John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. was an American lawyer, magazine publisher, and journalist born on November 25, 1960. Also known as J.F.K. Jr., he was former U.S. president John F. Kennedy’s son and belonged to the ill-fated Kennedy dynasty. His parents’ global appeal and his father’s shocking assassination put Kennedy in the public spotlight from a young age. As an adult, he was known for his humble nature and philanthropic efforts. He died in a plane crash at the age of 38. Join us as we commemorate his life and efforts on his special day.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. was born on November 25, 1960, two weeks after his father was elected president. He was the second child of the 35th U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Kennedy had an older sister named Caroline and a younger brother, Patrick who died two days after his birth in 1963. He also had another older sister named Arabella who was stillborn. Kennedy Jr. lived in the White House till his father was assassinated when he was three years old. His mother eventually moved the family to an apartment in Manhattan, New York City, where he grew up. In 1968, John F. Kennedy’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy was also assassinated. Fearing their lives, Jackie took her children out of the United States and wed Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.
The Kennedys lived on the private island of Skorpios until returning to the U.S. to visit the White House in 1971. In Manhattan, Kennedy attended Saint David’s School, Collegiate School, and Phillips Academy. He graduated from Brown University in 1983 with a degree in American Studies. From 1984 to 1988, he worked a regular job at the Office of Business Development after which he became a summer associate at a Los Angeles law firm with connections to the Democratic Party. He also pursued his passion for acting, making his New York debut to an invitation-only audience in 1985. In 1989, Kennedy headed the nonprofit group Reaching Up, which facilitated workers who help disabled people.
In the same year, he received a J.D. degree from the New York University School of Law. He passed the bar exam on the third attempt in July 1990, having failed twice before. For the next four years, Kennedy worked in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. During the summer of 1992, he also worked as a journalist and wrote an article for “The New York Times” about his kayaking expedition. In 1995, along with Michael Berman, Kennedy officially launched a politics, lifestyle, and fashion magazine titled “George.” However, by early 1997, the two founders were locked in a power struggle resulting in Berman selling his shares. The magazine suffered a rapid drop in sales and was eventually bought out by Hachette — a French publisher.
Kennedy was also passionate about piloting and had been taking regular flying lessons. He received his pilot’s license in April 1998. Kennedy maintained good ties with his family. He occasionally lent his support to his uncle and cousin’s respective political campaigns. Kennedy dated several high-profile women during his life including Sally Munro and Brooke Shields while he was a student at Brown University, model Cindy Crawford and Julie Baker, and actresses Sarah Jessica Parker and Daryl Hannah. He married fashion publicist Carolyn Bessette on September 21, 1996. On July 16, 1999, Kennedy, his wife, and her older sister died in a plane crash in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha’s vineyard.
He was attempting to fly them from Fairfield, New Jersey to Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, to attend his cousin’s wedding. A year after his death, Reaching Up and The City University of New York established the John F. Kennedy Jr. Institute. In 2003, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government honored him by renaming the ARCO Forum ‘the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum of Public Affairs.’
He becomes a summer associate at the Los Angeles law firm Manatt, Phelps, Rothenberg & Phillips.
He becomes the head of Reaching Up, a nonprofit group providing opportunities to workers who help people with disabilities.
Kennedy passes the bar exam and begins work in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
He wins his first case as a prosecutor at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Kennedy and Michael Berman launch a politics-as-lifestyle and fashion magazine titled “George.”
Kennedy receives his pilot’s license in April.
Why We Love John F. Kennedy Jr.
He was an active philanthropist
Since college, Kennedy actively participated in humanitarian activities. Some of his efforts included building houses and distributing food in earthquake disaster zones in Guatemala, and co-founding a student discussion group focused on present-day issues such as apartheid, civil rights, and gun control.
He was brave and resourceful
Kennedy jumped to the rescue on more than one occasion. While on a trip to Africa with his mother, he rescued a group that was lost for two days on a pioneering course. In another instance, he saved one of his friends from drowning when his kayak capsized on an expedition to the Aland archipelago.
He had a humble personality
Despite belonging to a famous political family and being in the media spotlight since birth, Kennedy preferred to live humbly and spend his life serving noble causes. While volunteering abroad he would live like the locals and during college, he lived off-campus in a shared house.
5 Surprising Facts
His nickname came from a reporter
Kennedy’s nickname “John-John” originated from a reporter who misheard his father calling him “John” twice in succession.
He joked about Trump becoming president
Kennedy once predicted that Donald Trump would become president when asked about his presidential ambitions.
He rescued a pioneering group in Africa
During a trip to Africa with his mother, he rescued a group that had become stranded for two days without food or water.
He was a wrangler for one summer
Kennedy spent the summer of 1978 in Wyoming working as a wrangler.
His mother predicted his death
Jackie Kennedy constantly worried that her son would die in a plane crash and desperately tried to keep him from becoming a pilot.
John F. Kennedy Jr. FAQs
How old was J.F.K. Jr. when his father became president?
John F. Kennedy took office precisely eight weeks after his son was born.
Why did J.F.K. Jr.’s plane crash?
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, failing to maintain control of the airplane while descending over water at night because of spatial disorientation was the most likely cause of the crash.
Who was on the cover of the first issue of “George?”
John F. Kennedy Jr.’s short-lived magazine featured Cindy Crawford posing as George Washington on the cover of the first issue.
John F. Kennedy Jr.’s birthday dates