JFK in Mitchell

A Daily Republic image of John F. Kennedy’s 1960 visit to Mitchell.

Many presidents, future presidents and would-be presidents have visited Mitchell’s Corn Palace. Few generated as much excitement as John F. Kennedy.

In 2003, on the 40th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, I wrote a story about his Mitchell visit based on The Daily Republic’s original account of the event and fresh interviews I conducted with people who witnessed it.

Here’s how the story began:

The Corn Palace was probably as far away from Camelot as John F. Kennedy ever traveled, but one night 43 years ago, the East Coast politician appeared in Mitchell and tried to win the hearts and votes of rural South Dakota.

About 5,000 people crammed into the Palace to glimpse Kennedy, who was then a 43-year-old U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Another 1,500 people stood outside.

The date was Sept. 22, 1960.

Kennedy flew to Mitchell after a midday speech at Sioux Falls, where Vice President Richard Nixon had also made a campaign stop. On the front page of The Daily Republic, the rivals generated headlines that captured the essence of their opposite styles.

The story of Kennedy’s stopover in Mitchell began with a line that mirrored his youthful vision and vigor: “Food is Strength, Freedom And Peace, Kennedy Tells CP Crowd.”

The account of Nixon’s speech began with the sort of uninspiring, businesslike tone that might have been his downfall in the election: “Nixon Favors Effective Price Support System.” …

Read the rest here.

When we published that 2003 story, apparently nobody in the building was aware that we possessed a stockpile of photo negatives from Kennedy’s visit. Since becoming the editor of The Daily Republic in 2010, I found those negatives, including the one with this blog post.

If you’d like to read the full text of JFK’s 1960 speech at the Corn Palace, click here.