Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis life and biography

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis picture, image, poster

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis biography

Date of birth : 1929-07-28
Date of death : 1994-05-19
Birthplace : Southampton, New York, USA
Nationality : American
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2010-08-03
Credited as : First Lady of United States, wife of President John F. Kennedy, book editor

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Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, known to millions simply as "Jackie" born July 28, 1929 in Southampton, New York, United States - died May 19, 1994 in New York, New York, United States was the First Lady and widow of the thirty-fifth president of the United States, Onassis led America and the world through the dark days of mourning after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy.

Born Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, Onassis was named for her father, John Vernou "Black Jack" Bouvier III, and for her mother's family surname. Her mother, Janet Norton Lee, was of a prominent family in Hamptons society, the daughter of a bank chairman. Onassis's father, from a family of financiers, was himself a stockbroker. Onassis was the elder of the couple's two daughters. When her parents separated in 1936 Onassis was seven years old; the marriage dissolved in a bitter divorce in 1940. Her mother married Hugh D. Auchincloss in 1942. Onassis, upset by the antics of her parents, turned for comfort to her sister and to their assorted pets. She studied ballet and attended posh schools. While working in Washington, D.C., as a reporter after graduating from George Washington University in 1951, she met her future husband, John F. Kennedy, then a U.S. congressman.

Jack and Jackie Kennedy were married on 12 September 1953 in Newport, Rhode Island. They rented a home in Georgetown. After the stillbirth of their first child in 1956, a daughter, Caroline, was born in 1957. Kennedy was elected to the U.S. presidency in 1960. Their son, John F. Kennedy, Jr., was born just weeks before the inauguration, and the new first family created a stir—a handsome, young war-hero president, a beautiful socialite first lady, and their two small children. As the wife of the president, the charming Onassis captivated the world's leaders.

Soon after settling into the White House, Onassis began planning to restore the building as a monument for the American people. She formed the White House Historical Association and secured a $50,000 contribution from Life magazine to fund a major restoration project of the mansion. Congress responded positively to her request to declare White House furnishings government property. She hired contractors, revived the structure and its interior, and scoured the basement of the residence for discarded antiques of historical significance. "Everything in the White House … must have a reason for being there," she said. In 1962 she arranged for a televised tour of the newly re-decorated residence.

Onassis instituted many more informal evenings at the White House than her predecessors had hosted. Washington society eagerly sought invitations to these events, which often featured entertainment by a famous musician or other artist. Onassis lent her support to the arts throughout her years as first lady.

In August 1963 Onassis gave birth to another son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy. He was the first child born to a sitting president in more than six decades, but he was born prematurely and died two days later. Onassis went into seclusion. She ventured forth publicly for the first time three months later to accompany her husband on a trip to Dallas, Texas, where on 22 November 1963, against the wishes of the U.S. Secret Service, the president and first lady traveled in a motorcade in an open convertible. When the motorcade entered Dallas's Dealey Plaza, three rifle shots sounded within seconds of each other. The first shot missed the motorcade altogether, a second bullet pierced the back of Kennedy's neck, and a third and fatal bullet shattered the back of his skull. The motorcade rushed to Parkland Hospital, where President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00 P.M. Onassis refused to change from her blood-stained suit as she returned to Washington, D.C., with her husband's body. Upon her return Onassis gave instructions to the White House chief of protocol to "find out how [Abraham] Lincoln was buried." At the funeral the thirty-four-year-old widow wore a heavy mourning veil as she walked behind the flag-draped casket, borne on a horse-drawn caisson and accompanied by a riderless horse. During the burial ceremony she lit an eternal flame at her husband's gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. She spent her time in the days and weeks after the funeral distributing mementos of the slain president to those who knew him. When she moved from the White House she left a plaque that reads, "In this room lived John Fitzgerald Kennedy with his wife Jacqueline—during the two years, ten months and two days he was President of the United States—January 20, 1961–November 22, 1963." The new president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, wrote to her after the funeral, "Jackie, you have been magnificent and have won a warm place in the heart of history."

Onassis remained in Washington and eventually purchased a home on N Street. In 1964, unable to shake her grief, she bought a cooperative apartment on Fifth Avenue in New York City overlooking Central Park, near the residences of her sister and her stepbrother as well as several of her in-laws. That year she assembled an exhibit of presidential effects, which she sent on tour to raise funds for a presidential library for her late husband. She made an appearance at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City and lent her support to the senatorial campaign of her brother-in-law, Robert Kennedy, that year. She worked on a project to restore historic colonial mansions of the Old South and another to preserve the Metropolitan Opera building in New York City. She traveled extensively—to London in 1965, to Switzerland and Rome in 1966, and to Mexico in 1967. She visited eastern Asia and South America, and suffered through the publication of numerous books about the untimely death of her husband as well as books about her and their children. Her every move was scrutinized in the press; she was hounded by the media and was known to withdraw emotionally.

In widowhood Onassis was pursued aggressively by Aristotle Onassis, an aging Greek shipping tycoon. By the end of 1968 the two were married, and the former first lady had moved with her new husband and children to the Ionian island of Skorpios. Her decision was clearly spurred by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in April of that year, followed by the assassination of Robert Kennedy in June. The latter incident led her to comment openly that she no longer cared to live in the United States. After the death of her second husband in 1975 she returned to New York City, where she worked for Doubleday Publishers.

Onassis died of cancer on 19 May 1994 in New York City. She is buried beside President Kennedy at Arlington.

C. David Heymann explores the life of Onassis in depth in A Woman Named Jackie: An Intimate Biography of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (1989). Remembering Jackie: A Life in Pictures (1994), by the editors of Life, is a compilation of intimate pictures, text, and quotes from the woman who appeared on eighteen Life covers. An obituary is in the New York Times (20 May 1994).

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