On the Road Again: Presidential Visits to the West, Part III

Today’s post was written by Cody White, Archivist at the National Archives in Denver. This is the last part in a three part series. Read parts one and two.

For a president who was only in office a few short years before his untimely death, President John F. Kennedy certainly got around – we hold in our collection photographs detailing official visits to Great Falls and Billings, Montana; Salt Lake City, Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada; Pierre, South Dakota; Pueblo, Colorado; Los Banos, and even Redding, California – where the presidential helicopter made a dramatic landing on the crest of the Whiskeytown Dam. In the interest of space it was difficult to settle on just one image to share, especially with such a photogenic president, so this 1962 Bureau of Reclamation photograph of Kennedy touting the Fryingpan-Arkansas Reclamation Project in Colorado will have to suffice (from RG 115, Photographs, NAID 2525008). Pausing for applause, we see a flowered “key to the city” in front of the podium and the stage is lined with frying pans, a nod to the Fryingpan River which the reclamation project involved. Accounts reported that 100,000 people lined Colorado Highway 50 to see the motorcade while 18,000 braved the August heat to hear the president declare that “a rising tide lifts all of the boats” in that the dam would pay dividends far beyond the arid land of eastern Colorado.

Dedication of Fryingpan-Arkansas project. President Kennedy receiving applause during his address at Pueblo Colorado, August 17, 1962

Given his outsized western persona, surprisingly enough we have yet to come across any pictures of Lyndon Johnson while he was president in our holdings. His wife Lady Bird makes several appearances, from her 1964 “Land and People Tour” of Utah where she dedicated the Flaming Gorge Dam, to 1966 when she returned to Utah to dedicate the Glen Canyon Dam. The only Lyndon Johnson photograph we have found in our holdings is actually one that dates back to his vice presidential tenure.  On June 6th, 1962, Vice President Johnson delivered the commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy and handed out diplomas to the 298 graduates. In this photograph from our RG 461 U.S. Air Force Academy holdings (Construction Project Study Files, 1954-1971, NAID 568045) we see Johnson congratulating several graduates. According to the Chicago Tribune the Vice President was briefly held up in Washington, DC and so was a half hour late arriving; his helicopter landed on the academy parade grounds just as the cadets were getting into formation for the ceremony.

[Vice President Lyndon Johnson congratulates Cadets]

We do not come across another presidential photograph taken in our region until 1993 when President Bill Clinton was joined by Pope John Paul II to address students at the World Youth Day festivities in Denver, the first and only time World Youth Day has been held in the United States. President Clinton and his family greeted the Pontiff at Denver’s Stapleton International Airport and after speaking to the assembled crowd the pair flew to Regis University for a private visit. This photograph, found from the Historical Files (NAID 607674in our Record Group 338 Records of U.S. Army Operational, Tactical, and Support Organizations (World War II and Thereafter) Fitzsimons Army Hospital files, is one of several taken at the airport that day.

[President Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul II, 1993]

This summer, choose your own POTUS Vacation with 13 of our Presidents. Your first destination is @USNatArchives on Instagram.


Additional Sources

John F. Kennedy

Remarks at Pueblo, Colorado, 17 August, 1962

When JFK VIsited Colorado

Lyndon B. Johnson

Late for Commencement

Bill Clinton

Pope Meets President Clinton