In honor of the sixtieth anniversary edition of the “The White House: A Historic Guide,” let’s revisit the landmark TV special hosted by Jacqueline Kennedy in 1962 that launched this perennial fundraiser for preserving the presidential home. Watch highlights of the program, which included a charming appearance by President John F. Kennedy, above.
With the support of her husband, Mrs. Kennedy had worked diligently throughout 1961, their first year in the Executive Mansion, to restore many of the state and private rooms with period pieces rather than reproductions. And she spearheaded the formation of the White House Historical Association, which raised funds for the ambitious project.
To showcase the results, Mrs. Kennedy gave CBS newsman Charles Collingwood a tour of these rooms, many of which remain this way today. Both the Tiffany net and NBC aired this hour-long program on Valentine’s Day, with ABC rebroadcasting it four days later.
The ratings were staggering and the reviews rapturous. Not surprisingly, the TV academy feted both the program and Mrs. Kennedy with honorary awards at their kudofest that spring. Back then, the Emmys were held in both Hollywood and Gotham and that year, as in 1959, the capital also played host. Lady Bird Johnson, wife of then Vice President Lyndon Johnson, accepted the award on Mrs. Kennedy’s behalf. The statuette is on display at the JFK presidential library in Boston.
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