The Columns

An Alum's Letter to Jackie

— by on April 8th, 2010

Within seven weeks of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Nov, 22, 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy received more than 800,000 letters of condolence.

One of those letters, dated Nov. 25, 1963, came from a Washington and Lee student—James S. Legg Jr. of the Class of 1965. And now Jim’s letter is one of about 250 that historian Ellen Fitzpatrick chose to include in her new book, Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation.

According to the publisher, the letters capture “the extraordinary eloquence of so-called ordinary Americans across generations, regions, race, political leanings, and religion—in messages written on elegant stationery, scraps of paper, in pencil, type, ink smudged by tears, and in barely legible handwriting—the letters capture what John F. Kennedy meant to the country, and how his death for some divided American history into Before and After.”

Jim said that he wrote the missive after being emotionally moved upon seeing the Kennedy family grieving in Washington. His letter offers heartfelt condolences in the first paragraph. He continues by describing how George Washington and Robert E. Lee influenced both his life and our nation and how he considered John F. Kennedy to be among those great men.