50 Year Anniversary Of Kennedy's Nashville Visit - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

50 Year Anniversary Of Kennedy's Nashville Visit

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by Aundrea Cline-Thomas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Months before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy came to Nashville to celebrate Vanderbilt University's 90th anniversary. Nearly 50 years to the day, those who were there are remembering the impact of that visit.

"Since 2 p.m. this afternoon it's been a normal Saturday afternoon in Nashville," NewsChannel 5 Anchor, then known as WLAC, told viewers on May 18, 1963. "The six hours before then were anything but normal. Many Saturday plans were canceled. Many lawns didn't get mowed. But no one seemed to care because today President John F. Kennedy visited Nashville."

Two-hundred thousand people lined the streets and filled Dudley Field to capacity. It was a warm reception for a sitting President who politically had not convinced voters in this state that he was the man for the job.

"He had not carried Tennessee by a long, long, long shot," John Siegenhaler, Chairman Emeritus of The Tennessean recalled.

During his visit to Nashville, Kennedy was forging a path to have better luck a second time around. Siegenhaler and Bob Clement, whose father was the Governor at the time, had a front row seat to the historic occasion.

"His message, even though it was education, you knew the theme was civil rights and equality. (and) freedom," Clement said.

At the time, Jim Crow had met a formidable opponent as segregation was being challenged across the south.

"I speak to you today, therefore not of your rights as Americans but of your responsibilities," Kennedy said.

It's a moment in history that few who witnessed will ever forget; complete with a message that still resonates today.

"With President Kennedy's charisma, charm and personality," Clement remembered, "everything came together very well that day."

The black limousine that took President Kennedy through the streets of Nashville, is the same one he was in 6 months and 4 days later in Dallas when he was assassinated.

President Kennedy's visit to Nashville is Friday night's Inside Politics topic.

John Siegenhaler and Bob Clement join our Pat Nolan to share inside stories of the historic day.  Immediately after Inside Politics, we'll air the special report of JFK's visit that aired on what was then WLAC Channel 5.

Email: acline-thomas@newschannel5.com
Facebook: Facebook.com/NC5_AundreaCT
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