Nov 22, 2023 - News

How JFK's legacy lives on in one D.C. business

Former United States President John F. Kennedy standing in front of a microphone.

Photo: Central Press/Getty Images

Today marks the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

The big picture: A defining moment of the 1960s, the young president's life was not only cut short but his death kicked into gear the Camelot mythology surrounding his administration.

Zoom in: As president, Kennedy had a deep history with capital-W Washington. Before he moved to the White House, he spent many years living in D.C. as an up-and-coming politician.

  • The Kennedys favored Georgetown: It's where JFK lived as a young congressman and then senator, where he and Jackie met and carried out their courtship, where the young couple lived during his presidential campaign, and where Jackie moved after Kennedy's death.
  • And local lore has it that Kennedy proposed to Jackie in a booth at the Georgetown restaurant Martin's Tavern in 1953 — a legend that the restaurant has memorialized on a plaque.

What they're saying: While there are contrasting accounts of how the proposal occurred — some say it happened in Boston, others say via telegram — fourth-generation Martin's owner Billy Martin is confident it occurred in his restaurant.

  • Several years ago, former Nixon chief of protocol Marion Smoak went on the record as an eyewitness, saying he was there drinking a martini when the engagement went down.
  • Today, people can specifically reserve the proposal booth, and it's a popular move for those popping the question, says Martin.

The intrigue: Martin's has remained popular among the Kennedy diaspora, says Martin. Caroline Kennedy still comes in occasionally, and Martin recalls seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver (JFK's niece) stop in while visiting their daughter at Georgetown.

  • "She requested 'Can we sit in the family booth?'" says Martin.
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