UPDATED: Have any Presidents ever Visited Wakefield?
Over the years, at least two U.S. presidents visited Wakefield at some point in their lives. Just in time for President's Day, here's a look back.
This weekend on the Wakefield Patch Facebook Page, I asked readers if they knew of any presidential visits the town has received over the years.
Nancy Bertrand, president of the Wakefield Historical Commission and the Wakefield Historical Society, cited two past chief executives who visited town during their lifetimes - John F. Kennedy and Calvin Coolidge.
According to Bertrand, Kennedy visited Wakefield a number of times, including in 1959 when he spoke to the 9:29ers group at the First Parish Congregational Church. Bertrand added that she ran a photo of that Kennedy visit in her "Wakefield: 350 Years by the Lake" local history book.
John Bengtson reported on the Facebook page that Kennedy, possibly before he became president, walked in at least one Wakefield July 4th parade. Kennedy was a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts between 1953 and 1960 and was president from 1961 to 1963. Bengtson noted that Ted Kennedy and John Kerry were also among past parade participants.
Other Wakefield Brushes With The Presidency
Elsewhere, an online check finds that in 1962, the Wakefield High School football team traveled to Washington and got to meet President Kennedy. That year, they were co-champions with Melrose.
(Updated) Also - Liz Freeman reports that the Wakefield Temple got a telegram from President Dwight Eisenhower on September 14th, 1952, "when the sanctuary was dedicated, expressing his congratulations on the dedication and the achievement of such a step forward in attaining brotherhood."
Another interesting town tie to U.S. Presidents is Wakefield native John Volpe, who served as a Massachusetts governor, U.S. transportation secretary, and ambassador to Italy during his career. The Beebe Library website reports that its collection of historical photos includes images of Volpe with presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and George H.W. Bush, as well as former First Lady Jacquelyn Onassis. Even better, you can see a bunch of those pictures for yourself on the Beebe Library's Flickr Page.
The Calvin Coolidge Connection
Along with the previously mentioned political connections, Wakefield also welcomed future U.S. President Calvin Coolidge on at least one occasion. Bertrand reported on the Wakefield Patch Facebook page that town attorney Raymond Dellinger was a supporter and personal friend of Calvin Coolidge. While Coolidge was governor of Massachusetts, he reportedly came to visit Dellinger at least once at what is now known as the Dellinger House on Shumway Circle in Wakefield.
Calvin Coolidge was president of the United States from 1923 to 1929 and was a Republican who actually came from Vermont and who would have been Governor of Massachusetts around 1918, according to his Wikipedia page.
Many readers may know that despite his general reputation for keeping quiet, Coolidge actually figures in one of the great stories from New England lore. In 1923, Coolidge, then the vice president of the United States, was staying at the family farm not far from Woodstock, Vermont when news came that President Warren G. Harding had died in office.
In the early morning hours of August 3, 1923, Coolidge's father, who was a notary public, administered the presidential oath of office to his son at 2:47 a.m. in the family parlor by a kerosene light. You can still visit the Coolidge historical site in Central Vermont. The Wikipedia page adds that reporters were on hand to witness the oath of office in Vermont, and that the chief justice of the Supreme Court administered the oath in Washington the next day to Coolidge - just in case a notary public didn't have the authority to swear in a U.S. president.
Editor's Note: For an interesting article on Salem Patch about the numerous presidential visits nearby Salem has received over the past two centuries, click here.
For more President's Day history, check out the White House website's page on all past U.S. presidents.