'Biography: JFK Jr.—The Final Year' Examines His Struggles Before Death

Ileane Rudolph
Preview Justin Ide/Newsmakers/Getty Images

Tuesday, July 16 marks the 20th anniversary of JFK Jr.'s death, when the plane he was piloting crashed off Martha's Vineyard with his wife, Carolyn, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, aboard.

In commemoration, Biography examines the last months of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline's only surviving son, inspired by the new book America's Reluctant Prince: The Life of John F. Kennedy Jr., by historian Steven M. Gillon, his longtime friend.

Aided by thousands of hours of footage of the Kennedy scion and recollections from those in his circle, the filmmakers focus on the book's last chapters. During his difficult final six months, the man Gillon remembers as "nonpartisan, open-minded, decent, and kind" was struggling with numerous issues that would affect his life. 

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His strained marriage

Every public disagreement between the couple (above) became tabloid fodder with reports that Carolyn "felt trapped" by the incessant paparazzi. "John was struggling to make [the relationship] work, but not succeeding," says Gillon.

His troubled magazine, George

Auspiciously launched in 1995, the celebrity-filled blend of politics and entertainment was losing advertisers, jeopardizing its future. "John had to scramble to find new investors," says Gillon. "He did not like going around asking people for money."

(RoseMarie Terenzio)

The imminent death of Anthony Radziwill

Though he would not accept that his beloved cousin and best friend's cancer was fatal and insisted on paying for experimental treatments, "John spent his last week writing a eulogy for Anthony," says Gillon.

A decision on a political career

"He didn't want to run for office just because he was a Kennedy," says Gillon, who believes John was readying to run for governor of New York. "We lost someone who could've made a great contribution to our public life and discourse."

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Biography: JFK Jr.—The Final Year, Documentary Premiere, Tuesday, July 16, 9/8c, A&E