Edward Grant Stockdale (who was known universally to his friends and family as Grant) was a Miami businessman who was asked by George Smathers to be his administrative assistant when Smathers was elected to the House of Representatives in 1946.
In this role, Stockdale met JFK who had an office just down the hallway in the Old Office Building on “freshmen row.”
Grant Stockdale grew up in Mississippi in difficult circumstances. At age 16 and in the middle of the depression, he was abandoned by his family, who could no longer support and feed him. However, Stockdale persevered, was a standout high school football player and won several college scholarships, eventually attending and starring as a halfback at the University of Miami.
Both Marine officers, Smathers and Stockdale both literally carried Kennedy in the first months they were on Capitol Hill, providing the sickly and hurting Jack a strong shoulder to lean on when he had to get to the House floor for a vote.
During these days, JFK and Stockdale formed a strong friendship that would last until JFK’s death. They shared interests in football, politics, golf, and a combat history in the Pacific. Stockdale called Kennedy “Chief.”
Stockdale returned to Florida to run successfully for the Florida State Legislature, but kept in touch with Kennedy and attended his wedding. When JFK was at Palm Beach recuperating from one of his health episodes, Grant would drive up from Miami to visit. As he son recalled, one day Jack asked Grant for some literary advice,
Jack was writing a book, which was a subject of discussion during Dad’s visits. Finally, it was finished and Jack was trying to decide on a title. He told Dad he’d narrowed it down to either Profiles in Courage or Courage in the Senate and asked Dad what he thought. Dad said, ‘Well, Chief, it’s about courage in the Senate, so I’d call it Courage in the Senate.’ Whereupon Jack instantly wrote across the manuscript Profiles in Courage. You can imagine both of them laughing.
Stockdale and his wife were invited to JFK’s wedding and when Kennedy began running for the Presidency Stockdale was named Director of the Florida State Committee to Elect John F. Kennedy. He was also a willing and frequent campaign surrogate nationwide during the campaign.