Jean Kennedy Smith, Last Surviving Sibling of JFK, Dies at 92

President John Kennedy and his sister, Mrs. Jean Smith, are shown in this candid photo watching the opening base ball game of the American League on April 10, 1961 at Griffith Stadium in Washington. (AP Photo)
AP Photo

Jean Kennedy Smith, 92, died in her Manhattan residence on Wednesday, her daughter Kym confirmed to the New York Times.

Smith, born in Boston, Massachusetts, and the eighth of Joseph and Rosemary Kennedy’s nine children, made her mark in politics serving as U.S. ambassador to Ireland for five years from 1993 to 1998, as well as through working on her brothers’ campaigns.

Smith far outlived many of her siblings.

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 at age 46; Sen. Robert Kennedy was assassinated while in the midst of a Democrat primary bid for president in 1968 at age 42; Joseph Kennedy Jr. was killed in World War II at age 29 while serving in the U.S. Navy; and Kathleen Kennedy died in a plane crash at age 28.

The Kennedy family has had broad political prominence in American politics, with other notable members including Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who is known as founder of the Special Olympics, and Sen. Edward Kennedy, whose political career was marred by a tragic accident that caused the death of a 28-year-old woman; he died of brain cancer in his late 70s.

Smith was the first Kennedy woman of her generation to take on a public service role, the Times noted, and was well-regarded by the Irish when she took on the position of ambassador given John F. Kennedy was the first Irish Catholic president in the U.S. and maintained a warm relationship with the Emerald Isle during his presidency.

Smith served as ambassador during a pivotal time when “The Troubles,” a decades-long conflict within Northern Ireland, was coming to an end; she received honorary Irish citizenship after stepping down from her role for “distinguished service to the nation.”

Albeit growing up among family members destined for the Senate and presidency, in her memoir, Smith wrote she felt she had an “unexceptional” childhood, saying, according to NBC Boston:

It is hard for me to fully comprehend that I was growing up with brothers who eventually occupy the highest offices of our nation, including president of the United States. At the time, they were simply my playmates. They were the source of my amusement and the objects of my admiration.

Smith married Stephen Edward Smith, financial adviser to the Kennedy family and later a White House chief of staff, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York in 1956. He died of cancer in 1990.

The couple had four children. Their two sons, Stephen Jr. and William, were a lawyer and doctor respectively; William was charged with rape a year after his father’s passing and ultimately acquitted after a highly publicized trial. Jean and Stephen Smith also had two adopted daughters, Kym and Amanda, as well as six grandchildren.


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