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Profiles in Courage
Tom Bosley as George W. Norris, 1965
GenreHistorical anthology
Based onthe book Profiles in Courage
by John F. Kennedy (and Theodore C. Sorensen)
Directed byLamont Johnson
Daniel Petrie
José Quintero
Michael Ritchie (film director)
Alexander Singer
Theme music composerNelson Riddle
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producerRobert Saudek
ProducerGordon Oliver
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time44 mins.
Production companyRobert Saudek Associates
Original release
ReleaseNovember 8, 1964 (1964-11-08) –
May 9, 1965 (1965-05-09)

Profiles in Courage is an American historical anthology series that was telecast weekly on NBC from November 8, 1964, to May 9, 1965 (Sundays, 6:30-7:30pm, Eastern). The series was based on the Pulitzer Prize winning 1956 book, Profiles in Courage by U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated the previous November.


The series lasted for 26 episodes, each of which would feature a figure from American history who took an unpopular stand during a critical moment in the nation's history. Seven of the eight senators from Kennedy's book were profiled, with the exception being Mississippi's Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar. Music for the opening and closing theme was arranged by Nelson Riddle, based on the Irish ballad, The Boys of Wexford, home of Kennedy's ancestors.

Historical background

Episode # Episode era and historical detail behind the individual profile in courage Episode title
(names in bold are subjects of chapters in Kennedy's book)
Year of birth Year of death Actor portrayal Original airdate
1-1 1924 Democratic National Convention#Ku Klux Klan presence — Alabama Senator Oscar Underwood opposes the Ku Klux Klan Oscar W. Underwood 1862 1929 Sidney Blackmer November 8, 1964
1-2 1918 Brooklyn high school teacher Mary Stone McDowell#Her firing as a teacher for refusing to encourage her students' purchase of World War I Liberty bonds Mary S. McDowell 1876 1955 Rosemary Harris November 15, 1964
1-3 1850 Compromise — Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton#Later Senate career and tension Thomas Hart Benton 1782 1858 Brian Keith November 29, 1964
1-4 1894 University of Wisconsin professor Richard T. Ely#Education and career in defense of academic freedom Richard T. Ely 1854 1943 Dan O'Herlihy December 6, 1964
1-5 1861 Texas in the American Civil War#Governor Sam Houston refuses to sanction Texas' secession from the Union Sam Houston 1793 1863 J. D. Cannon December 13, 1964
1-6 1915 Leo Frank#Commutation of sentence by Georgia Governor John Slaton John M. Slaton 1866 1955 Walter Matthau December 20, 1964
1-7 1770 defense attorney and future President John Adams#Counsel for the British: Boston Massacre John Adams 1735 1826 David McCallum December 27, 1964
1-8 1946 Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft#Condemnation of Nuremberg Trials Robert A. Taft 1889 1953 Lee Tracy January 3, 1965
1-9 1637 Massachusetts Bay Colony Antinomian Controversy — Boston midwife and Puritan religious reformer Anne Hutchinson Anne Hutchinson 1591 1643 Wendy Hiller January 10, 1965
1-10 1838 Missouri Militia Brigadier General Alexander William Doniphan#The 1838 Mormon War Alexander William Doniphan 1808 1887 Peter Lawford January 17, 1965
1-11 1893 Haymarket affair#Pardon and historical characterization — Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld John Peter Altgeld 1847 1902 Burgess Meredith January 24, 1965
1-12 1843 escaped slave Frederick Douglass#Abolitionist and preacher risks recapture into slavery Frederick Douglass 1817 1895 Robert Hooks January 31, 1965
1-13 1850 Compromise — Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster#Taylor administration, 1849–1850 Daniel Webster 1782 1852 Martin Gabel February 7, 1965
1-14 1916 President Woodrow Wilson Supreme Court candidates#Louis Brandeis nomination Woodrow Wilson 1856 1924 Whit Bissell February 14, 1965
1-15 1832 Canterbury Female Boarding School#Trials of Prudence Crandall, Connecticut schoolteacher and activist for education of black girls Prudence Crandall 1803 1890 Janice Rule February 21, 1965
1-16 1860 Tennessee Senator and future President Andrew Johnson#Secession crisis Andrew Johnson 1808 1875 Walter Matthau February 28, 1965
1-17 1869 President Ulysses S. Grant's Secretary of State Hamilton Fish#Cuban belligerency and insurrection 1869–1870 Hamilton Fish 1808 1893 Henry Jones March 7, 1965
1-18 1920 Socialist Party of America#Expulsion of Socialists from the New York AssemblyCharles Evans Hughes#Presidential candidate Charles Evans Hughes 1862 1948 Kent Smith March 14, 1965
1-19 1868 Kansas Senator Edmund G. Ross#Andrew Johnson impeachment deciding vote Edmund G. Ross 1826 1907 Bradford Dillman March 21, 1965
1-20 1917 American entry into World War I#Declaration of war — Nebraska Senator George W. Norris#Senator leads filibuster against Armed Ships Bill George W. Norris 1861 1944 Tom Bosley March 28, 1965
1-21 1887 Grover Cleveland#Vetoes pension bills — Grand Army of the Republic#History Grover Cleveland 1837 1908 Carroll O'Connor April 4, 1965
1-22 1807 John Quincy Adams#U.S. Senator from Massachusetts — support for Embargo Act of 1807 John Quincy Adams 1767 1848 Douglas Campbell April 11, 1965
1-23 1807 Burr conspiracy#Trial — Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall#Burr conspiracy trial John Marshall 1755 1835 Gary Merrill April 18, 1965
1-24 1906 Denver judge and social reformer Ben B. Lindsey#Juvenile court advocacy Benjamin Barr Lindsey 1869 1943 George Grizzard April 25, 1965
1-25 1787 Founding Father from Virginia George Mason#Road to dissent and refusal to sign the Constitution until it contained a Bill of Rights George Mason 1725 1792 Laurence Naismith May 2, 1965
1-26 1847 Ohio Senator Thomas Corwin#Political career delivers a speech in opposition to the Mexican War Thomas Corwin 1794 1865 George Rose May 9, 1965


No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
11"OSCAR W. UNDERWOOD"Lamont JohnsonDavid KarpNovember 8, 1964 (1964-11-08)

Opening narration: "...contender for the presidency. Another contender — Senator Oscar W. Underwood of Alabama — was so convinced the Klan was contrary to all principles of democracy that he wanted the Convention to denounce the Klan in no uncertain terms. His political courage would be tested during that fateful summer of nineteen-twenty-four."

Closing narration: "Oscar Wilder Underwood, United States Senator from Alabama, paid a high price for his act of courage — he not only lost the Democratic presidential nomination... but he also lost his renomination for the Senate. He forfeited his political career in fighting the bigotry of the Ku Klux Klan."

22"Mary S. McDowell"Jose QuinteroPeter S. FeiblemanNovember 15, 1964 (1964-11-15)
Starring Rosemary Harris
33"Thomas Hart Benton"Lamont JohnsonA. J. RussellNovember 29, 1964 (1964-11-29)
Starring Brian Keith
44"Richard T. Ely"Michael O'HerlihyWalter BernsteinDecember 6, 1964 (1964-12-06)
starring Dan O'Herlihy
55"Sam Houston"Sherman MarksA. J. RussellDecember 13, 1964 (1964-12-13)
starring J. D. Cannon
66"Governor John M. Slaton"Robert GistDon MankiewiczDecember 20, 1964 (1964-12-20)
Starring Walter Matthau
77"JOHN ADAMS"Robert StevensWalter BernsteinDecember 27, 1964 (1964-12-27)

Opening narration: "The British sentry was startled by the alarm of a fire that did not exist. Whoever had instigated this prank, confusion it caused was a prolog to other events that same night... events later to be known as the Boston Massacre."

"In the early months of seventeen-seventy, British soldiers were stationed in Boston for the first time. Their purpose — to enforce the English revenue laws in the colony. The colonials considered military occupation one of many grievances. Some colonials banded together in rebellious groups, such as the Sons of Liberty. The colonials were further angered by this sign, posted on the night of March fifth, which purported to announce the Redcoats' determination to repulse any opposition. Sometimes this opposition took the form of children's pranks and sometimes it was the harassment of individuals."
"A disorderly mob was growing in the streets next. Trouble was brewing. John Adams, then a young successful lawyer and a militant foe of the English crown, was to be faced with decisions that could have ended his political career."
"JOHN ADAMS HOME March 6, 1770"
"SUPERIOR COURT, BOSTON November 27, 1770"
"SUPERIOR COURT, BOSTON December 4, 1770"
Closing narration: "John Adams risked his whole career in defending the soldiers. In spite of his unpopular stand, he was elected to the General Court. He became one of the great public figures of America — one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence. He became the second President of the United States."

Uncredited: Percy Helton as Mr. Wilson, witness testifying at trial
88"ROBERT A. TAFT"Jose QuinteroWilliam HanleyJanuary 3, 1965 (1965-01-03)

Opening narration: "Not all men were joyful, however... not all were capable of celebration.... nor had remaining to them the capacity for joy. Those who survived the charnel pit that was Nazi Germany, survived a new kind of war — a war of enslavement, murder, extermination, genocide... and the victims of that war fell on this battlefield — death from controlled gas warfare... in numbers beyond the ability of the mind to grasp. But who can truly imagine six million dead? The brain becomes useless and it remains to the heart and the soul to contend with such a truth. And what of the men responsible for the Holocaust? Were they men, like you and me? Perhaps... Not supermen... ordinary men... ordinary, but in whose hands there had been power... that it required little more than a single year to compile and catalog and broadcast to the world from this courtroom in Nuremberg, Germany, the full terrible truth of the system that these men had dreamed of... in a nightmare dream to be the Thousand-Year Reich and that was ended in twelve. The fire of madness that burned in these men's souls and consumed them and they stood now on the edge of judgment. While in America in that September of nineteen-forty-six, the people were preparing for a far different kind of judgment — in the first peacetime elections in eight years. There was a man then in Washington who was directly involved in the one judgment that would hopefully result in the political dominance of his party in the United States Congress... and who felt a responsibility for the nature of the other judgment that would in all likelihood result in the deaths of the men in the Nuremberg dock. Shy, reticent, solitary man, with few intimate friends, but with many followers. A man who had reached a place of power in the United States Senate... the acknowledged leader of his party. In the few years since his arrival in Washington in nineteen-thirty-nine as senator from his native state of Ohio... called Mister Republican... the son of the twenty-seventh President of the United States and with the dream that was almost a conviction... that he himself would one day have the honor of holding that office. But he was soon to risk the loss of his place of eminence in American domestic politics. And, he was to risk, too, the condemnation of the American people. Both, because he was a man who refused to make any slightest compromise with what he believed to be the truth."

Closing narration: "The storm raised by Senator Taft's speech eventually died down. It did not, after all the uproar, appear to affect the Republican sweep in nineteen-forty-six nor was it, at least openly, an issue in Taft's drive for the presidential nomination in nineteen-forty-eight. Taft's action was characteristic of the man who was labeled a reactionary and who was proud to be a conservative and who showed unhesitating courage in standing against the flow of public opinion for a cause that he believed to be right."

99"Anne Hutchinson"Cyril RitchardJonathan MillerJanuary 10, 1965 (1965-01-10)
Starring Wendy Hiller
1010"General Alexander William Doniphan"UnknownDon MankiewiczJanuary 17, 1965 (1965-01-17)
Starring Peter Lawford
1111"John Peter Altgeld"Daniel PetriePhilip S. GoodmanJanuary 24, 1965 (1965-01-24)
1212"FREDERICK DOUGLASS"Sherman MarksDon M. MankiewiczJanuary 31, 1965 (1965-01-31)

Opening narration: "This is Frederick Douglass, age twenty-one, newly arrived from Baltimore. Certain things are second nature, even in a strange town — such as stepping down to let a white man pass... perhaps such deference is unnecessary, but Douglass is unsure of Northern ways."
"This man, Frederick Douglass, on his way home with a bundle of wood, will soon bring distinction to a name not his own. He would find himself with greater opportunities than he had ever imagined, but first he would have to face great risks, public and personal, as well as the greatest risk — doing damage to the cause he serves.

Closing narration: "Frederick Douglass had to flee to England to escape recapture as a fugitive slave. There, he made speeches for his cause and, eventually, friends in England bought Douglass from his master, Captain Auld of Baltimore. As a freed man, he returned to the United States and served his country in many ways. He recruited Negro soldiers for the Union Army. He was an advisor to President Lincoln and, in eighteen-eighty-nine, he was appointed the United States minister to Haiti."

1313"DANIEL WEBSTER"Robert GistA. J. RussellFebruary 7, 1965 (1965-02-07)

Opening narration: "The contemporary called Daniel Webster a living lie — because no man on Earth could be so great as he looked. Certainly, his striking appearance was half the secret of his power — he convinced all who looked upon his face that he was one born to rule men. There can be no mistaking he was a great man — he looked like one, he talked like one and he insisted he was one. Ever since his first speech in Congress, attacking the War of 1812, Webster riveted the House of Representatives as no freshman had ever held it before. He was the outstanding orator of all time — whether at a picnic, as an advocate before the Supreme Court or... in the Senate. Webster first was elected to the Senate in eighteen-twenty-seven. He soon became a strong voice against the institution of slavery, characterizing it as... one of the greatest evils, both moral and political. He presented petitions for the abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia, he served as Secretary of State and returned to his seat in the Senate to face the crisis of impending Civil War. When the moment came to test his greatness, Daniel Webster had to risk everything that he held dear."

Closing narration: "Daniel Webster suffered many abuses for his stand for the Union and his own political ambitions were thwarted. But, the fact that Secession did not occur until ten years later, is due in great part to him. He helped the country understand and accept Henry Clay's Compromise."

(episode title does not appear on-screen)"
Alexander SingerDavid KarpFebruary 14, 1965 (1965-02-14)

"January 4, 1916"
Opening narration: "During nineteen-fifteen, Europe was at war. German U-boats were sinking British passenger ships. The Lusitania was sunk with two thousand people aboard, including one hundred and twenty four American citizens. The United States was neutral and enjoying a prosperous peacetime. In December of nineteen-fifteen, President Woodrow Wilson married Edith Galt. On his return to the White House, he not only had to face the problems of the foreign crisis, but he was to create a domestic crisis that was to last for months."
"Woodrow Wilson — former economist, former president of Princeton University and, for the preceding three years, President of the United States — must fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court. His choice would indeed produce a shockwave throughout the nation."
"The White House kitchen"

"THE DETROIT FREE PRESS on the appointment of Louis Brandeis January 29, 1916..."
"..HARVARD UNIVERSITY President A. Lawrence Lowell.."
"BOSTON, May 1916"
"On May twentieth, nineteen sixteen, President Wilson was aboard a train for Charlotte, North Carolina. On the same train was Wilson's friend Josephus Daniels, assigned to talk to Lee Overman, a crucial member of the Senate committee voting on the Brandeis appointment."
"Shortly after Wilson's return from Charlotte, the second crucial member of the Senate committee, Senator James O'Gorman paid a surprise call to the White House office."
"One man held the deciding vote in the Senate committee — Senator Shields of Tennessee."
"May 24, 1916"
"On June first, the Senate voted on the committee's recommendation to confirm the nomination by a vote of forty-seven to twenty-two.
Closing narration: "On Monday, June fifth, nineteen-sixteen, Louis Dembitz Brandeis appeared for the first time on the bench of the United States Supreme Court as an associate justice. The record of his service in that court is public and distinguished, bearing on every hope that his friends expressed throughout the long fight to confirm his appointment. The hero of Justice Brandeis' elevation to that bench was the twenty-eighth President of the United States Woodrow Wilson who had risked his career, his administration and his re-election — first to summon forward a great jurist and then to support him when every force — friendly and hostile — was bent on making Wilson retreat. Woodrow Wilson's refusal to retreat was an act for which every American — every person who loves justice — may be proud."

1515"Prudence Crandall"Andrew SingerAndy LewisFebruary 21, 1965 (1965-02-21)
Starring Janice Rule
1616"Andrew Johnson"Alexander SingerPhilip S. GoodmanFebruary 28, 1965 (1965-02-28)
Starring Walter Matthau
1717"Hamilton Fish"UnknownUnknownMarch 7, 1965 (1965-03-07)
Starring Henry Jones
1818"Charles Evans Hughes"UnknownDavid KarpMarch 14, 1965 (1965-03-14)
Starring Kent Smith
1919"Edmund G. Ross"Gerald MayerAndy LewisMarch 21, 1965 (1965-03-21)
2020"George W. Norris"UnknownDon MankiewiczMarch 28, 1965 (1965-03-28)
Starring Tom Bosley
2121"Grover Cleveland"Lamont JohnsonPhilip S. GoodmanApril 4, 1965 (1965-04-04)
2222"John Quincy Adams"Michael RitchieAndy LewisApril 11, 1965 (1965-04-11)
2323"John Marshall"UnknownDavid KarpApril 18, 1965 (1965-04-18)
Starring Gary Merrill
2424"Judge Benjamin Barr Lindsey"Robert GistDon MankiewiczApril 25, 1965 (1965-04-25)
Starring George Grizzard
2525"George Mason"Joseph AnthonyA. J. RussellMay 2, 1965 (1965-05-02)
2626"Thomas Corwin"Michael RitchieDon MankiewiczMay 9, 1965 (1965-05-09)
Starring George Rose


The series won two awards; a Peabody Award for Robert Saudek and a Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Television.[citation needed]

Episodes of Profiles in Courage on the Internet Archive