Condolence Telegrams for Jackie, from MLK, Duke Ellington, Douglas MacArthur, and More

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Nov. 21 2013 4:50 PM

Condolence Telegrams for Jackie, from MLK, Duke Ellington, Douglas MacArthur, and More

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These telegrams from notables are but a few of the 800,000 condolence letters that Jackie Kennedy received after the assassination of her husband.

Martin Luther King wrote from Atlanta. Duke Ellington was in Turkey, where he was touring as a cultural ambassador with the State Department; the musician reportedly stayed up that night composing songs in JFK’s memory. Retired general Douglas MacArthur, who was to die the next year, wired from New York, claiming JFK as a “former comrade in arms.”

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Perhaps the starkest of these messages are the two telegrams from fellow widows Myrlie Evers and Marie Tippet. Evers’ husband Medgar, a NAACP organizer, was killed by a member of the KKK in June of 1963. Marie Tippet’s husband J.D., a Dallas patrolman, stopped Lee Harvey Oswald on his flight through the city on November 22. Oswald shot him four times.

Although Jackie didn’t write back personally to many of the letters she received, she responded to Tippet. Tippet told NBC that Jackie wrote: “What can I say to you? My husband’s death was responsible for you losing your husband. Wasn’t one life enough to take on that day?”

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