photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
Oprah Winfrey and President Obama photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP

Today, President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 distinguished Americans – three posthumously to Senator Daniel Inouye, astronaut Sally Ride, and civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. The remaining 14 recipients:

Ernie Banks
Ben Bradlee
Bill Clinton
Daniel Kahneman
Richard Lugar
Loretta Lynn
Mario Molina
Arturo Sandoval
Dean Smith
Gloria Steinem
Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian
Patricia Wald
Oprah Winfrey

On February 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy, by executive order 11085, re-established the Medal of Freedom to the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

President and Mrs. Kennedy, cellist Pablo Casals at the White House Dinner in honor of Governor Luis Muñoz Marín of Puerto Rico
President and Mrs. Kennedy, cellist Pablo Casals at the White House Dinner in honor of Governor Luis Muñoz Marín of Puerto Rico

SECTION 1. Prior orders. The numbered sections of Executive Order No. 9586 of July 6, 1945, as amended by Executive Order No. 10336 of April 3, 1952, are hereby amended to read as follows:
“SECTION 1. Medal established. The Medal of Freedom is hereby re-established as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with accompanying ribbons and appurtenances. The Presidential Medal of Freedom, hereinafter referred to as the Medal, shall be in two degrees.
“SEC. 2. Award of the Medal. (a) The Medal may be awarded by the President as provided in this order to any person who has made an especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

“(b) The President may select for award of the Medal any person nominated by the Board referred to in Section 3(a) of this Order, any person otherwise recommended to the President for award of the Medal, or any person selected by the President upon his own initiative.
“(c) The principal announcement of awards of the Medal shall normally be made annually, on or about July 4 of each year; but such awards may be made at other times, as the President may deem appropriate.
“(d) Subject to the provisions of this Order, the Medal may be awarded posthumously.

Source: The American Presidency Project at UC Santa Barbara

Nine months later, President Kennedy would be assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas (November 22, 1963). [revised from an earlier post]

Marian Anderson and President Johnson
Contralto Marian Anderson and President Johnson

The first Presidential Medals of Freedom (33 total) were awarded December 6, 1963 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson (Vice President under Kennedy). You may want to do a search on the names.

The recipients:
Marian Anderson
Pablo Casals
Genevieve Caulfield 

Dr. John F. Enders
Karl Holton
Robert J. Kiphuth 

Edwin H. Land 

Governor Herbert H. Lehman (in absentia) 

J. Clifford MacDonald (Mrs. MacDonald received the award on behalf of her deceased husband) 

George Meany 

Professor Alexander Meiklejohn 

Lidwig Mies can der Rohe 

Clarence B. Randall 

Rudolf Serkin 

Edward Steichen 

Professor George W. Taylor 

Dr. Alan T. Waterman 

Mark S. Watson 

Annie D. Wauneka 

E.B. White 

Edmund Wilson 

Thornton Wilder 

Andrew Wyeth

Those who received the award with Special Distinction:
Ellsworth Bunker 

Dr. Ralph J. Bunche 

Dr. James B. Conant 

Governor Luis Munoz Marin
Robert A. Lovett
Jean Monnet 

Justice Felix Frankfurter
John J. McCloy

In addition to J. Clifford MacDonald Pope John XXIII was coffered posthumously. And President John Fitzgerald Kennedy also received a medal posthumously.

Source: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum