But Logan County has been a home away from home for the political dynasty.
With the death of 77-year-old Senator Ted Kennedy early on Wednesday morning due to brain cancer many locals remembered back to the four historic visits to Logan by the Kennedys.
Ted Kennedy came to Logan County all four times.
All seemed to have an impact.
Today, there is a “Kennedy Square” in downtown Logan.
For years, a Kennedy class, taught by Dean Lucas, has been offered in the curriculum at Logan’s Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College.
The Kennedy’s first Logan visit was in 1960 before the West Virginia Democratic Primary as Ted and his brother Bobby helped campaign for older brother John F. Kennedy in his presidential bid.
Eight years later and five years after JFK’s assassination, Ted and Bobby Kennedy were in Logan again for Bobby’s 1968 presidential rally before thousands in front of the Logan County Court House.
Later in 2000, Ted Kennedy returned to Logan for a rally at Logan High School’s Logan Memorial Fieldhouse. Kennedy stumped for Al Gore, West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd, then gubernatorial candidate Bob Wise and local Democrats.
Also at the rally was West Virginia’s other Democratic Senator, Jay Rockefeller. Kennedy, Byrd and Rockefeller held a joint press conference prior to the rally in Logan basketball coach Mark Hatcher’s office.
Ted Kennedy made one last visit to downtown Logan in the fall of 2004 along Stratton Street. Byrd, Rockefeller and Third Congressional District Democratic Congressmen Nick Rahall were also at the impromptu event. Joe Manchin, running for governor for the first time, was also at the rally. All were stumping for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, Ted Kennedy’s senatorial colleague from Massachusetts.
The 1960 campaign stop to Logan and to West Virginia seemed to put JFK on the national map.
John Kennedy had been a congressman in his home state from 1947-53 after his WWII service and spoke at the 1956 Democratic Convention but was still not a household name nationwide.
So in 1960, JFK, along with his brothers, came to Logan County to meet the people, visiting the old Court House, eating at the Smoke House Restaurant and mingling with ordinary citizens door-to-door and porch-to-porch.
The Kennedys did not want to give a lecture and did not want to be introduced. Instead, JFK and his brothers met personally with the people, shook their hands and spoke one-on-one.
JFK’s 1960 win in the West Virginia Democratic Primary was a major historical moment in U.S. politics.
West Virginia was considered a “test” state to determine the fate of the Boston, Irish-American born Catholic.
No Roman Catholic had ever been elected as President of the United States.
The Kennedys came here to wipe out the claims that a Roman Catholic could not win in a heavily Protestant state such as West Virginia.
When the election results came in, JFK won the 1960 primary in Logan County, topping Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota by a count of 8,300 votes to 6,494. Kennedy won the entire state of West Virginia with a resounding victory and used this momentum to carry him to the nomination and later to the White House.
After winning West Virginia, JFK told the press he thought the Mountain State wouldn’t vote on the sole basis of religious bias.
“West Virginia has tonight given me a major boost toward the Democratic nomination for president,” JFK said. “I had no doubt that you would cast your vote on the basis of the issues and not on any religious prejudice.”
At the 2000 rally in Logan, Ted Kennedy recalled the significance of Logan County and West Virginia.
“When my brother ran in 1960 there were questions about my brother’s religion and whether it would be a hindrance,” Kennedy said. “And I remember going on television one night in West Virginia and he told the story about how my brother Joe volunteered for a flight for which he never returned. He told the people of West Virginia that Joe’s co-pilot was a Baptist. He told the people that no one in that cockpit asked if he was Catholic or Protestant. No one asked if the co-pilot was Catholic or Protestant. And both men served this country, to indeed, their ultimate sacrifices in World War II.
“And the people of West Virginia did something for this country and said, ‘We will evaluate you on the basis of your character,’ and they sent John Kennedy to the White House.”
With four visits to Logan County, the Kennedy family will always have a historic link.
“I never tire of thanking the men and women who gave my brother the opportunity of getting the nomination of the Democratic Party,” Ted Kennedy said in the 2000 rally.
Kennedy’s 2000 campaign stop to Logan was not an easy one. The long-time Massachusetts senator was supposed to fly in to Charleston and then fly on to the Logan County Airport. However, area forest fires in Logan County and thick smoke made the plane trip ride unsafe.
Instead, Kennedy was driven down U.S. 119 for the 60-mile trip to Logan High School.
“I was talking to the President Clinton earlier in the day and he said, ‘Where are you going tonight?’ And I said, ‘Mr. President, I’m getting on a little plane and I’m going down South and I’m going to go to an airport,” Ted Kennedy said. “Then I’m going to go down I-64 and then I’m going down Corridor G South a ways and then I’m going to take that exit ramp at the Wal-Mart. And then after I take a turn down the exit ramp I’m going to take three left turns to Midelburg Island to show up at a high school at Logan, West Virginia.”
Ted Kennedy won JFK’s senate seat in 1962. He was re-elected many times and won in 1988 with 65 percent of the vote. He was voted back in during the 1994 election but his numbers slipped to 58 percent. He was re-elected again in 2000 and 2006.
After the 2000 Logan rally, Ted Kennedy walked off the Logan Memorial Fieldhouse stage, shook hands with locals and signed autographs before he returned to D.C.
West Virginia did indeed prove to be important in the 2000 election but it wasn’t the results Kennedy and the Democrats were looking for.
The state’s five electoral votes went to Republican George W. Bush – the first time West Virginia had gone red since 1984.
With the Florida Recount and Supreme Court ruling, Bush beat Gore 271-267 in the final Electoral College tally. Had Gore grabbed Democrat-heavy West Virginia, he would won 272-266. Gore also lost his home state of Tennessee which would have also put him over the top.
Democrats had won West Virginia in seven out of the previous nine presidential elections. Bill Clinton won West Virginia twice in 1992 and 1996. Jimmy Carter also took the state twice in 1976 and 1980.
West Virginia has since been shaded red in the last three elections. The Mountain State went for Bush again in 2004 and for John McCain in 2008.