Humphrey Seeks Labor Boost
By Harry G. Hoffmann
April 9, 1960
Editor of The Gazette
Humphrey Seeks Labor Boost
By Harry G. Hoffmann
U. S. Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn) still bubbling with vigor and enthusiasm despite the loss of both sleep and the Wisconsin primary, concentrated on a bid for labor support Friday in his first campaign swing through southern West Virginia. He found reason to be encouraged.
The Minnesota liberal, opening his presidential primary campaign against Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, geared his appeal to both the employed and unemployed of the state's labor force.
He shook hands and pinned Humphrey buttons on glass-workers and roadside greeters in the busy Kanawha Valley, and took a side trip up Cabin Creek where he saw the desolation of a decaying ghost town abandoned by all except one family when the mine closed at United.
What he saw inspired criticism of the Eisenhower Administration for the President's veto of a bill to provide relief in distressed areas.
As he left Eskdale, where Humphrey learned than 75 men are producing virtually the same amount of coal that required 400 men before mechanization, he exclaimed concern for the resulting unemployment and declared:
"I think the President of the United States should take a trip down here. It's a disgrace."
And when he transferred from his chartered Greyhound bus at Decota for an automobile trip further up the creek to see the decaying mine tipple and frame corpses of one-time dwellings at United, Humphrey had another observation...
This country, he said, needs a government with "a little guts, brains and imagination" to help the economically distressed areas and to develop West Virginia's natural mountain beauty into a playground and recreation mecca for the crowded eastern U. S. He suggested a Youth Conservation Corps as an ideal program to aid such a development.
Humphrey wound up his activity-packed first day of campaigning with a rally at Beckley's Memorial Building where he criticized Vice President Richard M. Nixon and what he called the "veto, go-slow, no-go" Eisenhower Administration record.
The fast talking Humphrey said Nixon had hoped to sit out the campaign and get the presidential nomination on a silver platter, but has changed his mind following the Wisconsin vote rather than risk being "low man on the totem poll [sic] again."
He indicated Nixon is about to get out on the stump. There have been reports the vice president would visit upstate New York and the Midwest next month to counter public opinion polls showing him running behind Kennedy.
Humphrey struck at the Administration for President Eisenhower's vetoes last year of an area redevelopment bill and a measure to establish a coal research and development commission.
He also protested against what he termed the Administration's "lying-down veto" of his bill enacted last year authorizing a food stamp plan to feed the hungry. He said Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson has done nothing to put the plan into effect.
To avoid another such situation, Humphrey said, he has introduced this year a new bill making the food stamp plan mandatory in industrial areas of chronic unemployment and in rural areas of low farm income.
Humphrey, who will go to Hinton, Princeton and Madison today, started his Friday tour at 7 a. m., going first to the big Libbey-Owens-Ford glass plant in Kanawha City.
Just before the bus reached the plant it was stopped to take aboard an advance welcoming committee composed of Jennings Backus, president of Charleston Local No. 1 of the glassworkers union, and Elmer Smith, chairman of the grievance committee.
Backus said the union isn't committed to either Humphrey or Kennedy, and that "at the present time it is hard to say" where he stands personally. Smith, however, was emphatic in saying he is for Humphrey and that "the talk's plenty strong here."
Going through the plant, Humphrey was busy pinning his campaign buttons on every worker he had time to reach and asking for their help.
Reactions of the workers ranged from an enthusiastic handshake and smile to silent submission for the button pinning ceremony.
A member of management said there is not much question about how the workers stand. "They're for Humphrey," he said, "and they don't make any bones about it."
And Smith, the grievance committee chairman, said there were only a few Kennedy people in the plant. "It seems to me that Humphrey is more for the working class of people," he said in explaining his support of the Minnesotan. He added that Kennedy's wealth is a factor against him.
Another factor, said Smith, is Kennedy's Roman Catholic religion. "We have some pretty strong Democrats here who say they won't vote for Kennedy if he is nominated," said Smith. "I think his religion is the main reason."
Others along the route mentioned the religious issue as an important one. But at Cabin Creek Junction, a retired duPont worker spoke u to say "I've heard a lot of people say Sen. Kennedy's religion wouldn't make any difference to them." He added that Kennedy has a "big segment of support" among the workers in the area.
Humphrey seemed to take particular delight on his tour in speaking to youngsters. At Leewood he talked to a large group from the junior high school, telling them they were the real hope of the future and urging them to have their parents vote for Hubert Humphrey as a man who would return the humanitarian principles of Franklin D. Roosevelt to government. At a Marmet breakfast, presided over by Mayor George Buckley, Humphrey impressed upon a group of high school youngsters the importance of carrying out the duty to vote.
Little clusters of 30 or 40 persons usually were awaiting the Humphrey bus at its stops at the bleak mining towns along Cabin Creek - Dry Branch, Eskdale, Leewood, Decota. A car with a loudspeaker, traveling about five minutes ahead of the bus, had announced its coming.
Swinging back to the river after the Cabin Creek side trip, Humphrey was met at Cedar Grove by the largest crowd of the morning. About 200 persons and the high school band were assembled when the bus pulled up in front of the local theater.
One of the major stops on the Humphrey itinerary Friday was at Montgomery. Humphrey stood in the back end of a pickup truck gripping a hand microphone and spoke to a group gathered on the ramp of the Montgomery bus station. He told them:
"America is not as well off as the stock market in New York. America is not as well off as the biggest banking houses. America is as well off as the workers, the independent businessmen, the farmers, the little guy, if you will. That is the measure."
He stressed the urgency of legislation enlarging upon social security benefits to provide medical and hospital care for the aged.
At Fayetteville, Humphrey accused the Eisenhower Administration of indifference to the needy, contending that "we have had an Administration more concerned with what it calls inflation than it is about unemployment".
As the bus proceeded slowly to Beckley for its 16th stop of the day, Humphrey made speeches at only a few stops. Otherwise it was person-to-person campaigning - Humphrey chatting with individuals and small groups, personally placing "It's Humphrey in '60" buttons on hundreds of persons, and shaking hands tirelessly.
Mostly the crowds were small, sometimes only a handful, but many of the stops were at communities of only a few hundred population. The best crowd along the route turned out to hear Humphrey make a sidewalk speech in Oak Hill. Police estimated there were 600 persons on hand.
At Fayetteville, Humphrey spotted a bus loaded with men on their way to work at a metallurgical plant. It was stopped in heavy traffic on the main street. Humphrey stepped aboard and worked his way to the rear of the bus, passing out campaign leaflets and shaking hands with every passenger.
At Marmet, a chemical plant worker stepped out of the crowd to tell Humphrey he used to live in Rochester, Minn., and had voted for him there for the Senate. "Now you'll get another vote," said the worker, Robert New.
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