Riveting ‘Road to Camelot’

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article_Columnist-MarkPlotkinTom Oliphant is a universally respected, admired and well-liked reporter — easy to talk to and full of information, insight and anecdotes.

Oliphant and fellow journalist Curtis Wilkie have put together a riveting, revealing, terrific account of how John F. Kennedy secured the Democratic Party nomination in 1960 and went on to win the November election. The book’s title is “The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK’s Five-Year Campaign.”

Oliphant, a Pulitzer Prize winner, spent 40 years at the Boston Globe. Wilkie, who also worked at the Globe, now teaches journalism at the University of Mississippi.

These two ace reporters expertly chronicle JFK’s “five-year campaign” to win the ultimate prize in American politics. I must confess, I couldn’t wait to read this book.

I would often run into Oliphant, a Georgetown resident, briskly walking around town, baseball cap firmly resting on the top of his head.

A little while back, he told me what he was doing and it brought back my very first political memory. I watched hours and hours of gavel-to-gavel coverage of the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles. The entire spectacle enthralled me and I have been hooked ever since.

Oliphant and Wilkie perfectly — and joyously — capture the time, the places and the pols.

The entire saga unfolds with new details and juicy revelations not known before. The beginning chapters — Starting Early, Playing Dixie, Going National, West Virginia Melodrama, Triumph in LA — just whet your appetite for the later chapters.

The chapter Choosing LBJ is fascinating, giving the inside account of how LBJ was picked for vice president and how Missouri Sen. Stuart Symington was not. And the final chapter, The Squeaker, is every political analyst’s delight: facts and figures galore. I couldn’t get enough of it and neither will you. 

Besides the excellent storytelling, don’t forget the pictures. The glossy photos in the book are special — each is one of a kind. Oliphant told me that they are “largely undiscovered.” They reflect the time and research that these two journalists devoted to producing this outstanding work.

Move over Teddy White (“The Making of the President 1960”). We now have the 21st-century sequel.

Political analyst and Georgetowner columnist Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a contributor to thehill.com. Reach him at
markplotkindc@gmail.com.

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