Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Kennedy in Hurley

Future president visited Iron County while campaigning

HURLEY - President John F. Kennedy was assassinated 60 years ago today on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas.

The 35th president of the United States was shot as he rode through downtown Dallas on what was essentially an early campaign trip for the coming 1964 election, looking to shore up his southern support.

A little more than three and a half years before, Kennedy, then a young U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, was running for president and made a campaign stop in downtown Hurley on March 17, 1960.

A photo on Page 1 of the March 18 Daily Globe shows Kennedy surrounded by people of various ages in front of the VFW Post 1580, located then on the 300 block of Silver Street in what is now the Pit Stop.

The accompanying story says 500 people, including school children, turned out to greet Kennedy in "one of Hurley's largest political gatherings of recent years."

The crowd overflowed the sidewalk onto the street in front of the VFW Hall as Kennedy gave a brief talk on the street before moving inside for more remarks to a packed house, said the article.

The visit was part of a two-day whirlwind tour across northern Wisconsin as he campaigned ahead of the April 5 Wisconsin presidential primary, facing stiff competition from nearby Minnesota U.S. Sen. Hubert Humphrey.

According to the Daily Globe, Kennedy began the day with visits to Ladysmith, Phillips, Park Falls and Mellen, before stops in Montreal and then Hurley.

While in Montreal, Kennedy stopped for a few minutes at Calvi's Store and then visited the Montreal Mine, where he went through the dry building and met miners who were coming off the day shift. A photo on Page 3 shows William Thomas, of Montreal, a security guard at the mine, explaining the operation of the mine to Kennedy.

"At all of the stops, Kennedy shook hands with everyone within reach and obligingly signed autographs while his aides passed out pins, stickers and campaign literature," said the story.

His talks emphasized the importance of the coming Wisconsin primary, calling it the most important primary in the country and adding the one who wins it will be in an extremely favorable position when the Democratic national convention is held to select the presidential nominee.

Noting he had served in Congress for 14 years, he said he was one of the sponsors of legislation to raise the minimum wage and that he also favored increasing benefits for persons over 65.

"Realizing that many of the spectators were from Ironwood and other Michigan communities, Kennedy said he actually was 'covering two states in one visit,'" said the article.

Iron County Judge George D. Sullivan of Gile introduced Kennedy to the crowd. Iron County Sheriff John Hurley and former Sheriff John Shea went to Butternut to meet the Kennedy party and escorted it into Iron County, according to the article.

Twice while driving between Montreal and Hurley, Kennedy stopped his car to talk with school children and give them campaign pins, said the article.

A delegation of about 15 aides and newsmen accompanied Kennedy on the trip, according to the article, adding, "One of the cars carrying newsmen blew a tire on the rough stretch of Highway 77 east of Upson where the road is being rebuilt but no one was injured in the mishap and the reporters got into another car to continue the trip."

It was a quick stop in Iron County for the presidential hopeful. A March 14 article told the plan that included Kennedy stopping at the Montreal Mine from 3 to 3:30 p.m., and then the VFW Memorial Hall from 3:45 to 4:30.

After Hurley, Kennedy moved on to Ashland where he spoke at Dodd gym in what is now the junior high school. The next evening he spoke in Superior.

Sheriff Hurley was among a dozen folks seated on the platform at Dodd gym that evening, according to a June 6, 2016, Ashland Daily Press article looking back at Kennedy's visits there.

The article said he spent the late afternoon dining with students at Northland College, "passing from table to table to chat with as many as he could."

"That night, Kennedy delivered a campaign speech to an enthusiastic, partisan crowd of 700 gathered at Dodd Gym. The focal point of JFK's address was to call for a long-term and immediate government credit to open up taconite development and provide jobs in northern Wisconsin," said the article.

Among the press there that evening were Time Magazine, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Minneapolis Tribune and the Minneapolis Star.

Humphrey also visited Hurley before the Wisconsin primary, according to a March 30, 1960, Daily Globe story. A Page 1 photo shows the Minnesota Democratic speaking to a crowd at the intersection of Silver Street and Third Avenue on March 29, drawing a crowd of about 400.

An accompanying story says Humphrey also spoke at the Hurley High School and met miners during the change of shifts at the Cary and Montreal mines. He arrived in the area by plane at the Gogebic County Airport where he was met by Range political leaders, according to the story, adding he stopped at nearby Roosevelt School to shake hands and give autographs to pupils who gathered outside.

In the primary, Kennedy carried the vote statewide, winning 20 1/2 of the state's delegates to the July convention. Humphrey won 10 1/2 delegates. Kennedy also won in Iron County with 1,767 votes, compared to 1,132 votes for Humphrey. According to the April 6, 1960, story on the election, voter turnout in Hurley was at 82%.

At the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, Kennedy won the nomination on the first ballot with 53% of the vote over second place U.S. Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson of Texas with 27%. Humphrey finished a distant sixth.

Kennedy picked Johnson as his running mate and they defeated then Republican Vice President Richard Nixon by just more than 100,000 votes (0.17%) in the popular vote and 303-219 in the Electoral College vote.

As president, Kennedy returned to Ashland on Sept. 24, 1963, less than two months before he was killed. He flew in and made a speech at the airport to a large crowd. The airport was later named for him.