The world was such a different place on April 26, 1963.
President John F. Kennedy was in the White House with his glamorous wife Jackie dazzling the world as first lady. Their children Caroline and John John were 5 and 2. Serving as attorney general was the president’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy.
Atlanta had two major daily newspapers then, the morning Constitution and its afternoon rival, the Journal. Serving as longtime editor and publisher of Constitution was the legendary Ralph McGill, renowned for championing civil rights in the segregated South.
Dr. Martin Luther King mentioned McGill in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” in 1963, writing that McGill was one of the “few enlightened white persons” to understand and sympathize with the civil rights movement.
McGill was friendly with both President Kennedy and Attorney General Kennedy, and the latter paid him a visit on April 26, 1963. It was a cool, foggy day and Atlanta was observing Confederate Memorial Day, an annual commemoration that’s only recently ended.
McGill was out at the time when RFK came calling, so the future senator and presidential hopeful left behind a memento, scribbling a note on McGill’s own letterhead and signing it, “Best Regards, A Yankee from Boston.”
The brief letter speaks to the friendship between the two; the attorney general instructed the newspaper man to give top billing to a letter from his brother, “or I will come down and get you.”
The letter is part of the AJC’s archives collection. See photos below.
President Kennedy would die within months of his brother’s visit to Atlanta. Robert F. Kennedy was shot to death 50 years ago this week, leaving behind 10 children and an expectant wife.
MORE COVERAGE: What happened to RFK’s children?
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