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JFK Museum releases condolence mail 50 years later

Museum Reveals Thousands Of Letters Consoling Jackie Kennedy

BOSTON (AP) - A series of condolence messages sent after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated 50 years ago was released Tuesday from the personal papers of his widow, including a letter from the mother of one of four girls killed in the bombing of a Baptist church in Alabama during the civil rights movement.

The mail released by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston comes from the personal papers of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The series contains approximately 22,000 letters, telegrams and cards from people around the world.

One of the letters was sent by Maxine McNair, the mother of Denise McNair, who was 11 when she was killed in the September 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. The bombing occurred as Birmingham's schools were being racially integrated for the first time and came to symbolize the depth of racial hatred in the South. The event was later seen as helping to spur the passage of civil rights laws.

In her letter, Maxine McNair likens her shock when she heard about the president's assassination with the shock she felt when her daughter was killed.

"When the tragic news came across the air waves, again my heart said, 'It isn't true, It didn't happen,'" Maxine McNair wrote to Mrs. Kennedy in the letter, sent five months after her daughter was killed.

She tells Mrs. Kennedy that she and her husband are praying for her and her children.

"Isn't it strange how people with so much to give to the world are taken? That's God's will however, and not for us to questions," she wrote.

Unlike the condolence mail in the library's John F. Kennedy papers, the newly released documents were managed by Mrs. Kennedy's personal secretaries because they required special handling or included requests for charity, Mass cards, photographs or other wishes.

Each piece includes an outgoing response from Mrs. Kennedy's office.

The collection also includes a photograph of a young boy named Kennedy in Nigeria holding a picture of the president and a letter form a French teacher describing memorial tributes made by her students.

A 10-year-old girl from Louisiana wrote Mrs. Kennedy and invited her to visit.

"I think your (sic) the nicest lady in the whole world," she wrote. "I mean it, too."

The collection is only accessible by visiting the library, and is not available online.

The personal papers of Mrs. Kennedy were donated to the library by Caroline Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr.

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David January 14 2014 at 6:53 PM

Just as vivid to me as it was 50 years ago. No one should have to endure what these people did. God bless them all.

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Jaylynn January 15 2014 at 9:29 AM

Although I was only 6 years old, I remember that day as well. Being sent home from school abruptly from first grade, not fully comprehending yet exactly what had happened; only knowing it was something highly out of the ordinary. I now recollect it as experiencing the first big bump in the road as life unfolded. A turning point in the life of a nation and people. I remember the scene when I arrived home, TV on, adults gathered around in the middle of the day. I observed their sadness and coming to terms with the disbelief. There was fear over what exactly would happen next. It was the first time I saw my parents as anything but all-knowing and invincible. I began to realize humanity can be frail and imperfect, and then in the after-math see the strength and will to go on reassert itself.

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1 reply
earlarust Jaylynn January 15 2014 at 11:18 AM

"Today" is what happened when Kennedy was assassinated & LBJ took Office. !!

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ruzzoph January 14 2014 at 9:17 PM

I'm amazed at how jaded people have become about a presidential assasination, media blitz or not. John F. Kennedy was our president, and he was shot and killed in a brutal public spectacle with children and families present. His family didn't only have to grieve for themselves, they had to grieve with the whole world watching, and, though I may not be in a majority by any means, I think that they've had more than their fair share of public grief.

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eccoidav January 14 2014 at 9:23 PM

The same condolences to Ethel Kennedy and Yoko Ono

Flag Reply +6 rate up
baxmedcomm January 14 2014 at 10:15 PM

Don't understand comment from luvthemducks at all. Were you out of it when you wrote this? Makes no sense.

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2 replies
atcdp baxmedcomm January 14 2014 at 10:51 PM

luvthemducks is a strange, strange person.

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gp1959 baxmedcomm January 14 2014 at 11:23 PM

He must be from Colorado!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
mphseason January 15 2014 at 8:44 AM

Please, please, please, release all the 22,000 in a book, have the profit go to any of the Kennedy charities. What a beautiful book that I would be proud to own.

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Janie January 14 2014 at 11:03 PM

Precious items for the history collection of the United States

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myrthasam January 15 2014 at 8:33 AM

I was a little girl when this happened, and still remember exactly the scenes in my house, what the adults were saying... and still feel deeply moved by the stories like the one of the boy in Nigeria.

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mrspiceman74 January 14 2014 at 11:44 PM

It would have been nice if the letters were released to the public years ago. It would have helped those most affected with the tragedy to heal.

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susal1522 January 15 2014 at 12:22 AM

thanks so much for sharing these with me. Jackie was myidol and one of rhe most gorgeous and fabulous women i have ever known

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1 reply
henrinvent susal1522 January 15 2014 at 2:07 AM

Just think what we have living in OUR White House now! We are slowly downgrading to a banana republic.

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3 replies
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