Re: [allthingshistory] Reach Out and Touch Someone
- Legends live on about JFK's ability to win the 1960 Election. What
must be remembered is that very few southern Blacks could actually
vote thanks to convoluted eligibility rules, dating from the end of
the Civil War in numerous states, so the vote in states mentioned was
What people seem to forget today was Kennedy's religion. To date, he
has been the lone "practicing" Roman Catholic U.S. President (eg. seen
going to Mass, etc.). During that election, questions of his "loyalty"
were raised and of possible Papal interference in his decisions.
Kennedy's overall Congressional and Senate record, along with his and
his brother Joseph Jr.'s WWII Naval Service, dispelled any notion of
disloyalty. Like Blacks, by the 1950s many American Catholics had also
supported Dwight Eisenhower, but, in the end, Kennedy's religious
affiliation likely proved to be an asset. In fact, at that time, the
Catholic vote may have been more important than the Black vote.
Just to clarify: while many American Catholics supported Eisenhower in
the 1950s, loyalty to local Democratic machines in large cities such
as Chicago, Philadelphia and New York remained (also a factor in JFK's
election). JFK was certainly seen attending Mass (such as the famous
Sunday morning of the Cuban Missile Crisis) despite the speculation
that has swirled about him since his death. Ronald Reagan was
baptized Catholic but never practiced, leaving the Church entirely
after his marriage to Nancy Davis.
On Nov 15, 2007 1:24 PM, Kim Noyes <kimnoyes@...> wrote:
> Reach Out and Touch Someone
> Forty-three years on the planet and the only black man John F. Kennedy had
> ever spent any time with was his valet. Yet the two-minute phone call he
> made this week (Oct. 20) in 1960 to Coretta King, the wife of America's most
> important black leader, Martin Luther King, probably made Kennedy, and not
> Richard Nixon, president.
> It all started when, in the middle of the 1960 presidential campaign, King
> was put in a hard-time Georgia prison on a trumped up charge related to an
> old traffic violation. Worried about King's safety, members of his entourage
> implored both the Kennedy and Nixon presidential campaigns to intervene with
> Georgia political leaders on King's behalf.
> For both candidates, such intervention posed a political risk, not only
> because it could cost them the South, which was still segregated and
> significantly racist, but also because - and this is not usually
> remembered - in those days blacks traditionally voted Republican. Thus
> camp declined to help, seeing little to gain (the black vote was already
> theirs) but plenty to lose by aiding the controversial civil rights leader.
> Ditto Kennedy's camp. Why jeopardize Southern votes to help a member of an
> ethnic group that habitually supported the other party?
> Fortunately for Kennedy, a young aide named Harris Wofford had the idea that
> if there was nothing specific the Democratic candidate could do for King,
> perhaps it wouldn't hurt to at least call Mrs. King to offer his sympathy
> and moral support. When the idea of phoning Mrs. King was proposed to
> Kennedy by his brother-in-law, Sergeant Shriver, Kennedy replied "What the
> hell. It's the decent thing to do." Kennedy made the call, talked for about
> two minutes, and forgot about it soon after.
> But King's family and friends did not forget. King's father, "Daddy King,"
> who was one of the most powerful leaders in the black church community,
> promptly announced that he was switching his vote from Nixon to JFK, and
> other black leaders, especially black church leaders, followed suit. In
> addition, sensing a unique opportunity in this black church support,
> campaign secretly distributed through a nationwide network of black churches
> a pamphlet that quoted black leaders praising Kennedy's courage in phoning
> Coretta King. The goal was to influence the black vote - especially in the
> North - without alerting, and thereby jeopardizing, the mainstream white
> vote - especially in the South.
> Did it work? In 1956 Eisenhower and Nixon got 60 percent of the black vote.
> In 1960 Kennedy, without losing significant Southern support, got 70 percent
> of the black vote, a switch that more than accounted for his victory margins
> in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Jersey. Those states totaled 95
> electoral votes. Kennedy beat Nixon by 84 electoral votes.
> (c) Kauffmann 2007
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