Local College Campuses Remember John F. Kennedy's Visit - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Local College Campuses Remember John F. Kennedy's Visit

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We're approaching the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who became one of America's most beloved Presidents despite being in the White House for less then a term.

Before Kennedy won over the hearts of the nation, he had to win the state of West Virginia and did so with a critical campaign stop in the Ohio Valley in 1960.

His campaign began at Bethany College when Kennedy spoke at Commencement Hall and gave a guest lecture. His time at Bethany went longer and he was late to his next appearance, down the hill at West Liberty.

Students had already been dismissed from College Hall where he was scheduled to speak so faculty had to think fast. WLU Alum Laurence Williams remembers being on center campus that day.

"They really didn't know what to do with him ... they have these people just milling around," said Williams. "There wasn't any of them in the circle at that point. He standing there with Dean Arnette. Dean Arnette told someone to run into Rogers (Hall) and get a chair. If he were to start to speak, people would see him."

The impromptu speech quickly attracted a crowd as students began to surround the Presidential hopeful. Williams remembers how much Kennedy stood out even when he wasn't standing on the chair.

"He was so dark, his skin was so dark that he looked like he had just come off a beach. He had this really dark red hair and you looked at him like he was some kind of god," said Williams. "We're all standing around, we're all fat with crew cuts. It was an amazing moment. The women were all standing there with their mouths open, they just thought he was so good looking."

Williams said he believed about 80 percent of the people at the speech had no idea who Kennedy was. Williams was already interested in politics before Kennedy's visit and he believes JFK's campaign in West Virginia helped put him into the White House.

"The key to that was West Virginia because it was about 90 percent Protestant and he was Catholic," said Williams. "If he doesn't win this state he goes back to Massachusetts and he's done so they had to win this state..."


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