REMEMBERING MAYOR THOMAS MENINO: Complete Coverage

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50 Year Flashback: The Election Of JFK

By Jim Armstrong, WBZ-TV
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John F. Kennedy shakes hands with Richard Nixon after a debate in New York, October 21, 1960. (AP Photo)

John F. Kennedy shakes hands with Richard Nixon after a debate in New York, October 21, 1960. (AP Photo)

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DORCHESTER (CBS) – 50 years ago, on November 8, 1960, the nation elected its youngest president.

In some ways, not much has changed. Then, as now, it took a while to figure out just who had won the election. In fact, it wasn’t until November 9 that JFK knew for sure he’d bested then Vice President Richard Nixon.

Candidate Kennedy kept an eye on election returns thanks in part to news updates, delivered right to his hands from a teletype machine installed at the family’s Hyannisport compound, where the Kennedy clan awaited word.

Those victory messages went on display Monday at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Dorchester.

“It’s a huge day here for us at the museum,” said Museum Director Tom Putnam. “If he hadn’t been elected 50 years ago, we wouldn’t be standing here.”

During the last half century, of course, we’ve learned a lot more about JFK, and not all of it has been positive. The circumstances surrounding his election have been called into question, as has his personal life. Yet his incredible mystique remains.

“He was a very important, unique person in history,” said Maryellen Hundley, who was visiting the museum Monday with her husband. The Seattle couple calls themselves “Kennedy Kids”.

“I was one of the first Peace Corps volunteers, so I have a real connection here,” explained Bill Hundley. “I couldn’t miss it. If I’m in Boston, I’m coming here.”

He’s not alone. The JFK Museum remains one of the most popular presidential libraries, attracting some 200,000 visitors from around the world every year.

“He was such a charismatic figure and his speeches harken back to the ideals of our country,” explained Director Putnam. “I think they still speak to the challenges we face today.”

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