Providence remembers local Kennedy speech - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

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Providence remembers local Kennedy speech

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by ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis

mcurtis@abc6.com

"I actually worked in the campaign," said Councilor Wilbur Jennings.

Longtime Providence City Councilor Wilbur Jennings was just 16, when he stood in the crowd watching Senator John Kennedy give his final campaign speech in the 1960 election, on the steps of Providence City Hall.

Kennedy was elected President the next day.

"I was there. I seen it. I seen him on the stage in front of the City Hall and I seen it in this motorcade. And It just means so much to me," Councilor Jennings said.

Jennings cherishes the photo of that day, which for years has hung on a wall at City Hall.

Sadly, three years after that speech the President was assassinated.

"I just froze and I was sad, I just couldn't continue," Jennings said.

ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis said, "The President's ties to Rhode Island – including that famous 1960 campaign speech on the steps here at City Hall – were so profound, that one year after his assassination, this entire area was renamed Kennedy Plaza."

A plaque at the transit hub, explains the historic significance.

Also there for the speech - to guard Senator Kennedy - was one of Providence's first Black police officers, Cliff Monteiro.

"I remember him giving the speech. But now I flash back at my age and to his death. And so the speech was important but the death and the impact of that death is one of the greatest impacts on my life," Monteiro said.

And so, a famous speech in Providence - and a fateful day in Dallas - are forever linked in Rhode Island memories.

 

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