Friday, August 16, 2013

JFK Stuff: Powerful, Dramatic ... Wrong.

We have noted John F. Kennedy's pardon of jazz great Hampton Hawes (here and here and here). So we are pleased to see this piece appear at the DailyBeast, entitled, "The Jazz Pianist that John F. Kennedy Saved," and written by Ted Gioia The piece begins with an anecdotes suggesting Hawes heard John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address while serving a ten year sentence for a drug conviction. Hawes supposedly said, in response, "That’s the right cat ... looks like he got some soul and might listen” and decided that he would apply for a presidential pardon! Notes Gioia:
Against all odds, President Kennedy responded. Although many major jazz stars spent time in prison on narcotics charges during the middle decades of the 20th century, only Hawes received a presidential pardon. Fifty years ago, on August 16, 1963, JFK granted executive clemency to the pianist, and thus allowed one of the most talented jazz artists of the era to resume his career. The Hawes pardon would be one of Kennedy’s last executive acts. Only 98 days later, Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK in Dallas, not far from the prison Hawes recently left. Kennedy only granted clemency to 43 people during his last year in office. Hawes received pardon number 42.
It sure would be nice to know who the "many major jazz stars" were, but we know pardons, And we know pardon data. That's what we do.

Hampton Hawes' clemency warrant is actually dated August 14th (not the 16th - click on image to the left to see an image of the warrant). Hawes was not one of only 43 people granted clemency in Kennedy's last year in office (year three of the term). Kennedy granted 268 pardons that year. If the author meant a twelve-month period, the figure is 268. And after the day Hawes was pardoned, President Kennedy went on to grant 78 additional pardons before being assassinated. Goodness.

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