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Jacqueline Kennedy Makes Televised Statement of Gratitude

Jan. 14, 1964 - Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy voiced thanks today to the 800,000 persons from all over the world who have sent her and her two children messages of sympathy and grief. It was her first public statement in the 53 days since the assassination of her husband. She delivered it before television cameras in the office of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who has been Mrs. Kennedy’s constant comfort since the day of his older brother’s death. The Attorney General’s younger brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, sat with him on a bright red sofa facing the former First Lady. She perched on the edge of a deep leather chair.

At several points in her talk, Mrs. Kennedy faltered slightly and forced back tears. Her voice was barely audible throughout to those standing a dozen feet away. She was dressed in a collarless black wool suit. Her gold wedding band was her only jewelry. “The knowledge of the affection in which my husband was held by all of you has sustained me, and the warmth of these tributes is something I shall never forget,” she said. “Whenever I can bear to, I read them.” “All his bright light — gone from the world,” she said, speaking more slowly. “All of you who have written to me know how much we all loved him…” Mrs. Kennedy hesitated, her eyes brimming, “…and that he returned that love in full measure.” All three television networks picked up the statement live.

After the broadcast, Mrs. Kennedy made public a sampling of the hundreds of thousands of letters she had received from every section of the country and from many foreign cities. “I know this letter will probably never reach your hands” was a typical opening phrase. A secretary at the University of Alabama whose husband is a graduate student there told how she heard the first news of the assassination: “The Negro maid and I were in the kitchen of the building where I work when we heard the heart-shattering news of the shooting of your husband. We clung together, praying that he would live. Lolina, with tears running down her face, cried, ‘He’s the only one who has really tried to help us. Oh, please don’t let him die.”


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