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Here, as best as I can remember (with consultation with my five-year older brother) are my memories of the 1960 West Virginia Democratic Primary: my father's brother's son, William C. Battle (Bill), was in the Navy with Jack Kennedy as a fellow PT boat captain. There's no question that they were wartime buddies. After the war Bill went to law school at the University of Virginia and came to Charleston on his first job, in the legal department of the United Fuel Gas Co.; he lived with our family. I was 10-11 or so and remember that he was tall, lanky and ate like crazy. He later moved to an apartment, then to a nearby cottage with another bachelor—our family probably cramped his style, though we all remained quite close. I understand he cut quite a swath among the local ladies. He left Charleston to join his father’s firm in Charlottesville, Virginia, sometime before 1950.
(NOTE: The JFK Library has an online interview with Bill Battle in which he discusses his relationship with JFK, his role in the 1960 primary election, and more):
William Battle Oral History
Bill's father (John S Battle) was fully engaged in politics in Virginia as a loyal member of Harry Byrd's machine (the family, of course, claims that the Byrd machine was the only 'good' political machine that ever existed!) and was governor of Virginia in 1950. When Kennedy began thinking of national politics, he naturally called on his old buddy who conveniently had good Virginia & some West Virginia political contacts. My father, a lawyer, was best friends (hunting, fishing and gentlemanly drinking) with Bob Kelly (Sr. partner in the major local law firm Jackson Kelly) who was also fully engaged with Democrat politics, though never a candidate so far as I know.
My father had become the executor of the estate of a friend who had died unexpectedly of kidney failure, Lewis Tierney of Bluefield. The estate included WCHS Radio & TV, which he oversaw with the help of an excellent general manager, Jack Gelder. I was in Morris Harvey College at the time & worked there as an "Audio Engineer" -- an unskilled position despite the high-sounding name. I ran the sound board & placed mikes, etc. for live productions with help from the real sound guys. Without videotape, we did a lot of live stuff -- news, commercials, shows and so on, as well as using regular film. Bill came back to town and stayed with us while my father pulled out all the stops. Thus the debate in the studio of WCHS-TV at 1111 Virginia Street East (an old Queen Anne mansion, much modified) at which I did the audio. My memory also is that I had a hard time with it - I’d like to hear the recently discovered tape of the debate. That was the occasion of the picture of Jack Kennedy coming up the porch steps being guided by my father and Teddy in the rear. There was general excitement and it seemed some pleasure in town at the national attention we were getting.
Bob Kelly had a lot of coalfield contacts and Bill had a lot of friends here, and no doubt all that too was called into play. WCHS gave the whole affair very heavy coverage, no doubt along with many other things that I was not directly aware of (and just as well!).
My folks both got one of those silver (looking?) PT 109 pins/tie clasps which I'd give anything to have; no one seems to know what happened to them. My mother apparently formed a lasting friendship with Ethel Kennedy; they stayed in touch at least through Bobby’s murder, as she was invited to ride the funeral train. By the way, Bill's wife Barry accompanied him much of the time; she was and is Roman Catholic and I believe company for Jackie. Ted Sorenson told me Monday night (5/10/10) that a week before the 1960 Democrat Convention, Bill, Barry, Jack and Jackie were vacationing at the Cape Cod compound. Sorenson had to fly back from the Los Angeles convention site to help get out a rapid-response statement to something that Harry Truman had said; Barry had to type it. Bill died about 18 months ago but Barry still lives in Ivy, Virginia.
My father was Hawthorne Dill Battle, lawyer & businessman in Charleston.
His brother & my uncle was John S. Battle, Charlottesville, Virginia lawyer, politician & Governor of Virginia 1950 – 1954.
My brother is G. Thomas Battle, Charleston lawyer now retired in NC. His memories are included above.
I hope this adds some small human interest to what has turned out to have been a significant historical event. Unfortunately, I wasn't all that interested at the time, spending all my free time racing cars.
Henry W. Battle
May 11, 2010
In May of 1960, when John F. Kennedy passed through West Virginia on his whirlwind campaign tour preceding the primary election, I was a junior at Crum High School in southern Wayne County, and a proud member of the Crum High band. As his motorcade pulled into the school’s gravel parking lot, we struck up a rendition of “Hail to the Chief.” It was a bright May day. Kennedy and two aides waved to us and went straight into the school to my father’s office. My father, Elmer Dickinson, was principal of Crum High at the time. In later years I asked my father what they discussed, and all he could remember was Kennedy had asked how long it took to get to Kermit and Williamson, his next two stops. After this brief discussion Kennedy came out on the front steps of the school and gave a short speech to the few townspeople and the school personnel that were in attendance. Being a teenager at the time, I honestly cannot remember any words or memorable sayings from that speech. But then he walked down the steps and shook hands with the band members. As I took his hand I do remember he had “something.” I’m not sure I could call in an aura, but it was more like a “magnetic personality.” At any rate, a half century later I still remember that at the time I felt this man had “it.” He then took a ball point pen and autographed all the drum heads our drummers had. At our 40-year class reunion I asked if any of the guys had kept the drum heads, and not one had. After a departing wave, the man and his entourage climbed back into the cars, and the motorcade headed south for his next stop. But those of us that were in the Crum High band that day have always remembered that unique day in our lives.
Jack L. Dickinson
January 31, 2010
I am Carrie Pinson Bentley, a resident now of Lynchburg, Virginia, but a native West Virginian with a glorious memory of an encounter with John Fitzgerald Kennedy. My small anecdote is as follows:
When JFK was campaigning in WVA before the primary election he visited WSAZ-TV which was then on 9th St. in Huntington. I was a Marshall student working at the television and radio station at that time and was covering the reception desk for Lois Banks who was the main receptionist. Most all were excited practically out of their minds over the prospect of JFK's coming to the station, but I was pretending lack of interest; I had registered as a Republican.
Lois was late returning from lunch and I knew Kennedy's visit was imminent. Just as his big limousine pulled up, Lois came to the reception desk, Kennedy dashed into our big lobby, and I turned away and flew down the long hall to the radio studio where I hoped to hide from our famous guest. I yanked open the heavy door, ran inside and started to peep through the window to see him run by on his way to the tv studio. But Kennedy stopped, pulled the door wide open, grabbed my hand, shook it and proudly proclaimed, "Jack Kennedy, Massachusetts!"
I told people that I responded, "Carrie Pinson, West Virginia!" but I didn't. I just stood there, gaping at that beautiful man.
Unfortunately, in the fall election I voted for his opponent, but I had fallen in love with JFK.
Carrie Pinson Bentley
Over the Hump with Humphrey read the banner on the bus as it pulled into Fayetteville on that cold spring day in 1960. I was in 9th grade and played trumpet in the band and was excited to see a presidential candidate in person.
Our band director, Mr Queen had been contacted and promised $100 if the band played for the event at Fayette County Memorial Building in Fayetteville.
We all came to the rally, and played West Virginia songs and Minnesota Rouser, which was Hubert Humphrey's battle cry.
The rally went off as planned and everyone got a free badge to wear. However, several weeks went by and the band did not get paid for our performance. Mr. Queen called and the Humphrey entourage denied ever promising money for the rally to the band.
Needless to say, once the word got around town and in the surrounding areas, Humphrey's name was MUD from then on to the primary.
James Jones, Fayetteville High School Class of 1963, WVU Graduate 1967. Jones now resides in Winter Springs, Florida.
Winter Springs, Florida
February 3, 2010
My name is Jerri Givan and I now live in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1960 I was nineteen, too young to vote back then, but inspired by John Kennedy so I went to see and hear him at a rally on a parking lot in Charleston,WV.
I took along my nephew,who was ten at the time and he was as excited as me. He carried around a sign, which was bigger then he was, saying "KENNEDY IS OUR MAN".
I was sitting on the hood of a car and my legs were kinda in the way of someone wanting to pass. This handsome young man politely asked if he could get by and to my surprise and delight it was Ted Kennedy.
When President Kennedy returned to Charleston,WV and spoke outside at the capital, I was there in the rain with hundreds more and I remember he said "The sun doesn't always shine in WV but the people do". He still "shines" for me !
April 11, 2010
My mother, brother and I were in the town Clendenin on the Saturday morning JFK passed through. His bus stopped at the corner on Main Street in front of the old Smoke Shop Bar. He left the bus and to say hello and shake hands with the crowd, and my brother, Gale Hershberger, was one of the lucky ones to shake his hand. I was too young to really appreciate the experience, but remember everyone trying not to act too excited but wondering just who this guy was causing all the commotion.
Cathy Hershberger Miller
April 15, 2010
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