Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Key Events in the Presidency of John F. Kennedy


January 20, 1961

John F. Kennedy is inaugurated as the thirty-fifth President of the United States.

March 1, 1961

Kennedy, fulfilling a campaign pledge, issues an executive order creating a temporary Peace Corps and asks Congress to authorize the program permanently. He appoints Sargent Shriver to head the organization.

April 12, 1961

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space.

April 15-20, 1961

A U.S.-sponsored invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs fails. With inadequate support and facing an overwhelming force, the CIA-trained brigade of anti-Castro exiles is defeated in a few days. Kennedy takes responsibility for the disaster.

May 4, 1961

Black and white youths supported by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) set out on the "freedom rides" to test the enforcement of ICC rules against discrimination in interstate travel.

May 5, 1961

Alan Sheppard Jr. becomes the first American in space.

May 25, 1961

In an address to Congress, Kennedy pledges that the Unites States will land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

June 3, 1961

Kennedy meets with Soviet premier Nikita S. Khrushchev in Vienna. The conference fails to resolve conflict over the status of Berlin.

August 13, 1961

East Germany, supported by the Soviet Union, begins construction of the Berlin Wall, halting the flow of refugees to the West.


January 29, 1962

The Geneva conference, with the United States, Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom participating, adjourns without reaching an agreement on a nuclear test ban.

February 3, 1962

Kennedy halts virtually all trade with Cuba.

February 26, 1962

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that segregation in transportation facilities is unconstitutional.

February 30, 1962

Astronaut John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth.

March 7, 1962

Kennedy announces the reduction of U.S. import duties as part of an agreement to promote international trade.

June 15, 1962

Tom Hayden presents the "Port Huron Statement" to the annual convention of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at Port Huron, Michigan.

September 30, 1962

The U.S. Supreme Court orders the University of Mississippi to admit James H. Meredith, its first African-American student. After Governor Ross Barnett attempts to block the admission, U.S. Marshals escort Meredith to campus while Federalized national guardsmen maintain order.

October 16, 1962

Kennedy is informed of the existence of Soviet missile installations in Cuba.

October 22, 1962

Kennedy addresses the American people about the situation in Cuba and orders a navel quarantine of Cuba to prevent further shipments of weapons.

October 28, 1962

After thirteen days, the Cuban Missile Crisis is resolved. The United States will pledge not to invade Cub (and secretly agrees to remove missiles from Turkey), in exchange for the removal of the Soviet weapons.

November 20, 1962

Kennedy lifts the naval blockade of Cuba.


March 18, 1963

The Supreme Court rules in Gideon v. Wainwright that states must supply counsel in criminal cases for individuals who cannot afford it.

April 3, 1963

Martin Luther King Jr leads a civil rights drive in Birmingham, Alabama. Police Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor orders the police to use fire hoses and dogs on demonstrators.

June 12, 1963

Medgar W. Evers, NAACP field secretary for Mississippi, is assassinated outside his home in Jackson.

June 26, 1963

Speaking in West Berlin, Kennedy demonstrates his solidarity with the city, declaring "Ich bin ein Berliner."

August 28, 1963

The March on Washington attracts 250,000 demonstrators to the nation's capital in support of civil rights legislation. At the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech.

September 15, 1963

Four young African-American girls are killed in the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama.

October 7, 1963

Kennedy signs a limited nuclear test-ban treaty with the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom.

November 1, 1963

South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem is assassinated in U.S.-supported coup.

November 22, 1963

Kennedy is assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald is arrested and accused of the crime. Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson is sworn in as the thirty-sixth President of the United States following the assassination.

November 24, 1963

Jack Ruby shoots and kills Lee Harvey Oswald.

November 25, 1963

Kennedy is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.