Newspaper Articles

Wheeling Intelligencer
April 20, 1960

Sen. Kennedy Sees Hard Fight in W.Va.

Religion Not 'Major Issue' He Contends

700 Greet Him At Reception Here Last Night

By James Brennan

Sen. John F. Kennedy said in Wheeling yesterday that his presidential campaign in West Virginia will be a "tough and uphill fight" despite the "friendly and warm reception" he has received.

The Democratic candidate for the presidency indicated he felt that the religious issue and the "stop-Kennedy" bandwagon are two of the major obstacles he will have to overcome.

Kennedy made these remarks at a press conference at the McLure hotel in Wheeling after a day-long tour that took him to Bethany and West Liberty State colleges and two factories in Wheeling.

More than 700 well-wishers and supporters of Senator Kennedy jammed their way into a reception for the Democratic hopeful and his wife last night at the McLure Hotel.

Kennedy told the happy throng that all candidates, announced and unannounced, should enter primaries and give the people a chance to select their own candidates for president.

He told the audience that people in the Mountaineer State "like people who come and run themselves in primaries" and not in some "smoke-filled room at the convention."

Early yesterday, Kennedy remarked to newsmen that if he is not nominated at the Democratic convention in Los Angeles he will not take any offer for the vice presidency.

Shortly before Kennedy spoke at his reception, a near fracas developed in front of the hotel when an unidentified youth took a swing at Kenneth F. Klinkert, a Wisconsin man who was passing out anti-Catholic literature.

Klinkert backed off from his assailant and tried to appease him. The youth went inside the hotel and returned with several friends and then Klinkert left the scene for the evening.

The 42 year-old senator from Massachusetts said he felt that religion is not really the "major issue" in West Virginia which has economic problems similar to those affecting the rest of the nation.

He frequently repeated that he saw no conflict of interest in the fact that he is a Roman Catholic who hold an elective office and who also aspires to the presidency.

He reiterated that he was not campaigning in West Virginia to test the religious issue. He said he had already proved that his religion has not deterred him from performing legislative duties.

As for the "stop-Kennedy" movement in the state, Kennedy contended that persons who are behind the move should come into the primary and let the people make their choice.

Kennedy added that such a movement to halt him in the state is the price to be paid for "running vigorously" in his campaign for the Democratic nomination . He added that any person who wants to run for the presidency should enter the primaries in the various states as a popularity test.

Kennedy, at the press conference accepted the challenge of Se. Hubert H. Humphrey, a Democratic candidate for the presidency to "go any place" in the state for a person-to-person debate.

The move was a complete reversal of his tactics in Wisconsin, where he defeated Humphrey in a primary election earlier this month.

"In view of the way the campaign is evolving in West Virginia," Kennedy said, "I can't accept the current attack without fighting back."

However, he painted out yesterday morning that he did not believe the campaign in West Virginia should get down to "bare knuckle" fighting. The candidate, he said, should discuss the real issues because the presidency is too important to revert to squabbling.

At a stop near Bethany college in the morning, an unidentified heckler who was said to have trailed him through much of the Wisconsin campaign and is following him in West Virginia asked Kennedy how he could square his duties as president with those of a Catholic.

"I don't take orders from above," Kennedy replied. "I am going to church where I want, regardless of whether I'm elected president or not," he said.

Details of the proposed Kennedy-Humphrey debate were still not ironed out yesterday afternoon, but aides of both men are expected to get together before the primary to settle the time and place.

Regardless of the results of the May 10 West Virginia primary, Kennedy said that he would continue to campaign for the Democratic nomination. He told newsmen that he has five primaries to run in next month including Indiana and Nebraska.

In reply to a question about debating with James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters union, Kennedy said that he would not "deign to debate" with the union official. Hoffa, Kennedy said should "worry about his own defense and not about presidential candidates[."] The Massachusetts senator, who served on a Senate subcommittee which investigated unions and management, said that Hoffa may be removed as head of the Teamsters union in the near future by court-appointed monitors for the union.

In a prepared speech during a reception at the hotel last night, Kennedy said, "no state in the country has suffered more from the neglect of the federal government than West Virginia. And nowhere has this neglect been more evident than in our government's unjustified unwillingness to award West Virginia a fair share of defense contracts."

The Democratic hopeful pointed out that "Of course, West Virginians do not want charity or special treatment,. The people of the City of Wheeling are not interested in give-ways and doles. But you are interested in an even break-in equal chance to contribute to our defense.

Kennedy concluded his speech by saying "West Virginia wants to contribute to our nation's defense - it has the manpower and the resources and the productive capacity which we need - and under the next - Democratic - Administration the strength of West Virginia will once again be summoned to the nation's services.

'Pretty Nice,' Says Plant Worker:

Kennedy Personality Attracts Fair Sex

Sen. John F. Kennedy apparently has a way with the fair sex from the toddler on up, as evidenced by his tour of two Wheeling plants and a walk along Market St. yesterday.

An unidentified woman worker at the Sylvania Electric Products Co. Inc. exclaimed "Man, is he good looking. You can be sure I'm going to vote for him." Another employe(e) Nellie Hinton, 34, of Bridgeport, commented that Kennedy was "pretty nice" after he shook hands with her and exchanged a few words at the Sylvania plant.

At the Hazel-Atlas plan a bulletin board bore a notice that Sen. Kennedy and party would visit the plant yesterday afternoon. After completing his tour of the facility, Kennedy pick up a piece of chalk and wrote on the blackboard "Many thanks. We were here. John F. Kennedy."

Jack Humphrey, a Sylvania's employe(e) who lives at 86 Thirty -First St., Wheeling, said that he thought "Most of the fellows here seem to be for him. They were really waiting for his visit."

Martin May of 99 Twelfth St., Wheeling, a member of the International Association of Machinists union at Hazel-Atlas said that Kennedy has a "lot of ability" and that he would vote for him.

Most of the workers hollered at Kennedy over the noise of the machinery, "Good luck John" and waved at the presidential candidate who seemed to enjoy the tours immensely.

On his walk between Sixteenth and Twelfth Sts. On Market St. after his tours of the plants, Kennedy was literally swamped by high school girls. An autograph and close look at the personable senator seemed to be the one and only thought on their minds and sent them on their way happy as a "lark." One pretty teenage was heard to say, "As soon as I saw him my heart began to flutter."

Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, during an interview said that although campaigning was "tiring' it was "exhilarating" to make the trips. She smilingly commented that making the tours gave her a change to see her husband. Then she added "I'll be glad when it is over."

Veteran newsmen touring with Kennedy appeared to be impressed with his off-the-cuff speech at Bethany College yesterday morning. Some of them who represent the wire services and newspapers in New York City, Washington, Chicago, and Pittsburgh, were heard to say that his talk at Bethany was one of the better well-rounded talks of the tour.

Possibly the biggest laugh that Kennedy drew on his day-long tour was at Bethany. Near the end of his talk he said that the college student and a vote of the college graduate is important in elections. He pointed out, however, that he did not believe in the clause in the 1873 constitution of Belgium which permitted three votes to be cast by college graduates instead of one. "At least not until more Democrats graduate from college."

One of the people who waited outside the Hazel-Atlas plant to see Kennedy was Joe Willis, 65, who runs a restaurant in the neighborhood. He came to this country from Greece 45 years ago. "He won't bring the pope to this country. You don't have to worry about that," Villis said. "You'd better forget religion and get the best man. He's a young and brilliant man." Villis is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, not a Roman Catholic.

Fred Kloetzer, president of the Glass Bottle Blowers Local Union at Hazel-Atlas, said: "I would say Kennedy's the favorite here. They all seem to like him very well. One reason I think is his interest in unemployment. Here in Wheeling there's a lot of unemployment."

Most of the people Kennedy greeted on his street tour in the business district were cordial. But one gave him an argument. In front of a clothing store on Market Street, the Rev. Donald G. Spurlock of the Wesley Methodist Church here buttonholed Kennedy.

The minister said he couldn't see how Kennedy, as a Catholic, could adhere to the principle of separation of church and state spelled out in the Constitution. Unruffled and patient, Kennedy told Mr. Spurlock he firmly believe in separation of church and state, a question that has come up almost daily in this state and before West Virginia in the Wisconsin primary campaign.

Further, Kennedy said the Catholic church in this country believe[s] in the same principle, although "in other countries, they may have a different relationship." After a discussion which lasted 10 to 15 minutes, the minister told newsmen in the crowd which has pressed around to listen: "His answers satisfy me as far as he personally is concerned. But he hasn't convinced me how he can take this view and still believe what his church say he must believe."

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