CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Joe Manchin will host a commemoration and panel discussion titled: West Virginia 1960 Primary Election: The Primary that Made a President, which will recognize the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's 1960 West Virginia Democratic primary victory. The free and public event begins at 3 p.m. on May 10 at the Culture Center on the State Capitol Complex. The event will also include a ceremony to unveil a new state exhibit in honor of President Kennedy’s four week campaign in West Virginia.
Kennedy’s primary win in the Mountain State was the turning point in his bid for the Democratic nomination for presidency and changed American presidential politics by undermining the conventional wisdom that a Catholic could not win the presidency.
Manchin said he has fond memories of the Kennedy family campaigning in West Virginia, and he will speak about his recollection of that time in West Virginia history during the May 10 event.
The keynote speaker will be Theodore Sorensen, who was Kennedy's top aide, speechwriter, confidante and biographer. Additional West Virginia political organizers and supporters of Kennedy’s presidential campaign are scheduled to take part in discussions.
Also scheduled to join for the 50th anniversary event is West Virginia Wesleyan College political historian Robert Rupp. Rupp partnered with the Governor’s Office to plan the day-long observance.
Full Schedule of events:
10 a.m. to noon -- Sorensen book-signing at Borders, Town Center Mall.
3 p.m. -- Panel discussions at the Culture Center:
“Reporting on Kennedy,” featuring Dr. Dan Fleming, Kennedy’s Pleasants County chairman in 1960 and author of two books about Kennedy; James A. Haught, current Charleston Gazette Editor who also covered the 1960 primary; and, Kenneth Kurtz, WSAZ-TV Charleston news director in 1960.
“Meeting Kennedy,” featuring Charlie Peters, Charleston native and former legislator, who headed the Kennedy campaign in Kanawha County and later created The Washington Monthly magazine; Ken Hechler a member of Congress in 1960 who campaigned for Kennedy; Dick Tyson, Huntington judge and former head of the Young Republicans in Cabell County; and, Sam Huff, West Virginia native and professional football legend who also introduced Kennedy on the campaign trail.
5 p.m. – Reception at the Culture Center. Sorensen will autograph his book.
6 p.m. – Formal Remarks at the Culture Center, speech by Gov. Joe Manchin on personal reflection of the 1960 election and Sorensen on “West Virginia Primary: The Early Turning Point.”
7 p.m. -- Ribbon-cutting of a new State Museum exhibit on the 1960 primary, followed by an additional reception.
Sara Payne Scarbro