Written By: Ben Cosgrove

Not many public figures from the middle part of the 20th century are as closely identified with LIFE magazine as John Fitzgerald Kennedy. From his days as a decorated war hero in the late 1940s, through his years as a senator, into the White House and up until the very moment of his assassination, LIFE photographers spent an enormous amount of time (and film) on the ambitious Democrat from Massachusetts.

That he married a woman as magnetic and stylish as the former Jacqueline Bouvier essentially guaranteed that the two young cultural and political icons would never be absent from the weekly’s pages for long.

Here, LIFE.com features a series of photographs some classics, some rare, that were made during the decade and a half when John Kennedy was on his way to becoming, for a time, the most powerful person on earth.

Buy the LIFE book, The Day Kennedy Died

Liz Ronk edited this gallery for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

Rep. John F. Kennedy, 1947.

Rep. John F. Kennedy, 1947

Al Fenn/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Senatorial candidate John F. Kennedy attends a tea party given by female supporters, 1952.

Senatorial candidate John F. Kennedy attended a tea party given by female supporters, 1952.

Yale Joel/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Sen. John Kennedy in Cape Cod with his fiancee, Jacqueline Bouvier, 1953.

Sen. John Kennedy in Cape Cod with his fiancee, Jacqueline Bouvier, 1953.

Hy Peskin Collection

John and Jackie Kennedy at their wedding reception, September 1953.

John and Jackie Kennedy at their wedding reception, September 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Senator John F. Kennedy, 1957.

Senator John F. Kennedy, 1957.

Hank Walker/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John and Robert Kennedy at a hearing of a Senate select committee on labor racketeering, 1957.

John and Robert Kennedy at a hearing of a Senate select committee on labor racketeering, 1957.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Sen. John Kennedy plays football with his nephew, Bobby Jr., at his brother Robert's Hickory Hill, Va., home, 1957.

Sen. John Kennedy played football with his nephew, Bobby Jr., at his brother Robert’s Hickory Hill, Va., home, 1957.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John and Jackie Kennedy with their baby daughter, Caroline, in their Georgetown home, 1958.

John and Jackie Kennedy with their baby daughter, Caroline, in their Georgetown home, 1958.

Nina Leen/ Life Pictures/Getty Images

John Kennedy with his daughter Caroline in 1958.

John Kennedy with his daughter Caroline in 1958.

Ed Clark/Life Pictures/Getty Images

In a picture that he later called his favorite photo of himself, Senator John F. Kennedy walks the dunes near Hyannis Port, Mass., 1959.

In a picture that he later called his favorite photo of himself, Senator John F. Kennedy walked the dunes near Hyannis Port, Mass., 1959.

Mark Shaw/mptvimages.com

Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy leaps from a car while campaigning, 1960.

JFK Campaigning, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy gives a speech while standing on a kitchen chair in West Virginia's coal country, 1960.

John F. Kennedy gave a speech while standing on a kitchen chair in West Virginia’s coal country, 1960.

Hank Walker/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Sen. John Kennedy campaigns in West Virginia, 1960.

Kennedy campaigned in West Virginia, 1960.

Hank Walker/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles, 1960.

Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles, 1960

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John and Robert Kennedy confer in a Los Angeles hotel suite during the 1960 Democratic National Convention.

John and Robert Kennedy conferred in a Los Angeles hotel suite during the 1960 Democratic National Convention.

Hank Walker/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy rides in a car with his wife Jackie upon his return home from Democratic National Convention in 1960.

John F. Kennedy rode in a car with his wife Jackie upon his return home from Democratic National Convention in 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Sen. John Kennedy with his young daughter Caroline at home after he was named the Democratic Party presidential candidate in 1960.

Sen. John Kennedy with his young daughter Caroline at home after he was named the Democratic Party presidential candidate in 1960.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Sen. John F. Kennedy on a private plane during his presidential campaign, 1960.

Sen. John F. Kennedy on a private plane during his presidential campaign, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Young female supporters of Sen. John F. Kennedy await his arrival at a campaign appearance in Michigan, 1960.

Young female supporters of Sen. John F. Kennedy awaited his arrival at a campaign appearance in Michigan, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Senator John F. Kennedy checks over a speech at a stop during his presidential campaign, 1960.

Senator John F. Kennedy checked over a speech at a stop during his presidential campaign, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon at the time of their famous television debates, 1960.

Presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon at the time of their famous television debates, 1960.

Ed Clark/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John Kennedy on the campaign trail, 1960.

John Kennedy on the campaign trail, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

President-elect John F. Kenned, his wife Jackie and others walking to JFK's inauguration, January 1961.

President-elect John F. Kenned, his wife Jackie and others walked to JFK’s inauguration, January 1961.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Marian Anderson sings at President John F. Kennedy's inauguration, 1961.

Marian Anderson sang at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, 1961.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

President Harry Truman signs President John Kennedy's program at a luncheon after JFK's inauguration, 1961.

President Harry Truman signed President John Kennedy’s program at a luncheon after JFK’s inauguration, 1961.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jaqueline in their box at his Inaugural Ball, January 1961.

President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jaqueline in their box at his Inaugural Ball, January 1961.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office, 1961.

President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office, 1961.

Cornell Capa Magnum

Boyd Leedom (a member of the National Labor Relations Board), President John F. Kennedy, Senator Frank W. Carlson, the Rev. Billy Graham and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1961.

Boyd Leedom (a member of the National Labor Relations Board), President John F. Kennedy, Senator Frank W. Carlson, the Rev. Billy Graham and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1961.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

President John Kennedy tossed out the first ball of the season at a baseball game, 1961.

President John Kennedy tossed out the first ball of the season at a baseball game, 1961.

Joe Scherschel/Life Pictures/Getty Images

President John Kennedy pins NASA's Distinguished Service Medal on Alan Shepard's chest, 1961.

President John Kennedy pinned NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal on Alan Shepard’s chest, 1961.

Joe Scherschel/Life Pictures/Getty Images

President John F. Kennedy meets with former President Dwight Eisenhower at Camp David in the midst of the Bay of Pigs crisis, 1961.

President John F. Kennedy met with former President Dwight Eisenhower at Camp David in the midst of the Bay of Pigs crisis, 1961.

Ed Clark/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy in the White House, 1961.

John F. Kennedy in the White House, 1961.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

People in a department store watch as President John Kennedy announces a blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962.

People in a department store watched as President John Kennedy announced a blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962.

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Getty Images

During a visit to West Germany President John F. Kennedy looked over a section of the Berlin Wall, June 1963.

During a visit to West Germany President John F. Kennedy looked over a section of the Berlin Wall, June 1963.

John Dominis Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

President John Kennedy signs autographs during his landmark visit to Ireland in June 1963.

President John Kennedy signed autographs during his landmark visit to Ireland in June 1963.

John Dominis/Life Pictures/Getty Images

President John Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy (standing at window) in the Oval Office, 1962.

President John Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy (standing at window) in the Oval Office, 1962.

Art Rickerby/Life Pictures/Getty Images

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