Newspaper Articles

Fairmont Times
April 19, 1960

Kennedy Raps Religious Issue, Asserts Primary Getting 'Mean'

Cheers Greet Candidate At Local Speech

Senator Reveals Program For Assisting Coal in Talk With Newsmen

Sen. John Fitzgerald Kennedy of Massachusetts, campaigning here yesterday in behalf of his candidacy for President in the May 10 Democratic primary, told newsmen that his opponent, Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota is waging a "mean fight."

Kennedy, who told a cheering, traffic-blocking crowd of some 2,000 in front of the Virginia Theater that he did not think the West Virginia primary would be decided on the basis of religion, declared he did not feel that the fact he was born a Roman Catholic 42 years ago doomed him to defeat in his quest for the presidency.

In a later news conference, held in the residence of Sheriff J. Max Gill, and in talking with reporters on the press bus which is accompanying his motorcade in Northern West Virginia, the Massachusetts senator outlined a "new program for coal" to which he pledged his support.

Speaking to a tightly packed crowd which interrupted his 10-minute speech several times with cheers and applause, Kennedy said, "If I can't be President because of my religion, then I should not be a senator, I should not have served in the House, I should not have served in the Navy, and my brother who was killed in World War II should not have served."

He declared that "West Virginia is suffering some of the most serious problems of any of our states, but I don't think one of them is religion. I think this primary will be, and should be, decided on other issues.

"We all believe in the Constitution and the First Amendment which provides for freedom of religion and in the Sixth article which forbids a religious test for holding public office. I subscribe to the Constitution in all its parts."

Later he told newsmen that he decided to bring the religious issue "out into the sunlight" here because "it's obviously underneath. Quite obviously it's hanging in everyone's minds.

"I don't think it's a majority thing, but I do think that it is of concern to many persons so I should give my reasons and feelings on the subject."

The senator turned to charges by managers of the Humphrey campaign in West Virginia that Kennedy supporters are trying to create the impression that those who oppose him are intolerant or unfair because of his religion.

He said he is running in this state "against everybody who doesn't want me for President for one thing or another" and added that even if Humphrey should beat him in West Virginia "as far as I can see he has no chance of being nominated, so why make it such a mean fight?

West Virginia's junior senator, Robert C. Byrd, has been one of those urging state voters to support Humphrey if they favor a candidate other than the two entered in the primary. Byrd is himself a backer of Senator Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas.

Byrd came out flatly yesterday with a statement that he does not think Kennedy has "the age and experience to be President in these perilous days." Kennedy is 42, Humphrey 48 and Johnson 51. The Raleigh County Democrat said he was for Johnson but denied again he was behind a "stop-Kennedy" movement. He said he would vote for Humphrey May 10.

Kennedy said it was apparent that the matter of his religion cannot be circumvented in West Virginia no matter how much he or anyone else tries to keep it out of the campaign. But, he added at his press conference, "I'm not going to turn the other cheek.

"This is a very tough fight for me - uphill with lots of problems. I don't know why it couldn't be debeated [sic] on an impersonal level."

During his address here, Kennedy told the partisan audience that "I came to West Virginia to run: this is the way Presidents should be chosen. The other candidates had the opportunity to run in this primary but they did not see fit to do so."

He said that he came from a state that was founded on the basis of religious freedom but yet a Quaker was hanged there in the 1700's. "Is anyone going to tell me that I lost this primary 42 years ago on the day I was born?" he asked. "I don't think so."

During his press conference, Kennedy touched on the importance of the coal industry to West Virginia and declared it is "being allowed to suffer and decline by an administration whose lack of vision and lack of leadership is slowly undermining this great source of American strength."

Kennedy said those who said, like Vice President Nixon, that "Americans are living better today than ever before and they are going to vote that way" had never seen the suffering in West Virginia. He charged that the administration hasn't seen what has happened in this state, hasn't wanted to see and hasn't cared.

Declaring that the coal industry is "not defeated," he said it does not want charity but a chance to reach its full potential of growth and strength. Kennedy ticked off a four-point program for the coal industry:

A national fuels policy, a broad program of coal research and development, a dramatic program of building new steam electrical generating plants to move "coal by wire" and a program of federal loans and assistance on a sound economic basis to encourage long-term industrial development.

Kennedy's entourage, arriving somewhat late from Clarksburg, reached the site of the speaking at 12:20 p.m. The senator, nearly mobbed by a crowd of well-wishers and autograph-seekers, finally made his way to a small platform, from which he was introduced by Sam Huff, New York Giants professional football player. Huff spoke of Kennedy's long interest in the laboring man and woman.

He spent nearly an hour shaking hands with the crowd on the street before going to a radio station briefly and then holding an informal news conference in the sheriff's residence. Lunch at the Palace Restaurant followed and before leaving for Morgantown he walked through the Owens-Illinois plant on a hand-shaking tour.

At Clarksburg yesterday morning, Kennedy said he felt West Virginia Democrats "resented the efforts of those using another candidate (Humphrey) to beat me, who could not win in the state next to his own (Wisconsin)."

He charged at a morning reception in the Stonewall Jackson Hotel that the Eisenhower administration had refused to do anything concrete to help the unemployed and the retired.

Nothing that William L. Jacobs of Parkersburg, one of Humphrey's state co-chairman [sic], had been recently quoted in Newsweek as favoring Adlai E. Steveson [sic] or Sen. Stuart Symington ahead of Humphrey, Kennedy declared "if my chairman felt the same I would get a new chairman."

Kennedy was joined in Morgantown last night by his wife, Jacqueline, who could not make connections to be here with her husband. They flew to Wheeling last night to continue the campaign tour.

Muriel Humphrey Plans Reception Here Wednesday

A reception in the Crystal Room of the Fairmont Hotel will feature the visit here tomorrow of Mrs. Muriel Humphrey, wife of Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota, it was announced last night by Mrs. Nettie Miner, associate chairman of the Marion County Democratic Executive Committee, who has charge of arrangements.

Mrs. Humphrey will come here in the interests of her husband's campaign in the presidential preference primary in West Virginia May 10. She will arrive here about noon and will hold a press conference at 12:15 p.m.

After lunch, Mrs. Humphrey will visit department stores and greet voters in the downtown section. The reception will be held between 2 and 3:30 p.m., and all are welcome to attend. She will go from here to Morgantown to continue her campaign tour.

Accompanying Mrs. Humphrey here will be Forrest Talbott, a former Fairmonter and now assistant secretary of state in Minnesota, who is also in West Virginia campaigning for Sen. Humphrey.

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