Newspaper Articles

Charleston Gazette
July 13, 1960

Lyndon All the Way

Byrd to Ignore Kennedy Wagon

By Harry G. Hoffman
Editor of The Gazette

Los Angeles - If. Sen. John F. Kennedy needs one vote to win the Democratic presidential nomination, he won't get it from West Virginia's Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

Byrd declared this in substance Tuesday in emphasizing that he will stick by Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas no matter how strong the Kennedy bandwagon may be rolling when West Virginia is reached on the first roll call Wednesday night.

"I came out here to cast a vote for Lyndon Johnson," said Byrd, "And that I will do. There is no force on Earth, no combination of forces, which can prevent me from doing that. I'll not climb aboard the bandwagon; it will have to run over me."

Byrd was asked if he might switch from Johnson to Kennedy if the Massachusetts senator had enough votes on the first ballot for West Virginia to gain the distinction of putting his nomination across. Some West Virginian delegates who favor other candidates have indicated they would do so, but Byrd made it clear that he would not.

"I do not agree that Kennedy has the nomination won," said Byrd. "I do not believe everything I read in the newspapers. I'll have to see it to believe it."

Byrd was asked what he would do if Kennedy should have 740 votes when West Virginia's vote is called, meaning that 21 of the state's 25 delegate votes would give him the nominating figure of 761.

The West Virginia senator, emphasizing how strongly he feels about voting for Johnson, declared:

"There are only three things that could cause me to do otherwise. One would be for Sen. Johnson to withdraw as a candidate, which I'm sure he will not do. Another is that if Sen. Johnson should have a heart attack. The third is that if I should have a heart attack.

"When I give my word on something I stick. You can count on that."

Byrd also emphasized, however, that he will support the Democratic nominee for President, no matter who he may be.

But there was little doubt that this would be a matter of party loyalty rather than any liking for the candidate if Kennedy is the nominee.

Byrd has been a bitter opponent of Kennedy from the outset. He took the lead in attempting to organize a "stop Kennedy" campaign in the West Virginia primary, urging the supporters of all other candidates to vote for Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey as a means of throwing a block into Kennedy's path.

Kennedy's strong victory in West Virginia, in which he carried the state by better than 60 per cent and also captured Byrd's home precinct handily, brought no change in Byrd's attitude.

He continued to battle Kennedy at every opportunity, and in Los Angeles he has been the main cog in the West Virginia delegation in trying to cut down Kennedy and build up Johnson.

Byrd said he though other Johnson delegates in the West Virginia contingent would stay with him, even in the face of a Kennedy sweep or an opportunity for the state to pay a key role in naming the nominee.

He said he feels this is especially true of former Tax Commissioner Milton J. Ferguson. He could not be sure about Delegate Frank Maxwell of Clarksburg.

Friends represented Ferguson as being willing to switch, if Kennedy should be verging on nomination when the West Virginia vote is called, but that he probably would stay with Byrd.

State Sen. Lyle Smith of Huntington, who previously has been indecisive about how he will vote, said Tuesday that he probably will vote for Sen. Stuart Symington or Johnson on the first ballot, and he didn't know that he would switch in the face of a Kennedy bandwagon.

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