Just days before the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, newly discovered documentary footage offers glimpses of JFK as a personable young candidate on the presidential campaign trail, as well as footage of him years later, riding in the limousine in which he would be shot to death.
Aired for the first time Friday on TODAY, the exclusive 8mm color footage shows Kennedy stumping for votes, often accompanied by his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. In one shot, he’s in Sioux City, Iowa, riding a white mule that local Democrats tried to pass off as a donkey. The clip shows Kennedy’s head bobbing above a sea of people crowding around him.
In another clip, Kennedy is campaigning in Aliquippa, Pa., fighting for passage of the minimum wage and encouraging the crowd to “vote Democratic on November 6, 1962."
Untold hours of the amateur footage were recently discovered by the photographer’s grandson. A copy of the archive will be donated to the Library of Congress.
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss described the film clips as a moving piece of history. “Especially because we've seen so much of him, and he's been gone for 50 years, that to find new footage almost brings him back to life,” he said.
The footage also includes a clip of Kennedy riding in the Lincoln Continental limousine in which he would be killed just five months later, on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas.
Ron Merk, president of Premiere Pictures, Intl., called it “the most chilling footage” in the collection and reminiscent of the Abraham Zapruder film that captured the assassination.
"When I looked at the film for the first time, I thought, wow, this is an amazing bit of history,” he said.
There is also footage of Kennedy's funeral and a shot of his son, John F. Kennedy, Jr., or “John John,” starting to raise his arm in salute as his father’s coffin passes by.
"I think the footage of the funeral especially is almost a film in and of itself," Merk said.