"I know words can be of little comfort now, for I lost my husband on June 12 in the same way. The entire world shares your great loss and sorrow." (Myrlie Evers)
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on a Friday. By Monday, his widow Jacqueline had received 45,000 condolence letters. Within two months, 800,000 letters arrived at
Within two years, over one and a half million condolence letters had
poured into the White House.
John F. Kennedy's funeral procession on November 25, 1963. The Lincoln Memorial is in the background, the Jefferson Memorial in the foreground courtesy dailymail.co.uk.
While most of the letters to Jackie were handwritten, some were typewritten and others were cabled. Some were written by Christians, others by Jews, still others by secularists. All were united in their grief. Americans poured their hearts out to the former First Lady. Their sincerity was only equaled by their eloquence.
Some of the most famous cables were sent by:
- Duke Ellington, jazz band leader
- Myrlie Evers, widow of murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Leader
Krushchev, Premier of
- Cary Grant, Hollywood actor
- Indira Ghandi, Prime Minister of India
Tippit, widow of J.D. Tippit,
Dallaspolice officer murdered by Oswald
- Ezra Pound, poet
- General Douglas MacArthur, American general in WWII & Korea
At first Jackie read each of the letters, but soon their volume overwhelmed her. People like Maureen Shea were hired to type responses to the condolence letters, all of which were signed by Jacqueline Kennedy. The letters have been preserved -- some 15,000 are stored in the Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts -- an outpouring of love to a young widow and her children.
Television message of thanks by Jacqueline Kennedy 50 days after her husband's assassination courtesy TLC.
Note: This post was inspired by TLC’s documentary “Letters to Jackie” which aired on
November 17, 2013. The program was based on a book called Letters
to Jackie: Letters from a Grieving
Nation (Ellen Fitzpatrick).