51 years ago today, on September 25, 1963, President John F. Kennedy spoke at the University of Wyoming.
His stop in Laramie was one of three that day in the Cowboy State. He first stopped in Cheyenne long enough to step off Air Force One, wave to the crowd and shake hands. He then boarded the plane again and flew to Laramie. At Laramie, the President was at greeted Brees Field by Governor Cliff Hansen and Senator Gale McGee.
President Kennedy arrived at the University of Wyoming Field House in an open convertible, very reminiscent of the one he would use in Dallas less than 2 months later. The President gave a short speech on natural resources and resource development to the nearly 13,000 people packed into the Field House and then returned to Air Force One for the final leg of his journey to the area around Jackson. The home of Governor Hansen, Jackson was considered a Republican stronghold in the state at the time and the Laramie Boomerang reported only 114 registered Democrats in all of Teton County.
The paper also mentioned that the democratic president would be “benefiting from the philanthropy of the Rockefeller Family,” pointing out that the lodge he would stay at and the National Park surrounding it was in a large part made possible by money provided by John D. Rockefeller. Jr. Rockefeller’s son, Nelson, was speculated to be a possible Republican opponent to the president in the 1964 presidential election.
His well-choreographed visit to Laramie lasted only about 45 minutes from landing to takeoff. It is interesting to note that he did not dawdle, leaving Laramie 7 minutes ahead of schedule and ended his day nearly half an hour ahead when he retired early to his room at Jackson Lake Lodge.
You can read President Kennedy’s speech and see his note cards on the JFK Presidential Library’s website. Two short videos of footage from his visit to Laramie are also available on YouTube here and here.