JFK's bomber jacket sells at auction for $570,000

A leather bomber jacket worn by President John F. Kennedy fetched well more than 10 times the asking price at auction, an indication of the fascination the nation still has for the president who ushered in the upbeat era of Camelot after the political doldrums of the 1950s.

The jacket, complete with a patch of the presidential seal, was worn by the president and others on Air Force One. It flew out the door Sunday at a price of $570,000 plus the buyer’s premium, officials at John McInnis Auctioneers told reporters.

On Monday, the nation celebrated the three-day weekend associated with George Washington’s birthday — also known in some circles as Presidents Day to honor all of the nation’s chief executives.

John F. Kennedy, shot to death at 46 years of age in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, is usually considered the highest-ranking modern president, according to the Gallup poll. Fully 85% gave JFK positive marks in 2010, though he had a far smaller approval rating while in office.

In retrospect, Kennedy’s stature has continued to climb, only partly because of the circumstances of his death. Kennedy was also a generational-change president, one of the youngest replacing a GOP administration headed by the aging generation that led the nation to victory in World War II.

Kennedy served in the Navy in World War II while the man he replaced as president, Dwight David Eisenhower, was the Allies’ supreme commander in Europe. Kennedy ran on a platform of restoring vigor to government, a sly dig at Eisenhower’s two terms, regarded at the time as a caretaker administration despite its accomplishments in areas such as racial desegregation.

The bomber jacket was among thousands of items, including letters and photographs, sold at auction Sunday. All had been part of the estate of David Powers, a longtime JFK aide who died in 1998. The memorabilia were discovered as relatives prepared to sell the Powers home in Arlington, Mass.

Powers served Kennedy from 1946 until the president was assassinated in 1963. Powers remained close to the Kennedy family and served as curator of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston before retiring in 1994.

The centerpiece of the auction, which began Sunday morning and went into the night, was the jacket, originally expected to attract bids in the range of $20,000 to $40,000.


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