“When you’re President of the United States, you don’t make many new friends, and I’m not giving up the old.”
This week, we’re sharing stories of #LGBTQ history in our holdings. On Saturday, join us online for our second National Conversation, held in Chicago, on LGBTQ human and civil rights: http://bit.ly/1UB5sCs
John F. Kennedy met Kirk LeMoyne “Lem” Billings at Choate prep school in 1933. They started the ‘Muckers Club’ to organize Choate’s pranksters, and were almost expelled when the headmaster heard about the Muckers’ plans to treat the school gym to a pile of horse manure. JFK also learned that Lem was gay shortly after they met.
In 1937, JFK and Lem travelled to Europe together. Possibly most adorable part of their European adventure was their adoption of Dunker, a dachshund puppy they met near Nuremburg.
In the 1940s, JFK enlisted in the Navy and Lem joined the Naval Reserve; they kept up their friendship through letters.
The two stayed friends throughout JFK’s rise to the Presidency, a risky decision. In the 1960s, gay Americans faced institutionalized discrimination, especially in government and politics, and this could spell the end of civil service for gay individuals and people associated with them.
As his political career progressed, JFK continued to rely on Lem’s help and friendship. As JFK put it: “When you’re President of the United States, you don’t make many new friends, and I’m not giving up the old.”
Text and image via John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum