Who Was John F. Kennedy Jr?

John F. Kennedy Jr. was the second child born to John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. He may be most remembered as a child at his father's funeral procession, bravely saluting his father's casket. Although he found success in publishing, Kennedy's life was cut short when the plane he was flying crashed into the Long Island Sound off the coast of Martha's Vineyard in 1999. His wife and sister-in-law also perished in the accident.

Early Life

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. was born on November 25, 1960, in Washington, D.C. The first child ever born to a president-elect, Kennedy was the second child born to John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (later Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis). After President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, little "John-John" won America's hearts in that much photographed moment when, as just a small child, he bravely saluted his father's casket. With looks inherited from his attractive parents, Kennedy, despite strict protection from his mother, was in the media spotlight his entire life as one of American journalists' favorite subjects.

'George' Magazine Publisher

After flirting very briefly with a career in acting and graduating from Brown University and New York University Law School, Kennedy worked as an assistant district attorney in New York City. He then left the legal profession to get into the business of journalism, and in 1995 he launched the successful, hip political magazine George. Although he certainly could have had a future in politics, he never entered the political arena, choosing instead to make his own way in the world. He did, however, leave the door open for running for office later in his life. Known for his adventurous nature, he nonetheless took pains to separate himself from the more reckless antics and self-destructive impulses of some of the other men in the Kennedy clan.

Marriage to Carolyn Bessette

Named "Sexiest Man Alive" by People magazine in 1988, Kennedy had been linked with numerous Hollywood celebrities, including Madonna, Julia Roberts and Sarah Jessica Parker. In September 1996, he married longtime girlfriend, Carolyn Bessette. The two shared a loft apartment in New York City's TriBeCa neighborhood, where Kennedy was often seen rollerblading and biking on the city's streets.

Tragic Death

On July 16, 1999, Kennedy, Bessette-Kennedy, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, were flying to Martha's Vineyard on a single-engine private plane, piloted by Kennedy, en route to a cousin's wedding in Hyannisport, Massachusetts. When their plane did not arrive as scheduled, massive search parties were sent out to locate the aircraft. Search efforts persisted throughout the following days, initially to no avail. Luggage and debris from the wreckage were found washed ashore the Gay Head section of Martha's Vineyard, and the three passengers were eventually presumed dead. Across the nation, Americans mourned the loss of the beloved son of one of the country's most admired families and shared their sadness in the tragedies that seem to haunt them.

On July 21, search crews recovered the bodies of Kennedy, his wife and sister-in-law. The Kennedy and Bessette families planned a burial at sea for all three. A private mass for Kennedy and his wife was held at the Church of St. Thomas More on Manhattan's Upper East Side, where his mother worshipped; it was attended by President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.

Kennedy was survived by his uncle, Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, and his sister, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, as well as a number of cousins. Struggling from lack of advertising support (although circulation was growing), Kennedy's George magazine ceased publication in early 2001.

A&E Biography Special

July 16, 2019, marked the 20-year anniversary of Kennedy’s death. The two-hour documentary special, which aired on the anniversary, reframed the last year of his life in an entirely new way. Inspired by Steven M. Gillon’s upcoming book, America’s Reluctant Prince: The Life of John F. Kennedy Jr., this captivating special was the most substantive documentary to date and included convincing new evidence regarding his political aspirations before his untimely death. This compelling documentary shined an unexpectedly poignant light on 1999, his last year, as he coped with the fatal illness of his closest friend and cousin, Anthony Radziwill, struggled to save his marriage and tried to rescue his political magazine, George.

With the guidance of historian and longtime friend Steven M. Gillon, along with never-before-seen footage and the recollections of Anthony Radziwill's widow, Carole Radziwill who spoke in-depth for the first time, a new story emerges. As the story unfolded, viewers were given a behind the scenes look at memorable moments in Kennedy’s life including his speech at the 1988 DNC convention with never-before-broadcast footage of Kennedy rehearsing for the event, exclusive stories and photos from his wedding, reflections on George and more.

The documentary also featured extensive on-camera interviews with former President Clinton, former George publisher David Pecker, friend Gary Ginsberg, former assistant and close friend RoseMarie Terenzio as well as childhood friend Sasha Chermayeff.

Watch "John F. Kennedy Jr.: The Death of an American Prince" on HISTORY Vault

Edgar Allan Poe


  • Name: John Fitzgerald Kennedy
  • Birth Year: 1960
  • Birth date: November 25, 1960
  • Birth State: Washington, D.C.
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: The son of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr. entered the field of magazine publishing before his death in a plane crash in 1999.
  • Industries
    • Business and Industry
    • Journalism and Nonfiction
  • Astrological Sign: Sagittarius
  • Schools
    • Brown University
    • New York University Law School
  • Death Year: 1999
  • Death date: July 16, 1999

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness.If you see something that doesn't look right,contact us!


  • Article Title: John F. Kennedy Jr. Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/history-culture/john-f-kennedy-jr
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: September 14, 2022
  • Original Published Date: April 3, 2014