In 1961, on this day the President of the United States Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. was given the Last Rites at the St Mary's Hospital after suffering a major stroke on the golf course of the West Palm Beach Country Club that left him paralyzed and mute but mentally alert.
Profiles in Courage #2He had been due to fly to Bermuda for a meeting with British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. Instead Vice President Stuart Symington was sworn in on-board Air Force One.
Kennedy was elected on a wave of patriotism that was fanned by the tragic story of his personal sacrifices during the war. Both of his eldest sons had perished in the conflict; Joe died when a drone aircraft experiment went tragically wrong and younger brother Jack killed when his Military Torpedo Boat PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer.
Because he had served as Secretary of the Air Force, Kennedy considered Symington to be a complementary choice for the VP slot. Unfortunately, Symington had a rather narrow definition of patriotism and suffered from his own form of muteness. A divisive figure, he had lost votes in the South for refusing to address a segregated audience prior to the 1960 election. And now he would enter the White House at a critical moment when the issue of Civil Rights was just about to dominate the domestic agenda.
This article is based upon an article post by Robbie Taylor.