The first family has always been of interest to many Americans — it’s sort of like the U.S.’s royal family. The Secret Service protects all first family members — they even give them designated codenames. Many first families have sailed through the White House without issue, but some have not.
Three families have experienced deep tragedies including the Kennedys, the Bidens — and, most recently, the Trumps. Keep reading to find out the gloomy details of these families’ tragedies — and how they have persevered.
1. John F. Kennedy was assassinated
On November 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald ostensibly shot and killed President John F. Kennedy Dallas, Texas, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. This was perhaps the worst of the Kennedy tragedies because a president died.
Two days after the assassination, Jack Ruby shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald before he stood trial for the president’s death. Although the Warren Commission determine in 1964 that only one shooter killed Kennedy, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations reported in 1979 that the president’s death was likely the result of a conspiracy — and that Oswald didn’t act alone.
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2. JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy’s son died
On Aug. 9, 1963, Jackie and John F. Kennedy’s son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, died of infant respiratory distress syndrome two days after he was born prematurely. According to The New York Times, Jackie wasn’t able to attend her son’s funeral because she was still at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts, recovering from the C-section.
Next: A risk to the family’s reputation
3. JFK’s sister was lobotomized
JFK’s sister, Rosemary Kennedy, was a threat to the Kennedy reputation, according to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. The family thought she was intellectually disabled, and she experienced severe mood swings.
Her father, Joseph Sr., secretly arranged for Rosemary to have a lobotomy, which left her unable to walk or speak very well. She was institutionalized until her death in 2005. One good thing to come out of the tragedy was that it might have inspired her sister, Eunice, to found the Special Olympics in 1962.
Next: The Kennedys lost another child
4. JFK’s brother died
On Aug.12, 1944, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy lost another child. JFK’s brother, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., died when his plane exploded over was during a secret bombing mission off the coast of Normandy, France, during World War II. According to History, Kennedy was 29 when he died.
Next: Assassination No. 2
5. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated
U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, 1968, by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles. Kennedy had just won the California Democratic presidential primary. Sirhan pleaded guilty to the murder. He is currently serving a life sentence at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, Calif., according to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum.
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6. JFK Jr. died
It’s probably better that Jackie and JFK never lived to see their son, John F. Kennedy Jr., die at the age of 38. On July 16, 1999, JFK Jr.’s wife, Carolyn Bessette — and her sister, Lauren — joined with him in his Piper Saratoga to attend a wedding on Martha’s Vineyard. The plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean and killed all three of them. The cause of the crash was determined as pilot error and disorientation, according to Vanity Fair.
Next: Trump’s tragedy
7. Donald Trump’s brother died
Donald Trump looked up to his older brother, Fred, describing him as a “free spirit” and “the life and soul of the party,” according to The Sun. Unfortunately, Fred Trump was an alcoholic — and he lost his battle with the addiction, dying from related complications in 1981, when he was 43.
Perhaps the only good thing to come out of his death is that it persuaded Donald Trump to never touch alcohol — or cigarettes. “He would tell me, ‘Don’t drink ever,’” said Trump. “He understood the problem that he had and that it was a very hard problem.”
Next: An unspeakable accident
8. Joe Biden’s family was in a horrible accident
Joe Biden, the U.S.’s 47th vice president, has had his share of tragedy, according to People. In 1972, Biden’s wife, Neilia, and their three children — Beau, Hunter, and Naomi — went out to get a Christmas tree and were involved in a serious accident. Neilia and 13-month-old Naomi died, and four-year-old Beau and three-year-old Hunter were seriously injured. The accident happened weeks after Biden won his seat in the Senate. Five years later Biden married his current wife, Jill, and the couple gave birth to their daughter Ashley in 1981.
Next: Biden’s troubles weren’t over.
9. Joe Biden’s son died
In 2015, Joe Biden’s son Beau died. He was born in 1969, survived the horrible accident with his mother in 1972, and years later battled brain cancer for almost two years before succumbing to the disease. Joe Biden was serving his second term as vice president when Beau died, which stopped him from running for president in 2016 — he simply wasn’t emotionally strong enough after the death of his son, according to People.
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