Dedication of Summersville Reservoir

Richwood News Leader
September 7, 1966

The President Was Here

A few Nicholas countians still refuse to believe it, but President Lyndon B. Johnson and Mrs. Johnson have been here and gone and Summersville can now boast that its dam was dedicated by the world's most famous couple.

Everything about the President's and Lady Bird's visit went as planned and on schedule. The couple's helicopter set down on a specially constructed landing pad at about 11 a.m. Fifteen minutes later, the President was delivering his address to an estimated ten thousand people who had gathered on a point on the north side of the river overlooking the dam.

Governor Hulett Smith's limousine was standing be at the landing pad and immediately after setting down, the party was motored to the speakers stand some three or four hundred yards away.

President and Mrs. Johnson were first introduced to their official hosts, Summersville Mayor and Mrs. Bill Bryant who were waiting to greet the Johnsons and Governor and Mrs. Smith who were passengers in the limousine along with Senator Jennings Randolph who made the introductions. Following introductions and presentation of a bouquet of roses for Mrs. Johnson and a carnation for the President, which was pinned by Mrs. Bryant, the party was joined by other members of the West Virginia Washington delegation for a session of picture taking.

A small raised platform had been constructed from which the President and his party viewed the dam.

Summersville attorney, Jack Tully, was master of ceremonies and he introduced the first speaker who was Mayor Bryant. The mayor commented that this was probably the only time a president of the United States would ever be visiting the Summersville Dam, that is, he added, "unless I decide to run for president." After Bryants official welcome, Governor Hulett Smith introduced Senator Jennings Randolph, who, in turn, presented the President. The ceremony was opened by an invocation by Rev. Virgil War, pastor of the Summersville Memorial Methodist Church and closed by Rev. Bruce Cooper, pastor of the Summersville Baptist Church.

A speaker whose name did not appear on the program was Lady Bird Johnson. Tiptoeing to reach the microphones which had been adjusted earlier by her husband and still carrying her bouquet of roses, Lady Bird said that as she looked down upon the massive wall of earth which made the dam, she got the feeling that it represented the end and the beginning. The end, she said, of a giant job of construction; and the beginning of a new era of recreation and tourism for the people of West Virginia.

Five area bands, including Richwood and Summersville, were present and Richwood volunteer firemen, Johnny Greer, Joe Reynolds, Dave Cook and Raymond Lonas, accompanied one of Richwood's pump trucks to the site for standby duty.

Several National Guard units were on duty, some arriving at the scene Friday at noon, about twenty-four hours before the President's arrival. The Richwood National Guard armory was headquarters for the units and Friday evening several of the soldiers were fed there.

Although the whole show was as smooth as silk and executed to perfection, there were some disappointments. Particularly disappointed were those organizations who set up concession stands. It had been estimated that each stand would be called upon to serve about eight hundred people and all of them layed in supplies for handling that number.

It turned out that people either weren't hungry or somebody was far off in estimating the crowd. Hardly more than a tenth of the hot dog fixings, pop, candy and snack items were sold.

The lucky ones at the ceremony were those who rated printed invitations for they were permitted to sit in a section directly in front of the speakers stand which had been blacktopped just for the event. There were fifteen hundred chairs in the reserved seat section. The other eight or nine thousand people had to stand in the back or along a fence which lined the route from the helicopter pad and the speaker's platform.

Parks and Recreation