Source: Rockford Morning Star. October 25, 1960. Front Page.
Sixty years have passed since that fateful day in Dallas, Texas, when the nation mourned the loss of its 35th President, John F. Kennedy. Lee Harvey Oswald’s act of violence shattered the sunny optimism that Kennedy had come to symbolize, leaving a void that some argue has never truly been filled.
Rockford, Illinois, holds a poignant connection to this tragedy. In October 1960, JFK graced the Forest City with his presence, delivering a speech at the historic Coronado Theatre. The charisma and hope he exuded left an indelible impression, as he acknowledged the warmth and enthusiasm of the crowds in Rockford, even though Illinois was known as a red state at that time. He remarked, “I believe that the reception you have given to all of us that are running this year indicates that it is time that the Vice President came back to Illinois and started to look after it because I think Illinois will go Democratic on November 8, and so will the United States. And I think it would be good for the local paper to report that Rockford went Democratic.”
In the 1960 Presidential Election, JFK secured a victory in Illinois, albeit by a narrow margin. Winnebago County, home to Rockford, overwhelmingly supported the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon. Despite political differences, the bond between Kennedy and Rockford had been forged.
Fast forward to November 22nd, 1963, the day the nation stood still. Upon learning of the President’s assassination, Rockford residents, irrespective of their political affiliations, were united in sorrow. The tragic event transcended party lines, and the communal heart of Rockford mourned the loss of a leader who had once graced their city with promises of a brighter future.
As we mark the anniversary of the assassination, let us honor the memory of President Kennedy and the enduring spirit of hope that he enthused. In our collective reflection, let us find solace in the indomitable human capacity to aspire for a better tomorrow, even in the face of adversity. The impact of JFK on Rockford and the nation echoes through time, with the lingering memory of his visit as a testament to the hope he inspired.
Watch a snippet of JFK’s speech in Rockford here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcIOd4Cn2s0
Source: Rockford Morning Star. November 23, 1963. Page A5.
Source: Rockford Morning Star. October 25, 1960. Page A6.
Author: Jawuan – RPL Librarian