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(WBIR-Oak Ridge) It was 50 years ago when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

Before JFK was president, he made his mark in the U.S. House of Representatives, and then as a U.S. senator. During that time, he visited East Tennessee.

JFK toured Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in February of 1959 with his wife, Jackie Kennedy.

"Now that would've been a time during ORNL's history where it was one of the few places in the nation where you could see nuclear reactors actually in operation," said Ray Smith, Y-12 historian.

Smith said, as far as he knows, this is the only time the Kennedy's visited ORNL.

The photos show the Kennedys alongside ORNL Director Alvin Weinberg, looking at a Homogeneous Reactor Experiment 2.

"The other is a more frequently seen photograph, where they're actually looking down into the reactors," Smith said.

Photographer Ed Westcott is known for taking some of the most historic photos for Y-12 and ORNL, among his collection are the ones of the Kennedys' visit.

"If I didn't have the photos that Ed Westcott made, I could not tell the history of Oak Ridge at all," Smith said.

According to Smith, like all tours to this day, it was a controlled and private visit. But at the time, the public was well aware of John F. Kennedy.

"You have to remember, he was a senator at the time for Massachusetts but he already had his eye on the presidency. So I think he was looking to gain that experience and that knowledge in order to better run for the presidency," Smith said.

Sure enough, less than a year later JFK would start his presidential campaign.

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