JFK's Medals and Missal
On JFK’s last morning on earth he woke up at the Fort Worth Hotel, and took off his St. Christopher and Miraculous medals while he took a shower, and accidently left them there, where they were retrieved by a Secret Service agent, tp be returned to JFK, but not before he was killed.
When Federal Judge Sarah Houghes arrived aboard Air Force One to administer the oath of office for the President, they frantically looked for a bible, and instead found a Catholic prayer missal on the table next to the president’s bed and used that instead – “so help me God.”
Hughes then handed the missal to someone and left the plane, as LBJ said, “Now let’s get airborne.”
The missal disappeared for some years and then turned up in Texas and is now on display at the LBJ Library.
It is believed the missal was a gift to the president from Father Albert Pereira, who administered to the small parish of St. Stephen the Martyr in Millersburg, Virginia, population 1,000, where JFK and his family spent their weekends away from Washington. Millersburg is considered “horse country,” where Jackie and the kids would ride while the president relaxed or played golf.
At first they leased an estate called Glenn Ora, where RFK would also visit, and where Desmond FitzGerald said he often called RFK to discuss covert operations against Castro, including CIA plots to kill Castro. Father Pereira became a spiritual advisor to both JFK and RFK and presided over the baptism of some of RFK’s kids.
With the president in attendance, every Sunday in October and November 1963, the church was renovated to include an area enshrined in bullet proof glass and a direct telephone line to the White House.
When the Kennedys arrived in Millersburg in 1962 the small but wealthy town was segregated, as was most of the South, and when one of the Kennedy’s black servants was refused service at a local lunch counter, word got around and the local NAACP planned a sit in. Father Pereira then went to all of the local business owners and convinced them that it would be best for them to end the segregation and to serve blacks, and they agreed to cooperate, ending the threat of a sit-in.
So it is believed that JFK’s Catholic missal, used to swear in LBJ as president, was a gift to the president from Father Pereira, who died on March 8, 2004 at the age of 88. The son of a carpenter, one of eleven children born on May 12, 1915 in Funchal, Maderia island, a territory of Portugal, he came to the United States as a child in 1920 and attended St. Charles seminary in Baltimore, where my uncle Skip Haynes was also trained as a priest.
[Note: it is not believed that Father Pereira is related to Victor Pereira, Jim Braden’s partner]