By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Nov. 22, 1963 is still remembered as one of the pivotal moments in the 20th Century — especially people who were living when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
“I was in a car, driving to the courthouse in Princeton,” Norris Kantor said. “I heard it on the radio. I think I was going to the court to search a title. It’s something you don’t forget.”
Kantor was a young lawyer when he met Kennedy in April 1960 when he was campaigning for the Democrat Party’s presidential nomination. West Virginia’s primary falls late in the election season, so it did not have much national interest. However, with (then) Senator Kennedy and Minnesota Senator Hubert H. Humphrey locked up in a tight race, the Mountain State was an important battleground.
“I saw him at Glenwood Park,” Kantor said in reference to Kennedy’s 1960 campaign visit. “I got a chance to speak with him and shake his hand. I thought he was a bright, articulate and charming person.
“I know he stayed at the Laurence Tierney home when he was here,” Kantor said. “The Democratic Party headquarters was in Princeton, but I opened up a Bluefield Democratic Party headquarters in Bluefield that year too. Ann Tierney Smith and I opened it in a vacant space on the corner of Federal and Scott streets. I was there some, but Ann was there a lot. I supposed we had it because Laurence paid for it.”
Kennedy had a major impact on motivating people. Along with meeting with Mercer County leaders, Kennedy met with Bluefield State College students.
He made other campaign stops in Mercer County including visits to Montcalm, Duhring and Bramwell, as well as several McDowell County stops including Eureka Hollow near Eckman, Kimball and Welch where he spent some time.
He was in Dallas, Texas on Nov. 22, 1963 when he was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in later that same day when the presidential party was flying back to Washington, D.C. In the years that followed, Johnson pushed the civil rights legislation that Kennedy championed, and worked to fulfill his wish to see man land on the Moon before the end of the decade of the 1960s.
“He also handled a major foreign policy challenge that we now know as the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Kantor said.
“The problem was that with only three and one-half years, it’s hard to say what his impact might have been if he would have completed his first term or if he might have served 8 years.
“He was friendly, out-going and well-versed,” Kantor said. “He was trying to move us in the right direction.”
— Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com