Friday, February 7, 2014

The Kennedys in Annapolis

One of the reasons the Maryland State House is such a unique historic site is that it has actually remained an active legislative building all the way through the present day. Because of this, the State House has inevitably been witness to several key moments in history which include not only the founding of the nation, but also our more recent past.

Just over fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, visited the State House twice during John F. Kennedy’s campaign for the presidency in the 1960 election.

Photograph of John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Trooper Kaplan outside the State House, 13 May 1960. Maryland State Archives, J. Millard Tawes Collection, MSA SC 5297-1-1.

His first visit, on February 2, was as part of a bid by Kennedy to be considered for Maryland’s presidential candidacy. According to newspapers, Governor J. Millard Tawes had wanted to bring the Maryland delegates to the Democratic Convention without a favored candidate, and Kennedy hoped to change the governor’s opinion. The Annapolis Capital recorded the event with some lack of interest. It included only a small article, which summarized, “Sen John F. Kennedy, the tousel-haired presidential aspirant from Massachusetts, comes to Maryland today to virtually button-up the State’s 24 delegates to the Democratic national convention.”[1]

John F. Kennedy signing the official documents to enter him into Maryland's May 17 presidential primary. At the table with him is his wife, Jackie Kennedy, and Governor J. Millard Tawes. Image courtesy of CORBIS, 2 February 1960, U1214716A.

However, by the time the Kennedys returned to Annapolis only a few months later on May 13, notice of JFK had already changed. He returned again to officially file as a presidential candidate for the Maryland primary, and gain Governor J. Millard Tawes’ public support for his campaign. Kennedy was met with celebrating crowds and was considered a subject worthy of front page news.[2] The press conference and signing were held in the Governor’s Reception Room, directly above the historic Old Senate Chamber.

John F. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, Governor J. Millard Tawes, and others at press conference in the Governor's Reception Room, State House, 13 May 1960. Maryland State Archives, J. Millard Tawes Collection, MSA SC 5297-1-2.

As the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use, the Maryland State House has witnessed momentous events over the span of centuries, and will continue to do so in the future. In our work on the State House, it is our hope that we can create an engaging interpretative experience that allows modern history, like that of the visits of the Kennedys, to mingle with the likes of Washington’s resignation.

[1] “Kennedy Due Here Today for Filing,” Annapolis Capital, 2 February 1960.
[2] “Tawes Supports Kennedy in Tuesday Election,” Annapolis Capital, 14 May 1960.

1 comment:

  1. I would love to identify the woman sitting in between Governor Tawes and Senator Kennedy.