It Was a Rainy Day, But a Glorious One!
Bright Future Seen by Kennedy
By Thomas F. Stafford
June 21, 1963
It Was a Rainy Day, But a Glorious One!
Bright Future Seen by Kennedy
By Thomas F. Stafford
President Kennedy forecast a bright future for West Virginia on its 100th anniversary Thursday, with the reminder that in less than three years unemployment had been cut in half.
Where in 1960 West Virginia had “all the difficulties that had affected it for many years,” Kennedy said it now is moving ahead with vigor and purpose.
“There is still too much unemployment,” the tanned and hatless President declared, “but I believe that West Virginia and the United States have a bright future.”
Kennedy spoke for three minutes and 20 seconds to a rain-soaked crowd of 10,000 in the statehouse courtyard. He cut short his planned 20-minute speech because of the weather.
This was the second time Kennedy has been greeted by rain on a trip to West Virginia since his election as President. The last time was in October of last year when he flew to Wheeling for a political appearance.
Also, it rained on a spring night in 1960 when he was assured of victory in the West Virginia primary and thereby given his biggest thrust toward the White House.
He looked thoughtfully at the mass of gaily colored umbrellas and tired bunting as he stepped to the speaker’s stand, smiled, and said:
“The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do, and I’m delighted to be here.” This brought heavy applause.
In his introduction Kennedy mentioned the names of every Democrat in the congressional delegation – plus Gov. Baron [sic] and State Democratic Chairman Robert P. McDonough. But Republican Rep. Arch A. Moore’s name was conspicuous by its absence.
“I am proud to come here today to join you in saluting the birth of this state,” he said. “I’m proud to join you in telling the United States what West Virginia stands for, and I’m proud to join you with the same hope for the future of this state in 1963 that you must feel.”
He reflected briefly upon West Virginia’s birth, remarking that it was an offspring of strife, turmoil and tension. Then he said:
“The year 1863 was marked by three extraordinary events – the birth of this state, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Battle of Gettysburg. This state was born in turmoil.”
“It has known sunshine and rain in 100 years, but I know of no state – and I know this state well – whose people feel more strongly, who have a greater sense of pride in themselves, in their state and their country, than the people of West Virginia.”
Kennedy chose again on this occasion to recall the role West Virginia played in his elevation to the presidency. “I would not be where I now am,” he said, “I would not have some of the responsibilities which I now bear, if it had not been for the people of West Virginia.”
He said he was “proud to come back on this rainy day…and join in committing West Virginia and the country to another 100 years of progress.”
On Saturday he will depart for Europe – for visits to the capitals of Ireland, West Germany, Britain and Italy – and on this trip, he said, he will carry the “proud realization that not only mountaineers, but all Americans, are always free.”
With this he stepped away from the microphones, and, to the consternation of the Secret Service which quickly collected around him, he strolled down the statehouse steps into the cheering, crowding throng.
For almost as long as he had spoken he then shook hands with West Virginians of all ages – from small children to bright-eyed seniors.
This is characteristic of Kennedy. Though the Secret Service spends days planning for his security in advance of public appearances, he breaks all the rules – as he did at Wheeling last fall – to greet the people who hold his own, and the fate of his administration, in their hands on election day.
He returned to Washington after his speech – having been in Charleston less than an hour.
With him on his arrival here were Sen. Jennings Randolph, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, Rep. Harley Staggers of the Second District and Rep. John M. Slack of the Third District.
Among other dignitaries sitting near the President on the statehouse steps were three former governors. Homer A. Holt of Charleston, Okey L. Patteson of Mount Hope and Cecil H. Underwood of Huntington.
Enthusiasm Not Dampened
By Don Marsh
Enthusiasm Not Dampened
By Don Marsh
From the speakers’ stand, the Capitol plaza, ablaze with the blossoming of dozens of wildly colored umbrellas, looked like an exotic garden.
The illusion was strengthened by the bunting decorating the east and west wings of the statehouse and by the gold and blue streamers suspended from the columns supporting the main entrance.
Flashes of color in the crowd – the scarlet of bandsmen’s jackets, the black and white and olive drab of uniforms, the bright ginghams of centennial dresses – increased a holiday mood that was dampened but not dimmed by a most unholiday-like rain.
One reason the crowd was so patient was its enthusiasm for the appearance of President Kennedy.
“I think he’s just darling,” said Mrs. J. L. Keefer of Beckley, a school teacher. “We love Kennedy. I have a plate with his picture on it in my kitchen.”
“The rain is perfectly all right with me,” said Mrs. Edith Mullins of Charleston. “It doesn’t make any difference to me if I can see John Kennedy.”
“There’s another lady with me – Mrs. Homer Miller of Harrison, Clay County. She’s the mother of 12 children, six boys and six girls. All six of her boys were in service.”
“I’m tired,” said Mrs. Miller. “I’d like to sit down.”
Mrs. Gastonia Ward of Welch said she left at 6 a. m. Thursday to be sure she’d reach Charleston in time to see Kennedy. “I think he’s the greatest man in the world,” she said.
There were minority voices. Jim Lancia, a member of the Weir High School Band of Weirton, said” “All things considered, I’d just as soon be where it’s dry.”
Steve Grabosky, 9, of Oak Hill, a member of the Centennial Boys Choir, wiped a raindrop from the end of his nose and said, “I’m awful wet. I wonder how we look on television?”
About the only people who were impassive were the Secret Service agents assigned to guard the President. Their number was secret but they were easily recognizable. They wore small blue insignia in the lapels and frowned continuously.
But there was a security problem. The crowd kept growing and members of it were scampering into the most unlikely places. Some of them climbed the scaffolding on platforms erected for television cameras. Others scrambled up the trees in the statehouse lawn. One young man seated on a branch held an umbrella over his head.
There was some fear that the rain might cause the President’s plan to be waved away from Kanawha Airport.
“It was a day sort of like this when Kennedy landed at Wheeling last fall,” a newspaperman said.
“Did it stop when he started to talk?” another said.
“No, it rained harder,” the first replied.
President Paul Miller of West Virginia University began speaking and a red carpet was unrolled as he introduced Mrs. Barron and three former governors. There may or may not be any significance in the fact that Cecil Underwood received the most applause.
The attorney general of Virginia said how glad he was to be there and then Mordecai Johnson, president emeritus of Howard University, made a rip-roaring talk on how proud West Virginia should be of its record on desegregation.
“I wonder what the attorney general of Virginia thinks of that,” somebody said.
There was a sudden stirring in the crowd and a group of men – who turned out to be the White House press corps – came galloping out of the Capitol and swarmed onto the platform.
Presidential Press Secretary Pierre Salinger was in the van, wearing a green suit and carrying a matching rain coat and cigar.
“We were afraid you wouldn’t make it,” a West Virginian said to him.
“Oh, no, right on time,” Salinger answered, “but you could have done better by us with the weather.”
Suddenly there was a stirring in the crowd. The flower-colored umbrellas moved violently as if shaken by a sharp wind. A great cheer broke out and the Weir High School band broke into “Hail to the Chief” at almost the same second.
Kennedy appeared from a doorway at the top of the steps. Gov. Barron was by his side and Claude Saunders, a captain in the Charleston fire department, trailed them and held a multi-colored gold umbrella over their heads.
From a distance, Kennedy looked very good. He was deeply tanned and his hair seemed to be almost red. He wore a dark blue suit, a blue tie and at least part of the time, a bemused grin.
Gov. Barron introduced him with a brief speech. At one point in his talk, Barron said the state has had its ups and downs. At that second, one of the press tables collapsed under the weight of four men standing on it. There was a loud noise, convulsive glances, but no injuries.
Kennedy followed Barron as a speaker and brought a laugh from the audience when he said, “The sun does not always shine in West Virginia but the people always do.” It was one of his longest sentences. The speech was over almost as soon as it began.
“My God,” one of the out-of-town reporters, “is he through already? I just started taking notes.”
Kennedy presented a 35-star flag to two National Guardsmen and then did something that must have been partly responsible for the frowns of the Secret Service men.
He went into the crowd to shake hands.
The presidential guard was able to throw a cordon around the President and usher him into his bubble top limousine which drove him to the airport for the return flight to Washington.
The limousine was brought here especially for the occasion.
Kennedy had arrived less than two hours earlier and had been greeted by Gov. Barron and about 500 persons who had waited in the rain for a glimpse of him.
After shaking several hands, Kennedy was driven along a carefully pre-arranged route to the Capitol. At the intersection of Piedmont Road and Greenbrier Street, his car stopped and Kennedy shook hands with the crowd of some 200 assembled there.
Only a few signs were noticeable during Kennedy’s visit. Along the motorcade route, two little girls held one that said “Kennedy Again in 1964.”
Kennedy spoke without a text. A battery of White House clerical employes set up shop in the Board of Public Works’ offices and supplied printed copies of his remarks moments after his talk was finished.
Doctor (Miller), Governor Barron, Senator Jennings Randolph, Senator Bob Byrd, Congressman Slack, Ken Hechler, Mrs. Kee, Harley Staggers, Bob McDonough, ladies and gentlemen:
The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do, and I am delighted to be here. In many other places, this crowd would long ago have gone home, but this State was born in a period of difficulty and tension. 1863 was marked by three extraordinary events – the birth of this state, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Battle of Gettysburg.
This state was born to turmoil. It has known sunshine and rain in a hundred years, but I know of no state, and I know this state well, whose people feel more strongly, who have a greater sense of pride in themselves, in their State and in their country, than the people of West Virginia, and I am proud to be here today.
I am proud to come here today to join you in saluting the birth of this State. I am proud to join you in telling the United States what West Virginia stands for, and I am proud to join you with the same hope for the future of this State in 1963 that you must feel.
When I was here in 1960, West Virginia had all of the difficulties that had affected it for many years. This State still has many problems and so does this country, but where in 1960 West Virginia was at the bottom, 50th in percentage of attention it received from the national government, it is a fact that in 1963 it has moved up to 30th. This state has cut unemployment in half. There is still too much unemployment, but I believe that West Virginia and the United States have a bright future.
I would not be where I now am; I would not have some of the responsibilities which I now bear, if it had not been for the people of West Virginia, and, therefore, I am proud to come back here on this rainy day and salute this State and join you in committing West Virginia and the country to another 100 years of progress. I salute West Virginia. And I join you, and I will carry on Saturday when I go to Europe the proud realization that not only mountaineers, but also Americans, are always free.
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