Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

White House Visit

by Jim Ingram

President Kennedy was a great supporter of the military academies. As part of this advocacy to increase public awareness he invited the cadet wing and brigade commanders of the four major academies to the White House for an interview and a photo to appear on the front page of the newspaper Sunday supplement, This Week (now named Parade magazine) to accompany a story in the publication.

The night before the official visit we were invited to the White House for a State Reception for the king and queen of Afghanistan. Yes, it was then a monarchy. The four of us were transported from Andrews AFB to the White House by staff car and dropped off at some side or back entrance. The most remarkable thing to me looking back on it was the lack of security. There was a fellow in uniform at the door who just waved us on through. It was in the evening, about dusk, and there was no one else around.

The doorman (it would be a stretch to call him a guard) directed us to the basement level and gave us some general directions to the state ballroom. We wandered a long way through some dimly lit corridors until we saw a figure approaching us through the darkness, barefooted, in a white terrycloth bathrobe. When he got close enough we recognized the president of the United States.

We introduced ourselves and he explained that he had been swimming to exercise his bad back. He was very gracious and actually apologized for his attire. He gave us directions to the appropriate staircase up to the state ballroom. He then entered his nearby private elevator.

A couple of hours later, as we proceeded through the receiving line, President Kennedy joked with us about being better dressed to greet his guests. Regrettably, Jackie was out of town so we missed meeting her. It was quite an interesting evening and I enjoyed a conversation with Edward R. Murrow.

The following morning we were again taken to the White House where we had a private 20-30 minute visit with the president in the Oval Office. It has often been said that he had a charismatic personality. I never really knew what that meant until meeting John F. Kennedy. He had an uncanny ability to make us feel comfortable in his presence and that he was genuinely interested in each one of us. We had a very relaxed conversation about life at the military academies and our plans for the future.

We then went outside and posed for the "photo op" that was probably the main reason for our being there. The picture appeared on the cover of the Sunday supplement magazine 12 days before he was killed.

That visit to Washington made the assassination even more personal than losing a president. It was almost like losing a friend.


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