June 20, 1963: JFK Speaks at WV Birthday Celebration

This Week in West Virginia History.

On June 20, 1963—the 100th birthday of West Virginia—John F. Kennedy made his last appearance in the Mountain State. 

Speaking on the state capitol steps in Charleston, he credited West Virginia with making him president—a reference to the state’s Democratic primary in 1960, when he beat Hubert Humphrey.

At the time, many political experts thought a Catholic couldn’t be elected president, but JFK’s win over Humphrey in an overwhelmingly Protestant state like West Virginia sent a major signal that he could win nationally. In November 1960, he defeated Republican Richard Nixon by a narrow margin to become the nation’s 35th president.

Many West Virginians felt a genuine sense of spirit and pride for their role in making JFK president. When he returned to the Mountain State for our Centennial, it was a dreary, rainy day in Charleston, but even in these moments, he found a way to uplift his supporters.

Three months later, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.