmillan. p. 17. ISBN 0-312-98899-0. 
  34. ^ Spoto, Donald (2000). Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life. Macmillan. p. 330. ISBN 0-312-97707-7. 
  35. ^ A&E Biography
  36. ^ a b Klein, pp. 213-214.
  37. ^ A&E Biography
  38. ^ a b Landau, p. 117.
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Works cited[edit]

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