Knox Alum’s Book Explores JFK’s Formative Years in the Senate

November 21, 2013

Jack Shaw with his new book on JFK

By Nicole Acton

November 22 marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, and decades after his death, JFK remains one of the most fascinating political figures of American history.

But before he was an iconic president, he was a junior United States Senator.

JFK's eight years in the Senate are the focus of the recently published book by John "Jack" Shaw '79, JFK in the Senate, which tracks his transformation from a lowly former House member into a formidable political force.

"I had long been interested in JFK, but assumed everything had been said that needed to be said about him," says Shaw. But when he stumbled on a report that Senator John F. Kennedy wrote in the mid-1950s that selected the five best senators in American history, Shaw became interested in JFK's Senate career.

"I learned that no book had been written about Kennedy's nearly eight years in the Senate," he says. "As a senator, JFK participated in the some of the most important debates of his time and made major contributions to both domestic and foreign policy."

Shaw's interest in history began as a Knox student. His junior year, he participated in the London & Florence: Arts in Context program. "It was the first time I traveled extensively outside of the Midwest and it made a huge impression on me," says Shaw. "It sparked my interest in travel and deepened my interest in history and foreign policy."

"My decision to go to Knox was one of the best decisions I've ever made," says Shaw. "I left with solid research and writing skills and a deep interest in history and current events."

After graduating from Knox, Shaw went on to earn his M.A. in history from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. After working for the governor of Illinois and the Wall Street Journal Europe, Shaw became a congressional correspondent for Market News International.

Published in late October, JFK in the Senate is Shaw's fourth book to date. The book refukes the common misconception that Kennedy was an unremarkable senator, bringing to light his significant contributions to both domestic and foreign policy.

"Researching JFK's Senate career and plunging into the world of the 1950s was great fun," Shaw says. "Turning my research into a readable book was a difficult, but also rewarding, challenge."