Boston, MA – The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum announced today that it has processed and made available for research the personal papers of Kenneth “Kenny” P. O’Donnell , assistant and friend to Robert and John F. Kennedy, government official, politician, author, and businessman. The papers, a collection of approximately 12 cubic feet, consist of materials related to O’Donnell’s role as Appointment secretary to the President (1961-1963); Special Assistant to the President (1961-1965); President, Kenneth P. O'Donnell and Associates (1965-1977), Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate (1966, 1970); and co-author (with David F. Powers and Joe McCarthy) of Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye (1972). The collection contains materials that span from 1940 to 1977.
Among the items included in this newly released collection are correspondences and subject files documenting O’Donnell’s lifelong involvement in politics: his assistance with the senatorial and presidential campaigns of Robert and John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Hubert Humphrey. The collection contains numerous files documenting O’Donnell’s continued interest in politics after leaving the White House, including his 1966 and 1970 Massachusetts gubernatorial campaigns, his involvement in the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, ongoing aid to the public while president of management consultants Kenneth P. O’Donnell and Associates, and his role as co-author of Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye. A small section of personal material includes letters, invitations, images, and memorabilia relating to the Kennedy family as well as other political figures. The collection also contains material about O’Donnell’s participation in and support of college football, including original game programs and tickets dating from his tenure as quarterback and captain of the Harvard College Football team, as well as correspondence with the National Football Foundation.
Kenny O’Donnell was born Phillip Kenneth O’Donnell in Worcester, Massachusetts, on March 4, 1924. After serving in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, O’Donnell attended Harvard University, where he met and befriended fellow football teammate Robert F. Kennedy. The son of former Holy Cross football coach Cleo O’Donnell, O’Donnell was quarterback as well as captain of the Harvard team. Following his graduate education at Boston College Law School in 1951, he was employed in sales and public relations work but maintained involvement in politics, working on John F. Kennedy’s Senatorial campaigns of 1952 and 1958. In 1957 Robert Kennedy appointed him to be Assistant Counsel, Select Committee to Investigate Improper Activities in Labor-Management Relations in the Senate, a position he held until he became the director of John F. Kennedy’s Presidential campaign schedule in 1960.
After winning the presidency, John F. Kennedy named O’Donnell his appointment secretary as well as a special assistant to the President. After Kennedy’s death in 1963, O’Donnell continued working as a special assistant for President Johnson, assisting him with his re-election campaign in 1965. After Johnson won the re-election O’Donnell left the White House and established a management consulting business, Kenneth P. O’Donnell and Associates. He maintained his involvement in politics running two campaigns for Massachusetts governor in 1966 and 1970, as well as assisting Hubert Humphrey with his 1972 Presidential campaign. In 1972 O’Donnell collaborated with Dave Powers and Joe McCarthy to create the John F. Kennedy memoir, Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye . Kenneth O’Donnell passed away in Boston in 1977.
The Kenneth P. O’Donnell collection will be added to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s Archives, which include 48 million pages of documents from the collections of over 340 individuals, organizations, or government agencies; oral history interviews with 1,300 people; and more than 30,000 books. The Audiovisual Archives administers collections of more than 400,000 still photographs, 7,550,000 feet of motion picture film, 1,200 hours of video recordings, over 7,000 hours of audio recordings and 500 original editorial cartoons.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through scholarship, educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.
The Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with the exceptions of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. The Research Room is open 8:30 am – 4:30 pm each weekday, and is closed on weekends and Federal Holidays. Appointments may be made by calling (617) 514-1629. The Library is located in the Dorchester section of Boston, off Morrissey Boulevard, next to the campus of the University of Massachusetts/Boston. Parking is free. There is free shuttle-service from the JFK/UMass T Stop on the Red Line. The Museum is fully handicapped accessible. For more information, call (866) JFK-1960.