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Christening of the USS Kennedy

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Sound | 1967

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  •  Thousands attend the launching of the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy. 
  •  Cardinal Cushing accompanies the Kennedy family, while Mrs. Kennedy, 9-year old Caroline, and John Jr. , 7, head for the sponson platform where Caroline will christen the ship. 
  •  President Johnson arrives with Mrs. Rose Kennedy. 
  •  The 200 million dollar vessel is the largest of conventional power. 
  •  In a brief speech, President Johnson says of the carrier, "We pray that her years will be years of peace, but if she must fight, both the flag she flies and the name she bears will carry a profound message to friend and foe alike." 
  •  Young Caroline smashes a bottle of New York State champagne, and the giant ship is thus christened in memory of her father. 
  •  Lightbulbs on the bow spell out JFK, as the mammoth carrier heads for its first body of water, the James River, a fitting tribute to our late president, who would have been 50 this year. 
 
TAMI Tags
  •  Jacqueline, Caroline, and John Kennedy, Jr. 
  •  President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rose Kennedy 
  •  Caroline Kennedy christens the ship 
 
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Newsreel coverage of the launching of the USS John F. Kennedy on May 27, 1967. Ceremony attendees include Jacqueline Kennedy, Caroline and John, Jr. as well as President Johnson and many in the Kennedy extended family. Caroline has the honor of breaking a bottle of New York champagne over the bow while hundreds watch. The ship, nicknamed both 'Big John' and 'the Can Opener,' was decommissioned in 2007.
Thirty-sixth president of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, was born on a hill country farm near Stonewall, Texas on August 27, 1908 to Samuel Ealy Johnson, a former Texas legislator, and Rebekah Baines Johnson.  He attended Southwest Teachers College, now Texas-State University, graduating with a degree in history and social science in 1930. LBJ spent one year as principal and teacher in Cotulla, educating impoverished Hispanic elementary school students. LBJ became the secretary to Texas Congressman Richard M. Kleberg in 1931; the four year position helped him gain influential contacts in Washington. Johnson married Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor on November 17, 1934.
 
LBJ acted as Director of the National Youth Administration in Texas from 1935 to 1937. Johnson won his first legislative election in 1937 for the Tenth Congressional District, a position he held for eleven years. He was a firm supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal and in 1940 acted as Chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee. In 1948, following his service as a Lieutenant Naval Commander during World War II, LBJ ran as the Democratic nominee for Senate. In a cloud of controversy, he narrowly defeated former Texas Governor Coke Stevens and easily beat his Republican opponent in the general election.  Before winning his second senate term, LBJ was elected Majority Whip in 1951, became the youngest ever Minority Senate Leader in 1953, and was voted Majority Leader in 1954. Johnson unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960 but was selected to be Vice-President under John F. Kennedy. 
 
Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as Commander and Chief aboard Air Force One following President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963 and won reelection in 1964. President Johnson passed landmark legislation with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Debate over military efforts in Vietnam intensified in late 1963 when the President stated that the United States would not withdraw from Southeast Asia. Escalation of the war against North Vietnam brought disapproval from Democrats, claiming the efforts were misguided, and from Republicans who criticized the administration for not executing sufficient military vigor. Antiwar protests, urban riots, and racial tension eroded Johnson’s political base by 1967, which further dissolved following the Tet Offensive in January 1968. On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that we would not seek a second Presidential term.
 
After returning to Texas, Johnson oversaw the construction of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Throughout his political career, LBJ was an influential figure in Texas affairs; his policies brought military bases, crop subsidies, government facilities, and federal jobs to the state. After suffering a massive heart attack, former President Johnson died at his ranch on January 22, 1973. In February of the same year, NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, in honor of one of the country’s most influential Texans.