Initially few expected that Kennedy would spend so much time in the Mountain state. Many believed that Humphrey would drop out after the Wisconsin contest and if not, he would be an easy opponent in West Virginia primary.
But all that changed after the Wisconsin presidential primary on April 9. Kennedy may have won, but the press attributed his victory to a strong turnout of Catholic voters who comprised 30 percent of the population. They noted that Kennedy won all five industrialized Congressional districts with Catholic majorities, but lost all rural districts with Protestant majorities.
It was up to West Virginia -- a state with few Catholics -- to prove that Kennedy's religion would not be a political liability. As the editor of the Parkersburg News James H. Young observed, "West Virginia will either bury their prejudice or they will bury John Fitzgerald Kennedy."
The votes cast in May catapulted John Kennedy to his party's presidential nomination and undermined the assertion that a Catholic candidate could not win the White House. As President Kennedy stated when he came to Charleston for the centennial celebration on June 20, 1963: "I would not be where I now am ... if it had not been for the people of West Virginia."
I will find out Friday which town in West Virginia that national reporter selected for his story. For on Nov. 22, 2013, media across the nation will focus on an anniversary that shocked and then haunted a generation.
I just hope his article acknowledges the special connection between the Mountain State and the 35th president -- a special connection created in the spring of 1960, dramatized by his visit on June 20, 1963, and cut short by his death five months later.
Rupp, a political history professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College and a Gazette contributing columnist, is writing a book on John Kennedy and 1960 West Virginia presidential primary.