John F. Kennedy, Jr.

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John F. Kennedy, Jr.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr., often referred to as John F. Kennedy, Jr., JFK Jr. or John-John (November 25, 1960July 16, 1999) was an American lawyer, journalist, publisher, and sex symbol. He was the son of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.


Early life

Born less than a month after his father was elected to the presidency, John F. Kennedy Jr. was in the public spotlight from infancy. He lived for the first three years of his life in the White House. His father was assassinated on November 22, 1963, three days before Kennedy Jr.'s third birthday, and the son's poignant salute of his father's casket during the funeral procession on his third birthday became a heartbreaking and iconic image of the 1960s. It also symbolized what the new president, Lyndon Johnson, who would receive the same gesture from his grandson during his state funeral ten years later, told him in his first letter as president of the United States: "You can always be proud of him."

Kennedy Jr. grew up primarily on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City. His mother Jacqueline Kennedy was married to Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis from 1968 until Onassis's death in 1975, when Kennedy Jr. was 14 years old. By most accounts, Aristotle Onassis did not play a particularly significant role in young John's life.


John F. Kennedy Jr. was educated at Phillips Academy (Andover) and went on to Brown University. He graduated in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in history. At Brown, Kennedy was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity (though the chapter at the time was officially inactive). In 1989, he earned a law degree from New York University Law School.

He spoke at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. He was an assistant district attorney for New York, New York from 1989 to 1993. In 1995, he founded George, a glossy politics-as-lifestyle monthly which ceased publication in 2001. Through the 1980s until his death in July 1999, Kennedy was a much-photographed and often-seen personality in Manhattan.

He married Carolyn Bessette in 1996.


On July 16, 1999, Kennedy was killed, along with his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and his sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette, when the aircraft he was piloting, a Piper Saratoga, crashed in the sea en route from Essex County Airport in Fairfield, New Jersey, to Martha's Vineyard, where his family has a vacation house. The next day they were to attend the wedding of his first cousin Rory Kennedy, which was subsequently delayed.

Kennedy was a relatively low-time pilot, with 310 hours of flight experience, including 55 hours of night flying experience and 36 hours on the high-performance Piper Saratoga, and completing about half of an instrument training course. The National Transportation Safety Board investigation found no evidence of mechanical malfunction in airframe, systems, avionics, or engine, and determined that the probable cause was "the pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation. Factors in the accident were haze, and the dark night." The report noted that spatial disorientation as a result of continued VFR flight into adverse weather conditions is a regular cause of fatal aircraft accidents. His plane crashed within view of his mother's childhood home.

During the memorial service on July 23, John-John's uncle, Massachusetts Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy, said that "we dared to think...that this John Kennedy would live to comb gray hair, with his beloved Carolyn by his side. But like his father, he had every gift but length of years." [1] ( He also compared his nephew's marriage to that of his brother's presidency--thousand days. He began his tribute by thanking President Bill Clinton, his wife, Hillary and daughter Chelsea for their presence and the kindness they showed throughout the week. Clinton had ordered the flag at the White House at half-staff in honor of JFK Jr. before traveling to the service.

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