It all began with an unexpected proposal from a neighbor, who offered to put us in touch with his mentor, Harris Wofford. In writing Nine Days: The Race to Save Martin Luther King Jr.’s Life and Win the 1960 Election, we were straddling the line between past and present. Many of our subjects had long since died. But Wofford, then 89, provided the living link between Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy.

As became evident during our long conversations in his Washington, D.C., condo overlooking Rock Creek Park, Wofford treasured this historical tie. He welcomed us with a patient willingness to tell, in great detail, just what living through the fraught and dangerous days of the Kennedy-Nixon election race felt like, and how those moments changed our nation’s course.