Kennedy’s journey brought him to Spokane
The road that carried U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to the heights of American political power passed through Spokane nearly 50 years ago when his brother, John F. Kennedy, was running for president.
Edward Kennedy had the job of organizing the western states during the 1960 campaign and the run-up to it.
Before the formal announcement of the presidential campaign, Edward Kennedy came to Spokane to lay the groundwork for the effort.
He arrived here on Dec. 1, 1959, and tantalized Spokane with word that JFK would appear in Spokane within a few months. Sure enough, Jack Kennedy came to a Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner on Feb. 11, 1960, drawing a large crowd.
At age 28, Edward Kennedy returned to Spokane on Aug. 23, 1960 for organizational meetings going into the fall campaign.
“He was very businesslike, very concrete,” recalled Bob Dellwo, of Spokane, a former Democratic Party official who served as the Fifth Congressional District campaign chairman for the 1960 Kennedy campaign.
During the 1960 visit, Kennedy apologized for being so young, Dellwo said, but he assured volunteers that he came from a family that had experience in politics.
Years later, Dellwo said he met Kennedy in Washington, D.C., while he was representing Inland Northwest Indian tribes as their attorney.
“Teddy was noted for being very sympathetic of what we called at the time Indian causes,” Dellwo said.
The youngest of four Kennedy brothers, Edward Kennedy was elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts in 1962 to fill JFK’s unexpired term.
He returned to Spokane on Nov. 21, 1965, to dedicate the Kennedy Memorial Sports Pavilion at Gonzaga University – just two years after his brother’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.
An estimated 6,000 people turned out for the dedication, including the state’s leading political figures.
Kennedy told them the assassination caused the American people to reassess “their own thinking about many of the problems of our country.”
Later that day, he appeared at a $50-a-plate dinner at the Davenport Hotel for U.S. Rep. Tom Foley, a Spokane Democrat, who was facing his first re-election. Foley eventually rose to become Speaker of the House.
Sally Jackson, a longtime Democratic activist, said news of Sen. Kennedy’s death from brain cancer on Tuesday came with sadness.
“I just loved him. I loved all of them. I shed a tear (Tuesday) night when I saw the announcement. I shed a lot of tears over the Kennedy boys,” she said.
Spokane City Councilman Steve Corker, a longtime Democrat, said he worked with Kennedy in Oregon during the JFK campaign, traveling through the Willamette Valley on campaign organizing visits during the summer of 1960. He had just graduated from high school in Portland and was the youth chairman for the campaign.
“I remember the Harvard accent, the Boston accent, that everyone thought was curious and funny,” Corker said.
He said Kennedy was jovial and accessible to people, and never arrogant.
“I just remember how young he was,” Corker said.