Rep. John F. Kennedy, 1947.
Rep. John F. Kennedy, 1947.Al Fenn—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Rep. John F. Kennedy, 1947.
Senatorial candidate John F. Kennedy attends a tea party given by female supporters, 1952.
Sen. John Kennedy at Cape Cod with his fiancee, Jacqueline Bouvier, 1953.
John and Jackie Kennedy at their wedding reception, September 1953.
Senator John F. Kennedy, 1957.
John and Robert Kennedy at a hearing of a Senate select committee on labor racketeering, 1957.
Sen. John Kennedy plays football with his nephew, Bobby Jr., at his brother Robert's Hickory Hill, Va., home, 1957.
John and Jackie Kennedy with their baby daughter, Caroline, in their Georgetown home, 1958.
John Kennedy with his daughter Caroline in 1958.
In a picture that he later called his favorite photo of himself, Senator John F. Kennedy walks the dunes near Hyannis Port, Mass., 1959.
Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy leaps from a car while campaigning, 1960.
John F. Kennedy gives a speech while standing on a kitchen chair in West Virginia's coal country, 1960.
Sen. John Kennedy campaigns in West Virginia, 1960.
Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles, 1960.
John and Robert Kennedy confer in a Los Angeles hotel suite during the 1960 Democratic National Convention.
John F. Kennedy rides in a car with his wife Jackie upon his return home from Democratic National Convention in 1960.
Sen. John Kennedy with his young daughter Caroline at home after he was named the Democratic Party presidential candidate in 1960.
Sen. John F. Kennedy on a private plane during his presidential campaign, 1960.
Young female supporters of Sen. John F. Kennedy await his arrival at a campaign appearance in Michigan, 1960.
Senator John F. Kennedy checks over a speech at a stop during his presidential campaign, 1960.
Presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon at the time of their famous television debates, 1960.
John Kennedy on the campaign trail, 1960.
President-elect John F. Kenned, his wife Jackie and others walking to JFK's inauguration, January 1961.
Marian Anderson sings at President John F. Kennedy's inauguration, 1961.
President Harry Truman signs President John Kennedy's program at a luncheon after JFK's inauguration, 1961.
President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jaqueline in their box at his Inaugural Ball, January 1961.
President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office, 1961.
Boyd Leedom(member of the National Labor Relations Board), President John F. Kennedy, Senator Frank W. Carlson, the Rev. Billy Graham and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1961.
President John Kennedy tosses the first ball of the season at a baseball game, 1961.
President John Kennedy pins NASA's Distinguished Service Medal on Alan Shepard's chest, 1961.
President John F. Kennedy meets with former President Dwight Eisenhower at Camp David in the midst of the Bay of Pigs crisis, 1961.
John F. Kennedy in the White House, 1961.
People in a department store watch as President John Kennedy announces a blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962.
During a visit to West Germany President John F. Kennedy looks over a section of the Berlin Wall, June 1963.
President John Kennedy signs autographs during his landmark visit to Ireland in June 1963.
President John Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy (standing at window) in the Oval Office, 1962.
Rep. John F. Kennedy, 1947.
Al Fenn—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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LIFE With JFK: Classic Portraits of a Political Superstar, 1947-1963

May 08, 2014

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.

[Buy the LIFE book, The Day Kennedy Died]

[See photos from JFK and Jackie's 1953 wedding]

[See photos from JFK's funeral at Arlington]

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

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