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Looking Back At John F. Kennedy’s Final Trips To Minn.

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Just weeks before he died, President John F. Kennedy made one last trip to Minnesota in late September 1963.

It was one of many visits to the state where he helped launch Minnesota Democrats to national prominence.

The young president was hitting his stride politically in late 1963, and preparing for the 1964 re-election campaign.

He was setting out on a four day, 11-state conservation tour. A large crowd greeted him at the Ashland, Wis., airport.

A Navy film crew followed him on the trip, and narrated a 28-minute account of the event:

“President Kennedy announces the convening of a conference to study a water pollution problem in the area.”

Across the bridge in Minnesota, The president addressed thousands at a Great Lakes Water Conference.

Between 1960, when he ran for president, and 1963, when he died, Kennedy visited Minnesota numerous times.

Then-Sen. Kennedy had defeated Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey for the 1960 presidential nomination after a series of hard fought, and sometimes harsh, primaries.

But Kennedy needed the state to win the ’64 election.

And he visited Minnesota to raise money for Democrats at a new event called a “Bean Feed.”

“It is worth coming 1,500 miles from Boston to this city for a bean supper,” pronouncing it “suppah” in his distinctive Massachusetts accent.

Three Democrats on stage that day later ran for president themselves: Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey.

And Minnesota U.S. Federal Judge Jack Tunheim said Kennedy was a unifying force for the party.

Tunheim, who was a Humphrey aide in the 1970s, later served on the commission that re-investigated Kennedy’s assassination and declassified assassination-related documents.

“You look at the politicians from the 1970s and into the 1980s who openly said ‘I was inspired by President Kennedy to go into politics.’ And we had a large share of them in Minnesota,” Tunheim said.

Kennedy tried to help Minnesota politicians in their local campaigns.

In 1960, he recorded a series of political ads for Humphrey and Gov. Orville Freeman, including a series of outtakes.

Kennedy’s last Minnesota visit was short — just one day. In Duluth, it was an eerie premonition from a television reporter covering the event.

“They regard the potential of a threat to the president’s life as a very real thing,” said the reporter during an interview with a sheriff’s deputy assigned to presidential security.

Eight weeks later in Dallas, the president was dead.

After Kennedy’s murder, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president.

And Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey was named vice president of the United States.

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