John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), commonly referred to by his initials JFK, was an American politician and journalist who served as the 35th president of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. He served at the height of the Cold War, and the majority of his presidency dealt with managing relations with the Soviet Union. A member of the Democratic Party, Kennedy represented Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate prior to becoming president.
Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the second child of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Kennedy. He graduated from Harvard University in 1940 and joined the U.S. Naval Reserve the following year. During World War II, he commanded a series of PT boats in the Pacific theater and earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his service. After the war, Kennedy represented the 11th congressional district of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953. He was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate and served as the junior Senator from Massachusetts from 1953 to 1960. While in the Senate, he published his book entitled Profiles in Courage, which won a Pulitzer Prize for Biography. In the 1960 presidential election, Kennedy narrowly defeated Republican opponent Richard Nixon, who was the incumbent vice president. At age 43, he became the second-youngest man to serve as president (after Theodore Roosevelt), the youngest man to be elected as U.S. president, as well as the only Roman Catholic to occupy that office. He was also the first president to have served in the U.S. Navy.Kennedy's time in office was marked by high tensions with communist states in the Cold War. He increased the number of American military advisers in South Vietnam by a factor of 18 over President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In April 1961, he authorized a failed joint-CIA attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. He subsequently rejected Operation Northwoods plans by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to orchestrate false flag attacks on American soil in order to gain public approval for a war against Cuba. In October 1962, U.S. spy planes discovered that Soviet missile bases had been deployed in Cuba; the resulting period of tensions, termed the Cuban Missile Crisis, nearly resulted in the breakout of a global thermonuclear conflict. Domestically, Kennedy presided over the establishment of the Peace Corps and supported the civil rights movement, but was only somewhat successful in passing his New Frontier domestic policies.
On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Pursuant to the Constitution, Vice President Lyndon Johnson automatically became president upon Kennedy's death. Marxist Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the state crime, but he was killed by Jack Ruby two days later and so was never prosecuted. Ruby was sentenced to death and died while the sentence was on appeal in 1967. Both the FBI and the Warren Commission officially concluded that Oswald had acted alone in the assassination, but various groups challenged the findings of the Warren Report and believed that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy. After Kennedy's death, Congress enacted many of his proposals, including the Civil Rights and the Revenue Acts of 1964. Kennedy continues to rank highly in historians' polls of U.S. presidents and with the general public. His personal life has also been the focus of considerable public fascination, particularly following revelations regarding his lifelong health ailments and alleged extra-marital affairs. His average approval rating of 70% is the highest of any president in Gallup's history of systematically measuring job approval.