“The Presidential Medal of Freedom Winners and Their Achievements”
by Bruce Wetterau
President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded MacDonald a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom with the above citation during White House ceremony December 6, 1963. Mrs. MacDonald received the award for her late husband. MacDonald had been elected as a medal recipient earlier in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated shortly before the award ceremony.
J. Clifford MacDonald, whose mother was a writer, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1902. After studying journalism at Columbia University, he worked first as a newspaper reporter and then published his own newspaper, The Spectator, in Saint Petersburg, Florida, during the 1920’s. Moving to Tampa in 1926, he started the MacDonald Printing Company there and managed the plant until 1959, when a stroke forced him to retire.
MacDonald began working on behalf of children with disabilities in 1942 after learning his only son was disabled. He founded the Hillsborough Association for Retarded Children in 1953 and, with help from other local groups, opened the MacDonald Training Center in Tampa.
Three years later the center became part of a national research program on training children with disabilities.
MacDonald went on to organize the Florida State Council for R*******d Children, and from 1955 to 1957 he served as president of the National Association for R*******d Children. He also worked as chairman of the National Committee for Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment.
President John F. Kennedy announced MacDonald’s selection for the Medal of Freedom in July 1963, but sadly neither man lived to see the presentation itself. The ailing Floridian died of a stroke just weeks after the announcement, at age sixty-one, and President Kennedy died after being struck by an assassin’s bullet that November.