MAY 23, 2012
WISCONSIN AND WEST VIRGINIA III
Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today we continue our report on Chapter 6 of the book by Kenneth P. O’Donnell & David F. Powers with Joe McCarthy. It is published by Little, Brown & Company.
The title of Chapter 6 is WISCONSIN AND WEST VIRGINIA.
Kenneth O’Donnell bluntly writes that when he arrived in Charleston, West Virginia with Bobby & Larry O’Brien they were told by a man among JFK’s key workers:
“There’s only one problem. He’s a Catholic.”*
*JFK’s main primary opponent, Hubert Humphrey, was Protestant as were the great majority of the voters of West Virginia.
Many of the Kennedy workers were upset, Kenny argues, because JFK’s Catholicism had NOT been generally known to most West Virginians until recent coverage in the local media.
The attempts by Kennedy people to get Humphrey to withdraw from the WVA primary were to no avail. HHH was also getting the support of those in the Democratic party who wanted to “STOP KENNEDY”.**
**LBJ even came to the state to make a speech supporting Humphrey.
Kenny says, “We went into the (West Virginia) campaign in a gloomy mood.”
An optimistic note, however, was provided by “one of the most skillful & knowledgeable Democratic politicians in the state,” Bob McDonough*** who assured the Kennedy people that JFK’s “straightforward & engaging ease in approaching people would gain him respect in West Virginia & overcome the bigotry.”
Kenny tells us that on the flight to West Virginia to make his 1st campaign appearance there, JFK was “cheerfully unperturbed.”
***Robert P. McDonough (1915-1981) was a Wood County, West Virginia industrialist who coordinated the Kennedy Campaign in the State Democratic Primary in 1960. He gave a oral history interview at the JFK Library in 1965.