Holding On To History: 60th anniversary of the death of JFK

Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 10:28 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - In the early 60′s, John F. Kennedy made two stops in the Northland. His first visit came in 1960 when he was running against Richard Nixon for the presidency. While on the campaign trail, Kennedy was interviewed by Glenn Maxham, then KBJR news director.

“It was kind of a phenomena to be speaking to this man and at that time he hadn’t even attained the presidency.” said Maxham several years before he passed away at age 88 in 2018.

After winning the election, President Kennedy made a return trip to the Northland in September 1963 to give a speech about nature conservation at UMD. Steve Laskey of Duluth was eight at the time and stood in front of his father’s Dairy Queen restaurant on Central Entrance to see the motorcade pass by.

“While he drove by I was holding up a sign that said Welcome President Kennedy and I don’t remember but my mother told me President Kennedy looked right at us!” said Laskey.

Former KBJR anchorman Lew Martin remembered that First Lady Jackie Kennedy also attracted a great deal of attention during the trip as well.

“I had a chance to talk to Jackie and you couldn’t take a bad picture of her!” said Martin several years before he passed away at the age of 103.

Kennedy’s tour also included stops in Ashland and the Apostle Islands. It was only a few months later on November 22nd, 1963 that John F. Kennedy, the nation’s 35th president was killed in Dallas. Roger DeLoach was a 7th grader at Lincoln Junior High School in Duluth that day. Normally gruff shop teacher Mr. Skinner had a tear in his eye when he spread the news to students. Everybody was sent home early.

“It started the most silent day I think I can remember in my life.” said DeLoach in a recent interview.

DeLoach says nobody spoke and most families were glued to their TV’s to watch the coverage provided by Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley and Chet Huntley. It would be four days before the networks returned to normal programming.

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