Written By: Lily Rothman, Liz Ronk

The first time the then-future president appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine, in 1953, the story was as light as could be: “LIFE Goes Courting With a U.S. Senator.” Over the course of several pages of photographs, the magazine fawned over the Massachusetts Senator the “handsomest” man in that legislature, 36 at the time, and his 23-year-old fiancée Jacqueline Bouvier. “We hardly ever talk politics,” Jackie told the magazine, alongside images of the two playing softball and football.

Over the course of the next decade, LIFE followed the young politician as he did much more than court. From his presidential victory in 1960 to the trials of governing, the events of his time demonstrated why LIFE and the JFK went together so well. Part celebrity report and part serious world news, the coverage captured the Kennedy magic.

But only a little more than half of the times that JFK appeared as the featured image or story on the magazine’s cover during its 37-year-run took place during that Kennedy decade. (When his face appeared on additional covers throughout the magazine’s publication run, it was as an inset or part of collage.) The rest, starting with the Nov. 29, 1963, issue, were different. After Kennedy’s assassination, his legacy endured. He was, as pictured in a 1966 cover that focuses on his brother Robert’s career, an inescapable figure in the background of the political and cultural history that followed.

July 20, 1953 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by Hy Peskin.

July 20, 1953

Cover photo by Hy Peskin.

Mar. 11, 1957 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by Hank Walker.

March 11, 1957.

Cover photo by Hank Walker.

Apr. 21, 1958 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by Nina Leen.

April 21, 1958

Cover photo by Nina Leen.

August 24, 1959

Cover photo by Mark Shaw.

March 28, 1960

Cover photo by Stan Wayman.

Nov. 21, 1960 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by Paul Schutzer.

November 21, 1960

Cover photo by Paul Schutzer.

Dec. 19, 1960 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by Stanley Tretick.

December 19, 1960

Cover photo by Stanley Tretick.

Jan. 27, 1961 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by Leonard McCombe.

January 27, 1961.

Cover photo by Leonard McCombe.

June 9, 1961 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by Paul Schutzer.

June 9, 1961. Cover photo by Paul Schutzer.

LIFE Magazine

Aug. 4, 1961 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by Karsh.

August 4, 1961

Cover photo by Karsh.

July 13, 1961 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by John Dominis.

July 13, 1961

Cover photo by John Dominis.

Nov. 19, 1963 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by Karsh, Ottawa.

November 19, 1963

Cover photo by Karsh, Ottawa.

Dec. 6, 1963 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by Fred Ward.

December 6, 1963.

Cover photo by Fred Ward.

Oct. 2, 1964 cover of LIFE magazine.

October 2, 1964

July 16, 1965 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by Mark Shaw.

July 16, 1965

Cover photo by Mark Shaw.

Nov. 5, 1965 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover painting by James Fosburgh.

November 5, 1965

Cover painting by James Fosburgh.

Nov. 18, 1966 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by Bill Eppridge.

November 18, 1966.

Cover photo by Bill Eppridge.

Nov. 25, 1966 cover of LIFE magazine.

November 25, 1966

LIFE Magazine

Nov. 24, 1967 cover of LIFE magazine. Main cover photo by John Dominis, insert by Zintgraff.

Main cover photo by John Dominis, insert by Zintgraff.

LIFE Magazine

Aug. 7, 1970 cover of LIFE magazine. Cover photo by Jaques Lowe.

August 7, 1970.

Cover photo by Jaques Lowe.

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