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Rubenstein Center Scholarship

A White House Worker Remembers President Kennedy's Assassination

President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy had developed a bond with White House doorman Preston Bruce. The slain President's brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, invited Bruce to walk with members of the Kennedy family to JFK's memorial service at St. Matthew's Cathedral. Here are some of Bruce's recollections:

"My heart ached to see Mrs. Kennedy march up the avenue, straight-backed, holding her children by the hand...

"[After the service], I stood at the bottom of the steps near Mrs. Kennedy, Caroline, and John-John as the pallbearers carried down the casket. As it passed by, John-John raised his small hand and gave a crisp salute. It was his third birthday and his mother had arranged ice cream, cake, and candles to go with his supper that evening.

"[At Arlington Cemetery], I struggled to keep my composure. I could see the head of . . . General Charles de Gaulle of France, . . . and I could have . . .touched Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. Mrs. Kennedy had done me a great honor to include me in this company.

"At last the bugle sounded Taps for John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a brave young man I'd learned to love."

—Preston Bruce, From the Door of the White House. New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 1984, 104–105.

Preston Bruce developed a close relationship with the Kennedy family.

Smithsonian Institution