IN his first statement as President-elect of the United States, Senator John F Kennedy pledged himself to work for the cause of freedom throughout the world, and called for a supreme national effort to move the US safely through the 1960s.
After what the News Letter described as one of the longest and tensest electoral struggles in America in the 20th century to date, the 43-year-old Democratic Party nominee became the youngest man ever to hold the office of President, as well as the first Roman Catholic to do so.
Although Kennedy had seemed assured of victory early the previous morning, and had been hailed as the next President throughout the US and in the world at large, it was not until lunchtime that his win was confirmed. The Mid-Western state of Minnesota settled the issue, its 11 electoral votes bringing his total to 272, three more than was necessary for a majority in the Electoral College.
A few minutes after the Minnesota result had been announced, Vice-President Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate, sent Kennedy a telegram of congratulations - his formal concession of defeat.
There was also congratulations from President Dwight D Eisenhower and other American leaders.
Senator Kennedy’s election, said the News Letter, was gained mainly in the big cities and industrial areas.
Another big pointer to his victory came with the news that he had won strongly-Protestant West Virginia.
However, in the “Bible belt” of the Mid-West and some Southern states, the religious factor was a hurdle he was unable to overcome. Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma went to Nixon, as did the Mid-Western farm belt.
The leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khruschev, offered his congratulations to Senator Kennedy.
“I wish you fruitful activity in the responsible capacity of United States President and prosperity to the American people,” he said.
In Dublin, the Eire premier, Sean Lemass, said it was “a source of joy to us that a man of Irish blood has been elected to a very high office”.
Among the earliest messages sent to Senator Kennedy was the following cablegram: “Nationalist members of Parliament and Senators in the Six Counties of Ireland held by Britain against the will of the Irish people cordially felicitate your Excellency upon a notable Presidential victory that finally lays a bigoted and intolerant anti-Catholic tradition.
“We salute with pride this outstanding achievement by the great-grandson of a Famine emigrant.”
At Stormont, the Nationalist representative for South Armagh Eddie Richardson was left frustrated in his attempts to pass a resolution of congratulations to the new US President.
Despite repeated efforts, the Speaker, Sir Norman Stronge, asked him to resume his seat.
There were unionist cries of ‘Sit down’, upon which Mr Richardson said: “I am going to leave the House in protest.”
He then walked out.