The story of Harris Wofford and Sarge Shriver’s advice to Jack Kennedy in the 1960 election has been told many times. I first heard it from Wofford in Ethiopia when a group of PCVs were at the Woffords’ home for dinner back in 1962. For those who do not know the history, Wofford was the first Peace Corps Director in Ethiopia, having already helped to create the Peace Corps with Shriver, and after having been Kennedy’s civil rights advisor in the White House, and before that involved in the campaign to elect Kennedy president when this incident took place.
In a new book: KENNEDY AND KING The President, the Pastor, and the Battle Over Civil Rights by Steven Levingston, reviewed in the New York Times in this week’s Sunday edition, that event in the presidential campaign is detailed again. Many believe it was the ‘key’ event that swayed the election in Kennedy’s favor.
“Released on bail a day later, King mentioned Kennedy’s call and Vice President Richard Nixon’s silence. King did not endorse Kennedy, but news of the phone call spread quickly and undoubtedly energized black voters in a close election. Among those whose minds were changed was a black Southerner who (unlike most) could vote. He was Martin Luther King Sr. “I had expected to vote against Senator Kennedy because of his religion,” Daddy King said. “Now he can be my president, Catholic or whatever he is.”
More at The New York Times.