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Not many public figures from the middle part of the 20th century are as closely identified with LIFE magazine as John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In fact, from his days as a decorated war hero in the late 1940s, through his years as a senator, into the White House and up until the very moment of his assassination, LIFE photographers spent an enormous amount of time (and film) on the ambitious Democrat from Massachusetts.
That he married a woman as magnetic and stylish as the former Jacqueline Bouvier only further guaranteed that the two young cultural and political icons would never be absent from the weekly’s pages for long.
Here, LIFE.com features a series of photographs — many of which are classics, several of which never ran in LIFE — made during the decade and a half when John Kennedy was on his way to becoming, for a time, the most powerful person on earth.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.