Less than a month before the 1960 presidential election, Sen. John F. Kennedy barnstormed the region.
The senator was running neck and neck against Vice President Richard Nixon in what would be one of the closest elections in United States history, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Kennedy’s marathon began before midnight on Oct. 16, when his private airplane, “Caroline,” touched down at Cox Municipal Airport. There, he was met by a cheering crowd of 2,000 carrying banners that read, “Kennedy Is the Remedy,” “We’re With You Jack,” and “Girls, Girls For Jack, Wow!”
From the airport, Kennedy hop-scotched his way to Middletown, Springfield, Dayton, West Carrollton and Fairborn delivering speeches on Oct. 17, according to the American Presidency Project website. The economy, education and space were among the topics in the pages of oration.
In Middletown, Kennedy attended the Jefferson-Jackson Day Brunch. Photographs capture scores of people perched on a rooftop waiting to catch a glimpse of the senator and Kennedy wading through a crowd of women wearing hats with his likeness on the top.
Kennedy’s address made a special point to acknowledge Ohio’s place in presidential history.
“There used to be an old expression that Ohio is the mother of presidents,” he said. “You have run more candidates for the presidency than any other state of the union. But in a very real sense, I believe that Ohio has had a maternal effect on my candidacy.”
In Dayton, a news photographer captured Kennedy signing autographs in a room at the downtown Biltmore Hotel and then greeting local well-wishers after his speech.
Kennedy spoke during a luncheon at the hotel and on the steps of the Old Courthouse, where he conjured up the city’s past brush with a run for the presidency:
“I come here as the Democratic candidate for the presidency of the United States. I come here in 1960, just 40 years after a young man, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. came in 1920, to this state, to this city, to visit Governor Cox, who had been nominated for the office of President of the United States.”
In Springfield, Kennedy was joined on the trail by additional guests and was photographed shaking hands with Brooks Lawrence, a major league baseball player.
He told the crowd of 7,000 gathered at Wittenberg College Stadium that he had come to the university because “this university stands for freedom, for intellectual freedom, for the search of truth, and we are all engaged in that great endeavor, and perhaps lastly because if this county is going to not only survive, to endure, but to prevail, at least its system, then there must be the closest cooperation between our universities and our politicians, between our academics and intellectuals and those who guide our governmental life.”
In the Fulton Lane parking lot in Fairborn, Kennedy wrapped up his rhetoric.
“I run on a program that we must do better, that we owe it to ourselves and our country and our system to give it the best we have,” he said.
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