How JFK played a big role in the inauguration of New Jersey’s new governor

Gov. Phil Murphy quietly acquired a historic piece of Kennedy lore for the ceremony.

New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, left, administers the oath as Phil Murphy, right, stands with his family while being sworn in as governor of New Jersey, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, in Trenton, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, left, administered the oath Tuesday as Phil Murphy, right, stands with his family while being sworn in as governor of New Jersey on Tuesday. –Julio Cortez / AP

When newly sworn-in New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy took the oath of office this week, eagle-eyed regulars of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston may have recognized something familiar.

Specifically, a 168-year-old book.

Murphy, who cites Robert and John F. Kennedy as his heroes, used the same leather-bound Bible Tuesday that the then-43-year-old president used during his inauguration in 1961. The Fitzgerald family Bible, which dates back to 1850, was brought from Ireland to the United States by Kennedy’s ancestors and contains more than a century of the family’s handwritten notes.

It was later gifted by the family to the JFK Library, which is part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).


So how did the historic Bible make it from Columbia Point to Trenton, N.J., this week? Officials won’t exactly say.

“The plan for the Bible’s transport complied with NARA’s highest security standards,” Laura Sheehan, a spokeswoman for the National Archives, told in an email. “Those security standards include not discussing transportation involved in carrying out the loans.”

Sheehan said that part of the federal agency’s mission is to make their holdings “available to the widest possible audience.” And while many visitors can view their collection on display at the Kennedy museum, they loan items out at times — though not for no reason.

“We evaluate each request to determine if we can fill the request without compromising the item’s security and long-term preservation,” Sheehan said of the arduous process, especially in the case of such a delicate piece of history.

In addition to acquiring the book for his inauguration, Murphy even paraphrased the 35th president in his speech.

“As Americans, we do things not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” he said.

Murphy’s inclusion of Kennedy shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. The former bank executive and diplomat grew up in Needham and Newton within miles of the former president’s childhood Brookline home. In fact, the Democratic governor was in the same Needham High School class as Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.


Murphy went on to follow Kennedy’s trail to Harvard, where, according to The New York Times, as president of the Hasty Pudding Club, he “shared sketches and dance numbers” with Baker and former Gov. Deval Patrick.

So that’s something to talk about at the next National Governors Association meeting.

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