Sunday, July 21, 2013


A contribution from Ed Garten!!!


Growing up in poor, southern West Virginia, I was nearly twelve years old in the fall of 1960 when John F. Kennedy ran against Richard Nixon in the general presidential election.  West Virginia, of course, had been critical to Kennedy's earlier primary nomination and so he held a special affection for the state and its people.  

On October 19, 1960, our little town of Hinton was visited by none other than Eleanor Roosevelt who was doing some last minute campaigning for Senator Kennedy (Indeed, this visit was only two weeks prior to the November general election.  

I'd just started as a rural newspaper boy for the Hinton Daily News and recall, as if it were yesterday, delivering to my customers the next day's paper with the following story and a big picture of Mrs. Roosevelt speaking from the front seat of an open convertible.  But at that age it wasn't so much the celebrity of Mrs. Roosevelt that stuck in my mind; rather, it was the fact that she was riding in a new 1960 Oldsmobile convertible, a car that we'd have rarely seen in our little town.

Today, we sometimes forget how important automobile caravans werewithin a successful political campaign, especially in rural areas and small towns.  But these "campaign caravans" were often critical as a means of connecting with small town folks and often provided a few minutes of excitement in a small town amid an almost parade or carnival like atmosphere what with horns blaring and sirens from police escorts (as this article notes)

Hinton Daily News
October 19, 1960
Hundreds Line Caravan Route To Welcome Mrs. Roosevelt
Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt's caravan was more than an hour late arriving in Hinton, but hundreds pf persons, including the Hinton High School band, waited to greet her as amateur photographers had a field day.
The open convertible carrying Mrs. Roosevelt and Mrs. Elizabeth Kee was stormed by persons trying to shake her hand and many of her well-wishers carried small children in their arms and held them for her to shake their hands.

Persons stood on the rear roof of the court-house, and also on the roof of the VFW as the caravan passed. Some persons even brought ladders, chairs and boxes to stand on.
Mrs. Roosevelt made no effort to get out of the car, but sat on the front seat as she spoke over a portable loud speaking system.

On several occasions her voice was inaudible as the milling crowd pushed against the speakers causing a short circuit, but she never lost patience, merely smiled, and talked quietly to those nearest her until the speakers could be re-connected.
Her remarks here were similar to those made in Princeton earlier, and quoted later in this story.
At the Mercer-Summers county line, a delgation of nearly 50 persons in 20 automobiles greeted Mrs. Roosevelt, and accompanied her into Hinton with horns and sirens screaming.
She remained here until 1:40 when she left for Beckley via the New River bridge, and headed for Beckley and Charleston where she is scheduled for a major address in the capital tonight.
Mrs. Roosevelt breakfasted with Senator John F. Kennedy in Washington this morning before enplaning for Bluefield.
The plane arrived 35 minutes late in West Virginia's air-conditioned city, but hundreds were on hand to greet the "First Lady of the World."
Riding in an open convertible with Mrs. Elizabeth Kee, congresswoman from the Fifth Congressional District, and several other state dignitaries, Mrs. Roosevelt was greeted by masses of well-wishers lining the motorcade route. Just outside Princeton, the entourage stopped at the Maiden Form Brassiere company plant where Mrs. Roosevelt made a brief three to four minute speech.
At Princeton, upwards of 1,500 people greeted the first lady and on occasion admirers broke through swarming over the vehicle to welcome the distinguished visitor.
In Princeton W. Broughton Johnston, former president of the W. Va. State Senate, introduced Mrs. Roosevelt who said:
"I am always happy to come back to West Virginia where I have so many friends and where I worked during my husband's first administration in developing projects to relieve [un]employment.
"This morning while I breakfasted with Senator Kennedy, whom I hope you will elect as your next president, he told me that he had already decided on a plan to help the distressed states and that West Virginia was on top of his priority list.
"John Kennedy, ladies and gentlemen, is a man with a heart and he knows the problems and holds the answer to assist your great state."
When leaving Princeton, she was accompanied by a caravan of 25 automobiles.  High school and grade school students lined the streets of Athens, her next stop, where she made a brief address at Concord College, before journeying to Hinton.

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