President John F. Kennedy and his good friend, OU football coach Bud Wilkinson (Ch. 8), in the White House. JFK decried what he called a nation full of “Soft Americans” becoming sports spectators rather than participants, and selected Bud to head a new President’s Council on Physical Fitness. Kennedy played football himself at Harvard and was a college gridiron fanatic. He not infrequently called the Sooner to Washington to discuss their fitness program in person. Bud remembered that the President invariably moved to the most important item on his agenda: asking the Coach for his personal recollections of big games! Kennedy’s last words to him: “I think you can win them all this year.” Only a couple of months later, JFK died. The next day, Bud, his head bowed to the ground all day on the sideline, coached his final college football game. Courtesy John F. Kennedy Library and Presidential Museum.
He wasn’t from Oklahoma and he never lived here, but he had historic collaborations with several of the state’s greatest leaders, and his impact on the Sooner State was colossal—and not yet finished. Learn the true legacy of “JFK – An American Patriot.”
Join John and KTOK/iHeartRadio star Gwin Faulconer-Lippert for one of American history’s most haunting tales, like you’ve never before heard it—the life and death of a decorated World War II hero and President whose legend grows with each passing year.
This is the 79th episode of our original OKLAHOMA GOLD! radio program! Thank you Atwoods Stores for making it possible! Go HERE to listen to them all! Future episodes explore more great heroes, events, and movements of Oklahoma History. Thank you Atwoods Stores for making it possible!https://youtu.be/Eq67dNECplo
JFK visiting the southeast Oklahoma ranch of legendary Oklahoma oilman, governor, and U.S. senator Robert S. Kerr, with whom he had a complex but consequential and mutually respectful working relationship.
Though his powerful father arranged a desk job for him during World War II, John F. Kennedy enlisted in the Navy. He rose to command of PT-109, a lethal fast attack craft that the Japanese called “devil boats.” Kennedy’s legend began to grow when an enemy destroyer tore his boat in half in a Solomon Islands night battle. Some crewmen died and Kennedy led the survivors to the closest island. He saved his bloodied engineer by swimming for four hours, gripping a strap from the man’s life preserver in his teeth to tug his body. He nearly died in swimming and canoeing attempts into the sea for help before rescue came. Decorated for his exploits, Kennedy suffered from the effects of his wounds for the rest of his life.
With a fist clenched in conviction, President John F. Kennedy rallies a dejected nation reeling and fearful from Communist space successes: “We have vowed that we shall not see (space) governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace.”
Never before or since has the world come closer to nuclear destruction than during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Battle-hardened World War II veterans led both major adversaries, the United States and Communist Russia. The latter’s leader, Nikita Khrushchev, a Soviet commander at the Battle of Stalingrad, gambled that youthful American President John Kennedy would not risk nuclear war to stop Russian missile deployment and rearming. The Communist’s gamble failed—barely. Courtesy Oklahoma Publishing Co. and Oklahoma Historical Society.
Illustration Jim Lange. Courtesy Oklahoma Publishing Co.
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Read the full story at “JFK – An American Patriot” - Podcast,
from Oklahoma History, with John Dwyer