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Leaders remember JFK's visit to Memphis

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Kennedy gave a speech to thousands of Memphians standing in front of the Falls looking east up Court Avenue toward the Falls Building. Kennedy gave a speech to thousands of Memphians standing in front of the Falls looking east up Court Avenue toward the Falls Building.
Cohen snapped a picture of the then democratic presidential nominee as Kennedy's motorcade passed through the intersection of Union and Cooper avenues. Cohen snapped a picture of the then democratic presidential nominee as Kennedy's motorcade passed through the intersection of Union and Cooper avenues.

(WMC-TV) - Around the nation and even the world, people are stopping to remember the tragic day 50 years ago when our nation lost President John F. Kennedy.

Before that somber day, JFK made a stop in Memphis to campaign for president.

Congressman Steve Cohen was in grade school during JFK's visit to Memphis during the 1960 campaign, which included a speech.

"President Kennedy inspired me to get into government," said Cohen. "I got to see him in Memphis when he campaigned."

Cohen snapped a picture of the then democratic presidential nominee as Kennedy's motorcade passed through the intersection of Union and Cooper avenues.

Kennedy gave a speech to thousands of Memphians standing in front of the Falls Building downtown.

State Representative Johnnie Turner remembers JFK's campaign visit to Memphis clearly. On the same day, she and fellow LeMoyne-Owen College students were arrested at what was then Memphis Municipal Airport.

"The facilities at the airport were segregated," she said.

As were other places where sit-ins had started earlier that year in an attempt to peacefully integrate them. Turner and others thought sitting in at the airport's whites-only restaurant during Kennedy's visit would help the cause.

"We did not expect him to come to our rescue, but we thought because of the significance of the occasion ... We thought there's be a wide outcry by the citizens," said Turner.

Instead, Turner believes the incident was deliberately downplayed as to not tarnish the city's image.

"People didn't even know the sit-in had taken place," said Turner.

It is something she would like to believe Kennedy would have supported as candidate who, for her generation, was like none other.

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