Lakeland remembers Kennedy visit

Austin Anderson, Staff Reporter

35th President of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was assassinated in downtown Dallas, Texas almost 50 years ago. What people may not know about President Kennedy was that while on his first campaign tour, Kennedy visited Lakeland College.

On Wednesday, March 30, 1960, Kennedy’s tour bus arrived from the south and parked by the gym, which was where Verhulst Music Hall is now. Kennedy walked up to the stage and began speaking to the crowded gym about the American politics of the time and the responsibility of the individual citizen.

The Lakeland Mirror issue from April 8, 1960, quotes Kennedy, “A combination of primaries and conventions is the only way to pick a president.”

At the time, Democratic Senator Kennedy from Massachusetts, had flown to the Midwest to capture some votes from the people of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Kennedy landed in Milwaukee, and took a bus up to the Green Bay area to speak publicly about his plans for his time in office. Lakeland College was on Senator Kennedy’s campaign tour stops on his way to Green Bay and Appleton.

Dr. J. Garland Schilcutt, professor of Business Administration, who was working at Lakeland at the time Kennedy arrived on campus stated, “He breezed right in and he breezed right out!”

Kennedy spoke at Lakeland for at least an hour before moving on to other cities to speak. He answered questions from students and local townspeople. Later that year, Kennedy became the President of the United States of America.

Three years later, President Kennedy was taking a five city tour of the major metropolitan areas of Texas. Kennedy was planning on running for president again in the spring of 1964. In order to beat his political opponents in the race to the White House, Kennedy had to win the votes of people from the states of Florida and especially Texas. He had visited Fort Worth, Texas, a few weeks earlier.

50 years ago, on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated while riding in his presidential limousine with his wife, Jaqueline Kennedy, in downtown Dallas, Texas, for a tour of the city. While driving through Dealey Plaza, an unknown assassin shot Kennedy twice, once in the back and once in the neck. Kennedy was raced to the hospital and was pronounced dead. The assassin, named Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for his crime and was shot before he went to trial.