Jul 29, 2016

This week our WPPB TBT celebrates the first FIRST LADY born in the 20th century AND the first FIRST LADY born in a hospital...the same hospital in which thousands of our local listeners emerged from the womb. For it was exactly 87 years ago - 7/28/1929 - in Southampton Hospital that 21 year old Janet Lee Bouvier, a Manhattan socialite, gave birth to a daughter destined to become the most famous person ever born on eastern Long Island.

The media's delight in covering the life of Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (her father "Black Jack" Bouvier was born in East Hampton, where the baby's parents had been married a year earlier) starts with a 1931 East Hampton Star notice proclaiming, “Future debutante hosts second birthday bash.”

Until her parents 1940 divorce and mother's remarriage to Standard Oil heir Hugh D. Auchincloss, Jr., Jacqueline spent summers at the family's Further Lane home in East Hampton, where she became an accomplished equestrienne. While growing up in N.Y.C. and East Hampton, then later Virginia and Rhode Island, Jacqueline studied classical ballet, read avidly, showed writing and drawing skill, and displayed a keen facility for language. She learned to speak French as well as Spanish and Italian. After graduating prep school, Miss Bouvier attended Vassar College, made a smashing Manhattan society debut ("Debutante of the Year / 1947-48), traveled extensively, spent her junior year as a student in France, and upon returning home transferred to George Washington University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French literature in 1951. 

In her first job as the Washington Times-Herald's "Inquiring Camera Girl" Miss Bouvier met Congressman John F. Kennedy, soon to be elected a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. On September 12, 1953, they married at St. Mary's Church in Newport, Rhode Island, high society's "wedding of the century." 

In 1961, Senator Kennedy became president of the United States and his wife...within months...became the most popular "head of state's spouse" on the planet. Having in less than 3 years cultivated a glamorous image for the ages - by restoring and preserving the White House, promoting the arts, stylishly influencing fashion, and gracefully representing our nation abroad - Jacqueline Kennedy's political and international star power was still in its ascendency at the moment of her husband's sudden and horrific assassination. In the tragedy's deeply sad aftermath, by orchestrating a state funeral of honor and majesty and sustaining her elegant dignity through four days of intense national mourning, Jacqueline Kennedy lifted herself beyond simple fame.

Over the next three decades America's First Lady raised her two children, married again, became a widow again, enjoyed a successful career in publishing, and worked effectively to preserve and protect our nation's cultural heritage; principally in Washington, D.C. and in her hometown New York City. 

Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, aka "Jackie" to her admiring public, passed away on the night of May 19, 1994. She died in her sleep, two months before her 65th birthday.

The following remarks were made the next morning by President William J. Clinton and his wife, the First Lady - Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The President spoke at 7:39 a.m. in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden at the White House.