In a special edition of our “When Mansfield Welcomed” series, and in honor of President’s Day, we look at the visit of a US presidential candidate that took place 60 years ago.
On September 27, 1960, with just about 6 weeks left to go before Election Day, Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts visited the Richland County Courthouse in Mansfield to give a speech and give voters a chance to size him up. As a part of the famous Kennedy family he was already well-known, but being able to see him in person would allow Richland Countians to evaluate him as a possible President of the United States.
In part of his speech in Mansfield, Kennedy told the gathered crowd, “I do not run for the office of the Presidency saying that if I am elected life will be easy. I don’t think life will be easy in the Sixties, and I don’t run for the office of the Presidency saying that if I am elected that the problems will disappear. I think the problems will travel with us. But I do say that if I am elected President of the United States, I do think it is possible to set before the American people the things which we must do in order to maintain our freedom, the things we must do in order to be second to none, the things we must do to build a better society here in the United States, and also hold out the hand of friendship around the world.”
Was it enough to help him win? Sort of. Kennedy did not win the state of Ohio – Richard Nixon won 53.28% of the vote in our state compared to Kennedy’s 46.72%. Richland County’s own vote total saw 58.17% vote for Nixon, compared to 41.83% for Senator Kennedy.
But Nixon had made a commitment to visit every state in the union so, while Kennedy was campaigning in the more populated heartland states of Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania as the election drew close, Nixon was in Alaska. In fact, Nixon had injured his knee in August 1960, taking him off the campaign trail for 2 weeks and still decided to keep his pledge to visit all 50 states, including those he had no chance of winning and those with fewer electoral votes (like Alaska). All of this contributed to Kennedy’s election victory, giving a story for locals to tell about the time that the future president came to town.