Written By: Lily Rothman
In the dark and dramatic days following the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his widow took the time to speak to Pulitzer-winning journalist Theodore H. White, of LIFE Magazine, in Hyannis Port.
Their conversation, which was also featured prominently in the 2016 movie Jackie starring Natalie Portman, was extensive, but the essay White produced for the Dec. 6, 1963, issue of LIFE Magazine was short . Billed as an “epilogue” for President Kennedy, White described in two short pages what Jackie Kennedy had told him about that day in Dallas, and what came after. She told him of the heat, the crowds, how much she’d wished she could wear sunglasses and how, when everything was over, she kept thinking of a line from a song that the President had loved, from the musical Camelot, about the “one brief shining moment” that had been lost. That association between the Kennedy era and the idea of Camelot would endure through the decades to come.
“All through that night they tried to separate him from her, to sedate her, and take care of her and she would not let them,” White wrote. “She wanted to be with him. She remembered that Jack had said of his father, when his father suffered the stroke, that he could not live like that. Don’t let that happen to me, he had said, when I have to go.”
White would later donate his relevant papers to the Kennedy Library, including his handwritten notes on the conversation, which were made public a year after the former First Lady’s death.
The papers are a vivid document of White’s working process, exposing the questions he wanted to ask, the extent to which she participated in crafting the “Camelot” image that would stick with the family for decades to come and the one matter he kept coming back to: “When did farewell really come?”