Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Election of 1960: MLK and The Kennedys

image of Martin Luther King meeting John F KennedyObviously, the main event of the 1960 Presidential election was the first televised debate between two presidential candidates. No doubt, that is a milestone achievement and deserves further examination. However, this entry of the 1960 Election will focus on Martin Luther King and his role in the election.

King who always stays neutral, "in order to maintain a nonpartisan posture" and to be to be able to look objectively at both parties at all times", is a man of conviction and stuck to his word despite both John and Robert Kennedy working feverishly to help release King from jail, who was ultimately arrested for driving with a suspended license.

The Kennedy's made phone call after phone call demanding that Martin Luther King not stand trial. They even phoned Dr. King's wife, Coretta Scott King, to comfort her and let her know that they were handling the situation. A classy move. A political move, but still a respected one. And except for the whole moonshine thing (it's how the Kennedy's got their fortune), and the rumors of adultery (Mattress Jack) and the whole Chappaquiddick thing, the Kennedy's are a class act.

So, was it the Kennedy's idea to make the phone call? Were they really that concerned and that proactive? The story continues...

For some reason Nixon's press secretary didn't want Nixon to get involved and blocked any calls about the situation. Had Nixon and his advisors handled this situation differently the election may have gone his way.

Coretta Scott King, six months pregnant and very scared that her husband would be killed in a southern Atlanta jail, called Harris Wofford, an advisor to Kennedy. She called him because she had heard that he had previously tried to release King from jail.

Wofford then proceeded to call Sargent Shriver, Kennedy's brother-in-law (he married Eunice, for those that know the Kennedy family), to ask him to get Kennedy to call Mrs. King. (Side note: Sargent Shriver is Maria Shriver's father, which makes him Arnold Schwarzenegger's father-in-law.)

Kennedy, who had been waiting for Georgia's Democratic governor Ernest Vandiver to handle the matter, promptly called Mrs. King.

Mrs. King, very pleased with the call, told Martin Luther King, Sr. (MLKs father). MLK Sr. then announced that Kennedy's "concern" was enough to make him leave the Republican party and vote for Kennedy.

This move helped shift the African American vote decisively in Kennedy's favor and just may have won him the election.

MLK Jr. remained bi-partisan, but his father's pull was enough to swing the African-American vote in the Kennedy's favor.

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1 comment:

MaryAnne Sebastian-Jeffery said...

Amazing article; well written, informative, entertaining and in places even humorous. As a Brit studying the 1960 elections effect on race relations this blog piece has been invaluable. A through well done is deserved!

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