CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As part of the state's Sesquicentennial celebration, a biographer and longtime speechwriter for Sen. Robert C. Byrd talked Saturday about Byrd's role in getting John F. Kennedy to come to West Virginia for the state's Centennial celebration in 1963.
Byrd played the key role in getting President John F. Kennedy to come to West Virginia and speak on the Capitol steps to celebrate the state's Centennial back on June 20, 1963, David A. Corbin said before his talk.
On that rainy day, Kennedy said, "The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do."
When Kennedy won the West Virginia primary in 1960, that victory played a critical role in his winning the Democratic presidential nomination, in part because Kennedy was a Catholic who won the party's primary in a heavily Protestant state.
Byrd campaigned against Kennedy during the West Virginia primary, supporting his opponent Sen. Hubert Humphrey, D-Minn.
But after the election, Corbin said, "The two made up and started helping out West Virginia. That got West Virginia moving again.
"When Kennedy's staff rejected the invitation, Byrd told me, he talked to Kennedy about it. Byrd told Kennedy how much it meant to the people of West Virginia if he would come.
"Kennedy did not even know about the invitation," Corbin said.
Just 10 days before that speech in Charleston, Kennedy spoke at the commencement at American University in Washington, D.C., after he received an honorary law degree.