ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Thomas P. Costin, Jr., 90, served as Lynn’s mayor from 1955-1961.
By THOMAS GRILLO
NAHANT — It’s a meeting former Lynn Mayor Thomas P. Costin, Jr. will never forget.
U.S. Rep. John F. Kennedy was in the bathtub at his Bowdoin Street apartment on Beacon Hill easing his chronic back pain when Costin was ushered into the bathroom by the congressman’s aide.
“Jack told me to sit on the hopper,” said Costin, 90. “He told me of his plans to expand his base beyond the 8th Congressional District and asked if my family would host a gathering at my home.”
That 1947 encounter would begin a close friendship that ended when Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
On Thursday, June 1, Lynn Museum/LynnArts and Essex Media Group (EMG) will celebrate what would have been JFK’s 100th birthday on May 29, and host “Jack and Tom: The Friendship of President John F. Kennedy and Mayor Thomas P. Costin, Jr..”
The conversation with Costin will be moderated by EMG publisher Ted Grant. A question and answer session and a brief reception will follow.
After serving as Lynn’s youngest mayor from 1955-1961, JFK named Costin Lynn’s postmaster, a position he held for more than three decades through seven presidents until his retirement in 1992.
His most vivid memories were of his conversations with a young JFK, who would later become the 35th president of the United States.
Following that first meeting with Kennedy in his bathroom, Costin came away thinking JFK was on track for a White House run.
“I thought he was fantastic,” he said. “He had that way about him, he had the personality and people were fascinated that he was one of 10 kids. How many people would want to talk to you in the bathroom? It didn’t seem strange at all, his back was bothering him and that’s how he got relief.”
Costin described Kennedy as a humble guy with a big smile.
“When he talked to you, it was like you were the only person in the room,” he said. “Unlike other pols who are always looking around the room to see who else they can talk to, Kennedy looked right at you.”
When Costin was mayor in 1956, he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention when JFK failed to secure the nomination for vice president under Adlai Stevenson.
But that set the stage for Kennedy to run for president, Costin said.
Two years later, when Kennedy ran for reelection to the Senate, Costin was named to the campaign staff.
“We told voters they were not just voting to re-elect a senator, but possibly a presidential contender,” he said.
After Kennedy won the close race for president against Richard Nixon in 1960, Costin was invited to the Oval Office. The president-elect asked him what job he wanted in the new administration.
“I told him I wanted to be postmaster in Lynn,” he said. “What? The president asked in shock. Postmaster? I told him if he would please just do that I’d be happy.”
On Nov. 22, 1963, Costin was having lunch at home when he heard the news on TV that the president had been assassinated.
“I cried,” he said.
Tickets for the June 1 event are $35, $50 for a pair. All proceeds benefit the Lynn Museum/LynnArts organization. For more information, or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities, please call Drew Russo at (781) 581-6200 or [email protected]
Thomas Grillo can be reached at [email protected]