Previously classified notes and doodles by President Kennedy may not offer up any major revelations, but the documents promise to add an intriguing footnote to the assassinated president’s archives.
For example, on Sept. 25, 1963, as President Kennedy hopscotched across the West aboard Air Force One before landing in Jackson, Wyo., he took a fresh piece of stationery and scribbled a note just below the presidential seal.
It read, “Report action in Texas” or “Request action in Texas.” Below that, he wrote the name of John Connally, the Texas governor. Fierce infighting among Texas Democrats would spur the president to visit that state two months later. He was killed in Dallas on Nov. 22; Connally, in the limousine with him, was wounded.
The note is one of dozens of pages of doodles and writings that becomes available for public viewing at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum on Tuesday, the day after the 41st anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.
It’s not clear what Kennedy referred to in the Air Force One note. Still, Maura Porter, head of the library’s “Declassification Unit,” recalled how startled she was to discover it among Kennedy documents still awaiting review.
“That was one of the first that I saw, and it was just striking,” she said. “I gave a little gasp. You had John Connally and Texas on the same doodle, and then he was assassinated a few months later.”
Some of the 135 pages that will be added Tuesday to an existing archive of JFK doodles are grim reflections of the day’s top policy issues, while others are whimsical drawings or indecipherable scrawls with no hint to their meaning.
Whimsical, inscrutable notes
Though there are no blockbuster revelations to be found in the documents, Porter said, they show a bit of Kennedy that won’t be seen in the polished presidential documents or official archives of the Kennedy White House.
“I don’t think there’s any smoking gun here,” she said. “I don’t think people are going to gain knowledge that they didn’t have before, but it just adds to this whole picture of him as a man, and as a president.”
Evelyn Lincoln, Kennedy’s secretary when he was senator and president, was a compulsive JFK chronicler. When he left a meeting, he would leave his papers behind and Lincoln would collect them, labeling them “KS” during his senate years and “KP” when he was president and numbering them sequentially.
There are whimsical, inscrutable notes, such as the sailboat doodles he sketched on a piece of yellow legal paper on March 12, 1963, a day when he had a legislative breakfast early in the morning, and few other official obligations.
“When you see the sailboats, you realize, ’Wow, he really did love sailing,”’ she said. “He wouldn’t doodle something like that unless it was something that was obviously on your mind when you were sitting in that meeting.”