John Patterson's wholehearted support for John F. Kennedy in the presidential campaign of 1960 seems mystifying in the light of Kennedy's support for civil rights and the huge animosity towards him by many Southerners in later years. Patterson saw in Kennedy a man of his own generation who had also seen combat in World War II, who beleved in the same economic liberalism as Patterson did. Kennedy also shared Patterson's interest in combating organized crime. Both John and Robert Kennedy had played an important role in Senate racketeering investigations. Former Alabama Governor Albert Brewer recalls how Patterson was among the first governors to endorse Kennedy for the Democratic Party nomination.

John Siegenthaler, for many years executive editor of the Nashville Tennesseean, was an aide and friend of Robert Kennedy before and after the election of 1960. He recalls how the Kennedys knew they needed the South but could not expect solid support given Kennedy's Roman Catholicism, a major issue in the South. Even though John Kennedy could not afford to further alienate his Southern support, he made a famous phone call to Coretta Scott King during the campaign after her husband Martin Luther King was jailed in Atlanta. Siegenthaler describes the aftereffects.

John Patterson's enthusiastic support for John F. Kennedy extended to his carrying bags of cash to Kennedy's Georgetown house. He saw Kennedy's call to Coretta King as political just as his own embrace of segregationism was political. But political events would not allow their alliance to continue. Patterson describes how the events surrounding the 1961 freedom rides ended the direct access to the White House he had previously enjoyed.