Andrew Young on John F. Kennedy: 'He was a seeker of human rights'

Jesus, Dr. Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy were the three portraits that hung on the walls of black households following Dr. King’s death.

This is according to diplomat and activist Andrew Young, who recalls Kennedy’s contributions to race relations in America and the admiration he received from millions of African-Americans both during the civil rights era and beyond.

In honor of the 50-year anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, news correspondent Tom Brokaw spoke with Young – along with other key luminaries – to discuss Kennedy’s legacy, life and death.

Young set the racially-torn setting of the 1960s as he gave details on how Kennedy was received among Americans, and among blacks in particular.

He lauds Kennedy as a seeker of human rights and a man of vision. Young also shed strong light on Kennedy’s character, which was well liked by many who admired the compassion and empathy he so frequently expressed.

Despite a term in the office as president that was short-lived and ended in tragedy, Kennedy’s legacy – often synonymous with being one of the most fascinating figures in modern history – will live on forever.

To this day, Young recalls that late autumn afternoon on Nov. 22, 1963 — which began like any other and ended with Kennedy’s tragic assassination that ultimately, changed all days that followed.

“I was at a training conference for voter registration workers in South Carolina,” he said. “We were teaching people to read and write, to register to vote,” later saying:  “When we heard the news, immediately, everybody stopped and got on their knees.”

Brokaw’s discussion with Young brought the activist to tears as he recalled difficult moments from the tragedy.

“When they prayed, it wasn’t so much in words as chants and song. And when we heard that he had died, the prayer continued for America.”

Perhaps one of the more chilling revelations was hearing Young describe Dr. King’s foreshadowing of his own assassination.

“Dr. King was coming there. And – he was – I mean, he was really shaken. And he said, ‘If hundreds of Secret Service can’t protect the president, anytime they want us, we got be ready to go ‘cause there is no protection.’”

“He took the president’s death as a sign of his own assassination,” Young said.

Half a century later, America still mourns over the death of both Kennedy and King but Young says their spirits are very much alive.

This is clearer now more than ever as America celebrates their contributions to American society and honors the legacies that still live on.

Follow Lilly Workneh on Twitter @Lilly_Works