Thursday, June 20, 2013


June 20, 2013


Charleston, West Virginia (JFK+50) President John F. Kennedy returned to the state of West Virginia 50 years ago today, June 20, 1963, to deliver remarks in honor of the State Centennial Celebration here at the Capitol in Charleston.*

               West Virginia State Capitol
                Charleston, West Virginia
           Photo by Garkeith (talk) 2009

*West Virginia, the only state formed by secession from the Confederate States of America, was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863 after President Lincoln approved an enabling act with the provision that WVA provide for gradual emancipation in its state constitution.

Also in attendance were Dr. Paul A. Miller, president of West Virginia University, Governor William W. Barron and Senators Jennings Randolph and Robert C. Byrd.  Several U.S. congressmen were present as well.

The President began with these words...

"The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do, and I am delighted to be here."

JFK went on to remind the audience that their state was born in a year, 1863, marked by two other "extraordinary events--the Emancipation Proclamation and the Battle of Gettysburg."

President Kennedy said that he knew West Virginia well and its people...

"have a great sense of pride in themselves, in their State, and in their country."

JFK said that when he came to West Virginia to campaign in 1960 the state ranked "50th in percentage of attention it received from the National Government," but added that in 1963 the State had moved up to 30th.

President Kennedy acknowledged that he would not have the powers of the presidency had it not been for the people of West Virginia who gave him the victory in its Democratic Primary of 1960.**

President Kennedy concluded his remarks with these words...

"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."***

**JFK won the 1960 West Virginia Democratic Primary by defeating Hubert H. Humphrey 61% to 39%.  The result led Senator Humphrey to withdraw from the 1960 campaign.  The primary victory was crucial for JFK because it proved a Catholic could win a state with a 95% Protestant population.

***West Virginia is located entirely within the Appalachian region and most of the state is made up of mountains.  The state motto is "Montani semper liberi" or "Mountaineers are always free."


"Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy," United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1964.