Saturday, May 19, 2018

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, 1929-1994

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died in on this day twenty-four years ago, effectively putting a final bookend on the Camelot era. He was sixty-four years old.  Her fashion style and grace were an integral part of the Kennedy years, but her work in restoring and upgrading the artistic grandeur of the White House was her more enduring legacy.

During her years as first lady, 1961 to 1963, she established the office of White House curator, formed a Fine Arts Committee of art connoisseurs and historians to track down original White House art and furnishings, launched the White House Historical Association, and created a White House guidebook. 

She was especially noted for her CBS-televised tour of the White House on Valentine’s Day 1962 in which he explained many of the changes that she had undertaken.  For her role in this documentary, which was the first on television for a woman, she was awarded an Emmy.

In her post-presidential years, she remarried, was chased by paparazzi and reluctantly the focus of the media.  But she also was a successful editor at Viking Press and then Doubleday, bringing books from a diverse group of writers to publication, and also helped to save Grand Central Station in New York City from the wrecking ball.

While other first ladies had different focuses during their White House years—some of which were especially noteworthy—Jackie Kennedy retains a special place in twentieth-century American presidential history.

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