• U.S.

Youth: Winning Ticket

3 minute read

The headlines looked like something left over from Election Day, but they betokened a strictly nonpolitical alliance. It pretty well had to be nonpolitical, in fact. Sharon Percy, 21, pretty, honey-haired daughter of Illinois’ Republican Senator-elect Charles Percy, votes the way her daddy does. John D. Rockefeller IV, 29, lanky (6 ft. 6½ in.) nephew of the G.O.P. Governors of New York and Arkansas, votes the way no other Rockefeller does. He is a Democrat—and a fledgling politician who has just won election to West Virginia’s House of Delegates. Still, when their engagement was announced last week, they looked like a winning ticket.

Pillar of Strength. The two first met a year and a half ago, when Sharon was working in then-Congressman John Lindsay’s Washington office as a clerk. Later, with Sharon in her senior year at Stanford and Jay in West Virginia, their romance flourished—thanks to long-distance telephone calls and jet airliners. In recent months, they have been sighted holding hands at Senator Robert Kennedy’s Hickory Hill party for Diplomat Averell Harriman and walking arm in arm at Caneel Bay in the Virgin Islands. In Positano, a lovely cliffside Italian resort on the Tyrrhenian Sea, they displayed what one observer described as “certainly a fondness.”

When Sharon’s twin sister Valerie was murdered in the Percy mansion at Kenilworth outside of Chicago in September, young Rockefeller immediately chartered a plane and flew to Sharon’s side. He was, said a friend of the family, a “pillar of strength” to Sharon, who had been sleeping in a bedroom just yards away from where her sister was slain.

15¢ a Week. Like his father, who is chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation, and his famous uncles, Jay is imbued with the ideal of public service. He left Harvard after his junior year, spent three years studying in Japan and living on $25 a month. The penny-pinching existence was nothing new. When he was a boy, his father gave him a 15¢ weekly allowance: a nickel to spend, a nickel to save, and a nickel for charity.

After returning to Harvard for his degree, Jay went to Yale to learn Chinese, then joined the advisory council of the Peace Corps. Two years ago, deciding that he knew too little “about the American people,” he became a neighborhood poverty worker in Emmons, W. Va., at $6,400 a year. Wearing cheap denim trousers and shirts, he sought the trust of the poor and, despite his name, obviously gained it. He entered the race for West Virginia’s House only after soliciting his future father-in-law’s advice—and won it handily.

After a March wedding in Chicago, Jay and Sharon will live in his $75,000 home in the South Hills section of Charleston. Though Jay’s spread occupies 15 well-manicured acres, the house itself is a modest five-room brick structure. But it does boast a large patio, and if Sharon would care to add another amenity or two, she need hardly feel limited by her husband’s $1,500-a-year state salary.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com