UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls

Kennedy @ 100

2017 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th president of the United States and the youngest elected president.

The University Archives & Area Research Center created an exhibit commemorating the Kennedy years that is currently on display in the Chalmer Davee Library on the main floor.  This online exhibit is intended to supplement the display with other material and information.  Down the right side you will find a timeline with highlights from JFK's life and career.  In the main area are items relating to Kennedy and the 1960 Wisconsin elections (primary and general), Kennedy's visits to "our" northwestern Wisconsin area, and how the area newspapers reacted to the President's death.

The 1960 Wisconsin Primary

Senator John F. Kennedy crisscrossed the state of Wisconsin several times leading up to the April 5, 1960, primary.  He visited River Falls twice, once in the fall of 1959 and again in the spring of 1960. He returned to the area on March 29, 1960, when he spoke in Hudson, New Richmond, River Falls, and Ellsworth.

November 12, 1959 WSC-River Falls Visit

Senator Kennedy did not officially announce his presidential candidacy until January 1960.  In 1959, however, he was busy campaigning informally, visiting a variety of venues—from a rice festival in Louisiana, to a live broadcast in Duluth, Minnesota.  Kennedy also visited the Midwest in 1959, including Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin.  He did a Chautauqua-style speaking tour in the fall of 1959, visiting many colleges.  On November 12, 1959, Kennedy spoke at Wisconsin State College-River Falls, giving a speech in the North Hall Auditorium on the crisis in education.

First page of Kennedy's speech at WSC-RF, November 12, 1959
Transcript of Kennedy's speech at WSC-RF on November 12, 1959, from RF Small Collection 261, University Archives, UW-River Falls

February-March 1960

Senator Kennedy commenced a whirlwind tour around Wisconsin hoping for a win in the Wisconsin primary.  The following article from the New Richmond News of February 11, 1960, outlines Kennedy's tour.

Kennedy on a 450 Mile Swing Through Wisconsin article from the New Richmond News, February 11, 1960

     This young family would look good in the White House. United States Senator and Mrs. John F. Kennedy and their dauter [sic], Caroline. Mr. Kennedy is one of the leading contenders seeking the democratic nomination for president. And as if you didn't know, he's from Massachusetts. He will run in the Wisconsin preferential delegate election April 5.

Kennedy on a 450-Mile Swing Thru Wisconsin

"Senator John F. Kennedy will begin Tuesday, February 16, a three-day 450-mile campaign swing through Wisconsin to advance his candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

"Announcing the Senator's schedule, Mayor Ivan A. Nestingen of Madison, Chairman of the Kennedy for President Club of Wisconsin, said next week's tour will be the first of several Kennedy will make in Wisconsin prior to the April 5 Presidential primary.

" 'In Wisconsin as elsewhere throughout the nation, Senator Kennedy will bring his program directly to the citizens,' Mayor Nestingen said.  'He has already proven himself as the only candidate with the courage and capabilities to carry his case directly to the public by entering all of the key primary election contests.'

"Senator Kennedy will visit 11 counties on his first extensive tour of the state since announcing as a candidate for the Presidency.  He will travel through the state in a car caravan accompanied by Wisconsin members of the Kennedy for President Club and other volunteers supporting his candidacy."

March 29, 1960 Hudson, New Richmond, River Falls, Ellsworth

Senator Kennedy started March 29, 1960, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and ended the day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In between, Hudson, New Richmond, River Falls, and Ellsworth were whistle stops on Kennedy's stump of Wisconsin.

In Hudson, Kennedy spoke to the high school students and general public at the Oak Street auditorium for about half an hour; more than 1,000 attended.  The Hudson Star-Observer noted that he "left an indelible impression on all who heard him speak"and "was a dynamic man whose spontaneity and vigor were ever present."

In New Richmond, the News headlined its article, "Sen. Kennedy Thrills Large Crowd Here."  The article reads, "United State Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Democratic presidental hopeful, whose ultimate victory or doom may be spelled out in the vote he gets in the 9th Congressional District (that's us and 10 other counties in Western Wisconsin) of Wisconsin in Tuesday's delegate elections, thrilled a capacity house at the Gem theatre Tuesday morning.  Despite the fact the senator was running 45 minutes late, folks stayed to see and hear him--every young woman (under or over 50, even) will no doubt vote for John F. Kennedy.  He's a real American young man, and smart, too, and you can't help but like him.  Mothers with no one to leave the children with, brot the children!  That's a good omen for Senator Kennedy!  We hope he wins Tuesday in the 9th District and thruout Wisconsin!"

Senator Kennedy returned to River Falls, speaking and glad-handing in downtown River Falls.  He spoke from the top of a car, greeted people in a local restaurant, and spoke on the radio.  Robert Kennedy had preceded his brother by a week to make arrangements.  Both visits were front-page news in the River Falls Journal.  The Journal later reported that JFK was “making a bid for the farm vote” and outlined a five-part program for helping boost farm income. “A good sized crowd of people heard the senator speak on the street and shook hands with him as he walked up and down Main Street.”

Following a noon lunch in the Methodist Church in Ellsworth on March 29, Kennedy spoke to a full house.  The Pierce County Herald of March 31, 1960, quoted Kennedy's speech: "What you Wisconsin voters do April 5th, will have the greatest possible influence on what the people of Maine, of Hawaii and of Alaska do.  All other states are watching you closely.  This is one of three contested primaries in the nation, and will have a big effect."  Of local interest, the Herald pointed out that Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, Kennedy's opponent in the primary, and Kennedy himself were "the only two presidential candidates ever to visit the fair village of Ellsworth."

Kennedy's Whirlwind Primary Schedule in Wisconsin

February 1960
March 1960

Feb. 16: Fort Atkinson, Whitewater, Lake Geneva, Kenosha, Madison

March 9: Madison, Baraboo, Reedsburg, Mauston, Sparta, La Crosse

Feb. 17: Port Washington, West Bend, Mayville, Beaver Dam, Fond du Lac

March 10: Black River Falls, Fairchild, Marshfield, Stevens Point

Feb. 18: Oshkosh, DePere, Appleton, Green Bay

March 11: Manawa, Clintonville, Shawano, New London, Neenah, Menasha, Appleton

Feb. 19: Berlin

March 16: Madison

Feb. 24: Madison, Portage,

March 17: Cornell, Ladysmith, Park Falls, Mellen, Montreal, Hurley, Ashland

Feb. 25: Wausau, Antigo, Medford, Abbotsford

March 18: Washburn, Hayward, Shell Lake, Minong, Gordon, Superior

Feb. 26: Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Bloomer, Durand

March 19: Milwaukee, Mukwonago, Burlington, Racine, Delavan, Janesville

 

March 20: Milwaukee, Marionette

April 1960

March 23: Milwaukee

April 1: Dodgeville, Beloit

March 24: Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine

April 2: Milwaukee

March 25: Hillsboro, Gays Mills, Muscoda, Lancaster, Milwaukee

April 3: Milwaukee

March 29: Hudson, New Richmond, River Falls, Ellsworth, Milwaukee

April 4: Milwaukee

March 30: Manitowoc

April 5: Kennedy Wins Wisconsin Primary

March 31: Oconomowoc

 

Kennedy and Nixon political buttons, 1960
Kennedy and Nixon political buttons, 1960

The 1960 Election in Wisconsin

After the hard-fought primary election, Senator Kennedy returned to Wisconsin only once, for a two-visit to Green Bay (October 22), and Milwaukee, Madison, and La Crosse (October 23).

The 1960 election was held Tuesday, November 8. The presidential race was too close to call until the final ballots were tallied.  Results were not official until noon the following day.  In the end John F. Kennedy (D) had won with 303 electoral votes and 34,226,731 popular votes compared to Richard M. Nixon (R) 219 electoral votes and 34,108,157 popular votes.

1960 Presidential Election Returns map

Despite winning the Wisconsin primary, Democrat Kennedy lost the presidental election in Wisconsin to Republican Nixon, by 895,175 to 830,805 votes, or 51.77% to 48.05%.

By contrast, in the Wisconsin gubernatorial election, the Democratic nominee, and incumbantGaylord Nelsonwon with 51.5% of the vote.

All four counties in the Area Research Center's areaBurnett, Pierce, Polk, and Saint Croixwent Democratic for the gubernatorial election, but Republican for the presidental election.

 

"The President is Dead"

So starts one of the articles in the November 28, 1963, issue of the River Falls Journal.  It continues, "These words shocked millions of persons across the world Friday [November 22, 1963] an hour after a hidden sniper cut down President John F. Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connaly [sic] with three blasts of a high powered rifle."

"Hundreds of River Falls citizens who shook the hand of Sen. John F. Kennedy and watched his climb to the position of Chief Executive of the United States look back with numbed horror and disbelief at the tragic events of the past weekend."

"On Monday [November 25, the day of Kennedy's funeral] flags were displayed from one end of Main St. to another.  River Falls stores closed from 7:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.  Schools were closed all day.  Some churches held memorial services and a mass at the Catholic Church was sponsored by the Foreign Students Assn. of River Falls State College as the people of River Falls remembered the President's visit here on March 29, 1960."

Front page of the River Falls Journal, November 28, 1963
Front page of the River Falls Journal, November 28, 1963

The November 28, 1963, issue of the Hudson Star-Observer also remembered Kennedy's 1960 visit with an article by Dr. Donald L. Iverson titled "Kennedy's Visit to Hudson in 1960 is Recalled."  Alongside is a photograph of Kennedy, Iverson, and Iverson's two children.

Another article, entitled "Business Comes to A Standstill; All Schools Closed," recounts events similar to River Falls:

"Hudson joined the rest of the country Monday in paying final tribute to President Kennedy, who was killed Friday by an assassin's bullet.  Business establishments, as well as city offices were closed from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in observance of President Johnson's proclamation declaring Monday the day of official mourning.

"Hudson's business district was nearly deserted most of Monday.  Only an occasional shopper was seen on the street.  The parking meters went unused.  Flags were prominently displayed on the street -- some at half mast and others carrying a strip of black mourning crepe.

"All county offices were closed as was the post office.  In observance of the mourning proclamation, the Hudson Community schools and St. Patrick's parochial schools did not have classes Monday.

"A brief public memorial service was held at 11:30 a.m. on Second street in the center of the business district, by the Veterans of Foreign Wars."

Front page of the Hudson Star-Observer, November 28, 1963
Front page of the Hudson Star-Observer, November 28, 1963

1917

Born May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts, to Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy

1947-1953

U.S. Representative
(elected in 1946 along with Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy)

1953

Kennedy wedding, September 12, 1953
Jackie Bouvier Kennedy and John F. Kennedy cutting the cake at their wedding, September 12, 1953, Newport, Rhode Island (Library of Congress ds 07096)

1953-1960

U.S. Senator from Massachusetts

1957

Nov. 27: 1st Kennedy child born
     (Caroline Bouvier Kennedy)

1959

Nov. 12: JFK visits River Falls to speak at the college

John F. Kennedy at WSC-RF, November 12, 1959
Sen. John F. Kennedy at WSC-RF (UWRF Archives, Series 26)

1960

Jan. 2: JFK officially announces

March 8: JFK wins NH primary

March 29: JFK visits River Falls, Hudson, and New Richmond

Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in downtown River Falls, March 1960
Candidate John F. Kennedy shaking hands in River Falls (UWRF Archives, Series 26)

May 10: JFK wins WV primary

July 15: Officially nominated

Sept. 26: 1st ever televised presidential debate

Kennedy-Nixon Debate, Sept. 26, 1960
Debate, September 26, 1960, held in Chicago. This was the first televised presidential debate in history. It attracted 60% of American households with televisions. (Smithsonian Institution)

More presidential debates
     Oct. 7:  2nd debate
     Oct. 13: 3rd debate
     Oct. 21: 4th debate

Nov. 8: Election held, JFK wins by margin of 0.1%

Nov. 25: 2nd Kennedy child born
     (John F. Kennedy, Jr.--John John)

1961

Jan. 20: JFK inaugurated

Jan. 30: Delivers his 1st State of the Union address

Mar. 1: Executive Order 10924 establishes Peace Corps

Apr. 12: Congratulates Soviets on 1st man in space

Apr. 17: Orders Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba
       19: Invasion fails

Bay of Pigs front page, April 21, 1961, NY Daily News
Front page of New York Daily News from April 21, 1961, re the Bay of Pigs

May 5: 1st American in space
      25: JFK announces goal of
            landing man on the Moon

June 4: Vienna Summit meeting with Soviet President Khrushchev

Sept. 25: JFK addresses United Nations

1962

Jan. 11: 2nd State of the Union

Feb. 20: John Glenn orbits Earth

May 1: JFK signs Educational Television act

May 19: Marilyn Monroe sings "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" for JFK's 45th birthday party at Madison Square Garden in New York

Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" at Madison Square Garden, New York
Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston (ST-215-18-62)

October - Cuban Missile Crisis
     16th:  JFK briefed about missiles
     22nd: JFK addresses nation
     27th:  Black Saturday
     28th:  Crisis ended

Cuban missile crisis protest, 1962
800 Women strikers for peace on 47th St. near the United Nations building, 1962 (Library of Congress,  LC-USZ62-128465)

1963

Jan. 14: 3rd State of the Union

June 11: JFK delivers a Civil Rights address and calls for a civil rights bill

June 26: Delivers now-famous Ich bin ein Berliner speech in Berlin

Ich bin ein Berliner note card
Note card Kennedy wrote with the foreign phrases from his Berlin speech

Aug. 7: 3rd Kennedy child born
        9: Patrick Bouvier Kennedy dies

Aug. 28: March on Washington
     King's "I Have a Dream" speech
     JFK and M.L. King meet

Sept. 20: Adresses United Nations

Oct. 7: Signs Partial Test Ban Treaty

Nov. 21: JFK asks advisers to prepare War on Poverty legislation

Nov. 22: JFK shot in Dallas, Texas
        25: Funeral service held

Kennedy Assassinated, New York Daily News headline on November 23, 1963
Headline in the New York Daily News, November 23, 1963

Contact Us

University Archives and Area Research Center
170 Chalmer Davee Library
(715) 425-3567
archives@uwrf.edu 

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