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Jacqueline Kennedy audio interviews: previously unreleased conversations reveal private thoughts of JFK

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The life, and death, of former president John F. Kennedy is one of the most intriguing and talked about subjects in United States history.  In a collection of never before heard audio interviews with Jacqueline Kennedy, scheduled for release tomorrow, the former first lady reveals a substantial amount of detail regarding private life with the former president including some of his most personal thoughts and feelings.

The book, “Jacqueline Kennedy: Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy,” comes with eight CDs worth of interviews Mrs. Kennedy gave to historian and former Kennedy aide Arthur Schlesinger back in 1964, just months after the assassination of her husband.  The Kennedy Library has kept the private conversations, with topics ranging from the Bay of Pigs to Vietnam to Dr. Martin Luther King, under seal until now, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s first year in office.

According to the interviews, one topic of conversation that came up quite often between Kennedy and his wife?  How much he hated the possibility of then vice-president Lyndon Johnson one day succeeding him in the Oval Office.

“Bobby (Kennedy) told me this later, and I know Jack said it to me.  He said, ‘Oh, God can you ever imagine what would happen if Lyndon was president?’”

Kennedy chose Johnson, a former political rival, as his running mate during the 1960 election.  Of course Johnson would eventually take over as president when Kennedy was murdered in 1963 and was elected to a full term in 1964.  According to the former first lady, it was something her husband and his brother were often anxious about.

“He didn’t like the idea that Lyndon would go on and be president because he was worried for the country,” the former first lady recalls.  “Bobby told me that he’d had some discussions with him.  I forget exactly how they were planning or whom they had in mind.  It wasn’t Bobby, but somebody.  Do something to name someone else in ’68.”

Johnson wouldn’t be re-elected that year anyways, mostly because of an unsuccessful war effort in Vietnam during his first presidential term, a struggle that Kennedy reveals her husband was often skeptical about.

Other bits of information that Kennedy divulges about her husband’s personal life include him crying after the failed CIA-backed invasion of Cuba in 1961:

“He came back to the White House to his bedroom and he started to cry, just with me . . . Just put his head in his hands and sort of wept.  He cared so much,”

As well as her personal thoughts on Dr. Martin Luther King and his apparent attempt to arrange a “party” while in the nation’s capital for the Freedom March:

“The President told me of a tape that the FBI had of Martin Luther King when he was here for the Freedom March.  And he said this with no bitterness or anything, how he was calling up all these girls and arranging for a party of men and women . . . I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible.”

As to the accuracy of those claims regarding Dr. King, the tapes were gathered by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, a person Kennedy reveals her husband did not trust and was planning to oust during his next term.

The audio interviews are not all gossip and dirt on major political figures during the 1960s however.  Other memories Kennedy shares include how her husband would take a 45-minute nap every day at noon for which he would change into his pajamas, as well as how the former president would kneel down beside his bed each night to say his prayers.

Of the time spend in the White House with her husband, she refers to it as,  “our happiest years.”

Needless to say, the previously hidden thoughts and feelings of Jackie Kennedy, given during one of the toughest struggles of her life, regarding the secrets behind one of the most popular and captivating presidents in history, will only serve to further the intrigue surrounding JFK and his legacy.

“Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words,” a two-hour special regarding the release of the interviews, hosted by Diane Sawyer, will air in prime time tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC.  The book and audio CDs will be available tomorrow for purchase at all major book retailers.

photos courtesy of mark shaw and cecil stoughon via wikimedia commons

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