Archive for Saturday, May 22, 2004

Other politicians have made stops at Mount Oread

May 22, 2004


Former President Bill Clinton's speech Friday brought back memories of another prominent Democratic politician's visit to Lawrence.

In 1968, presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy gave a stirring speech in front of 19,000 people at Allen Fieldhouse. The visit took place just days after Kennedy announced his candidacy.

Then-U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy visits with Kansas University
students while in Lawrence to give the 1957 convocation speech.

Then-U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy visits with Kansas University students while in Lawrence to give the 1957 convocation speech.

Over the years, two sitting presidents and two future presidents have visited Lawrence. Clinton is the third former president to visit.

While he never actually became president, Kennedy's visit may have been the most exciting by a politician to Lawrence.

"People were hanging off the rafters," said Kansas University American studies professor Bill Tuttle. "Not even the most exciting Kansas-Missouri game could compare to that."

The country was in turmoil at the time, with Vietnam and race riots dividing the nation. Kennedy was challenging Eugene McCarthy and President Lyndon Johnson for the nomination. Johnson later announced he would not seek re-election, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey eventually won the nomination.

"A lot of us were enamored with Bobby Kennedy," Tuttle said. "He was the most exciting candidate we had been exposed to. That is one reason I'm so excited about Clinton coming; the feeling coming off that memory."

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt

The only sitting presidents to visit Lawrence were Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Both presidents' stops were brief, and their speeches were given from the back of a train.

According to an article on, Wilson's stop in 1916 lasted three minutes and 45 seconds. A crowd of 4,500 showed up in 10-degree weather to listen.

Roosevelt stopped briefly in 1904, but came back in 1910 to dedicate the horse watering fountain now located in South Park.

Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford visited Lawrence as former presidents. Carter came last summer for the dedication of the Dole Institute. Ford came in 1978 for the dedication of the new law school, Green Hall.

John F. Kennedy and George H.W. Bush came to Lawrence before each became president. Kennedy spoke at a KU convocation in 1957 while still a U.S. senator. Hoch Auditorium overflowed with 4,000 people wanting to hear the future president speak. Bush gave the Vickers Memorial Lecture in 1976 when he was director of the CIA.

Robert Kennedy

Robert Kennedy

Abraham Lincoln traveled through northeast Kansas during the first week of December in 1859. He never visited Lawrence but stayed in a house near Tonganoxie.

Lincoln was in Kansas the day abolitionist John Brown was executed.

"It's an interesting historical note," said local historian Karl Gridley. "Lincoln was not admiring of John Brown's methods, but he was empathetic to the cause. He eventually had to take a similar, violent route."

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