Robert Kennedy (check out this rare video!), Earhart, Roosevelt, Hope, and more visited LaPorte County

A photo of Robert F. Kennedy and his wife, Ethel, captured in a rear-view mirror as they enter LaPorte from the east side of town in 1968. This is a photo by Burt Glinn, unearthed by Michigan historian Paul Lee. (Click to enlarge)

This photo of Robert and Ethel Kennedy riding through LaPorte comes from the photo collection of the late Heinz and Hertha Gutmann. Their daughter, Barbra Otolski, sent it to WNLP after seeing this post. Do you have a photo of RFK in LaPorte County? Feel free to send it to wnlp@whatsnewlaporte.com. (Click photo to enlarge)

Another historical nugget found thanks to Fern’s column: Eric Schmitz brought this to WNLP’s attention; he did a little Internet searching himself and found it on — of all places — a site called Oklahomahistory.net. Checking that site, we found that someone had sent it to the blogger of that page with this information: “I know these have nothing to do with Oklahoma, but I think they’re cool. I got these from my uncle in Little Rock (Arkansas). He was digging through some old shoe boxes of photos and found these two photos of Bobby & Ethel Kennedy that were taken from the campaign trail in LaPorte, Indiana. Wow! What a piece of history.” -Kathi G. in Fayetteville, Arkansas.” The other photo (not shown here) is a partial photo of the Kennedys. (Click photo to enlarge)

WNLP EDITOR’S NOTE: The rest of the story — Along with this column, Fern included a different photo of Robert Kennedy speaking in LaPorte. After a little research we learned it came from a rare news video clip of RFK campaigning here on May 6, 1968, unearthed by Michigan historian Paul Lee. Mr. Lee included another rare photo (top), as well as this tribute to Fern on his YouTube post of the video:  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xygxRPvXz9s)

“On Feb. 7, 2011, I contacted LaPorte historian, author and researcher Fern Eddy Schultz as part of my research for a book on Kennedy’s remarkable relationships with non-’white’ peoples. Since I live in Highland Park, Mich., I asked for, and was blessed to receive, her expert assistance in positively identifying and contextualizing first one, then three more photos of Kennedy’s second and final visit to LaPorte the day before he won Indiana’s presidential primary, including one by Magnum photographer Burt Glinn, which was only dated ‘1968’ and located ‘in a small Midwest town’:
http://www.burtglinn.com/Kennedy.html
“She later identified a LaPorte County sheriff who is seen escorting Kennedy’s motorcade as it inched its way down Lincoln Way in one of the photos. Sporting his department’s signature wide-brimmed hat with a star above its band, his name is Gary Cooper (not the actor). ‘It happens that I … know Gary and his wife, Joyce, who was postmistress at the Union Mills post office (she is now retired, as is Gary),’ she wrote me in a March 30, 2011, email letter. (Fern might know for sure, but it appears that Officer Cooper is looking towards the camera at lower left at the beginning of the video.) She also carefully studied photos of Kennedy’s courthouse rally and kindly provided possible leads on the few African Americans in the crowd and helpful background on a local band — Dave Curtis’ the Bare Facts:
http://whatsnewlaporte.com/2016/06/10…
“’They were together most of the time the members were in high school (LaPorte High School). The ‘Wes’ who signed one of the comment letters (on musician and author Jason Bittner’s blog) is Wes England and he was a member of the group,’” she wrote on Feb. 14, 2011.
“Fern quickly became my guide to all things LaPorte, and my friend. It is because of her patient and expert tutelage that I was able to readily recognize the Michigan Avenue side of the courthouse when I chanced upon this stock footage, which was dated ‘January 01, 1968’ (meaning that Getty only knew the year) and broadly located it in the ‘United States’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xygxRPvXz9s

“THANX, FERN!
“I regret that I only belatedly learned about the dedication of the Fern Eddy Schultz Research Library in the LaPorte County Historical Society Museum on March 21, 2017: It would’ve been my distinct honor to finally visit the city that she’s made so fascinating to me so that I could’ve personally thanked her for all that she did for my work. In lieu of that, I pray that she’ll accept this video tribute as a small token of my boundless appreciation and esteem. Those who would like to learn more about the important work of the historical society should visit its website: https://www.laportecountyhistory.org
“Paul Lee”

———-

By Fern Eddy Schultz, LaPorte County Historian

We have often been reminded of the various celebrities such as Oscar Levant (noted

LaPorte County Historian Fern Eddy Schultz

pianist) who visited LaPorte County, making an appearance at the Civic Auditorium.  Bob Hope came in 1978, also appearing at the Civic. He, along with the Glenn Miller Band, entertained a sold-out crowd. Hope was presented with the key to the city.  

Besides those well-known folks, numerous politicians have visited or at least made a stop in the county. In Michigan City, among those were William McKinley, Ronald Reagan, Woodrow Wilson and Bill Clinton. And in LaPorte, Dwight Eisenhower made a train stop in 1952 when he was running for president the first time. He was photographed greeting Cub Scout Dwight Graham, who was named after Eisenhower. Then-State Senator Harold W. Handley, who was a candidate at that time for lieutenant governor of Indiana, was also photographed with Eisenhower.

President Theodore Roosevelt made a stop in LaPorte in 1912. It was reported he was eating his lunch in his train’s diner and was advised of the delegation of people outside. “With his napkin in his hand, he leaned forth and waved his napkin.” It was only an accident that the stop was made in LaPorte.    

A key to the City of LaPorte presented to legendary entertainer Bob Hope when he appeared at the Civic in 1978. (Photo provided; click to enlarge)

A more recent political visitor was Robert Kennedy in May 1968, who at the time was running for president. He arrived with his wife, Ethel, and gave a talk to a large crowd by the LaPorte County Courthouse. He was assassinated just a month later in Los Angeles.

In 1950, the Rotarians of Michigan City sponsored a Gene Autry show as a fundraiser for Boy Scout Camp Topenebee located on Holmesville Road in LaPorte. The show included the famous singing cowboy’s horse, Champion, and Little Champ. Tickets for both the matinee and evening show were sold out.

Well-known sports people were also visitors. In 1950, former heavyweight boxing champ Jack Dempsey refereed a March of Dimes wrestling show in the high school gym in Michigan City. In 1957, former heavyweight champ Joe Louis, along with three buddies, practiced teeing off at Beechwood Golf Course in LaPorte. The course had been recommended to Louis as being “the best groomed course in the Chicago area with the exception of Tam o’ Shanter.”

William Frederick Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill Cody, came to LaPorte in 1912 with his “first and last” appearance of his Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Far East show. The show was trumpeted as having horsemanship of the character termed super-excellent. There was also shooting, “which made one doubt that human hands held the gun.” Not least among the attractions was Col. Cody himself, “sitting erect on his white charger, his flowing white hair falling about his shoulders as he galloped about the rings performing his prodigies of skill and valor.”

In October 1934, a driver pulled up in front of the Spaulding Hotel in Michigan City, hitting a car in front of her. The owner of the car learned the next day that the lady who got out of 12-cylinder Franklin and made a courteous apology was historic aviatrix Amelia Earhart. She had lunch and later spoke the Women’s Study Club. She toured the Michigan City Airport. Four years later came the shocking news that she had disappeared during her attempt to fly around the world.

These are just a few of the many personages who have visited our county. Some came as a result of a definite invitation to entertain us with their talent, while others came for the purpose of apprising us of their abilities.

FERN EDDY SCHULTZ is LaPorte County’s official Historian. To learn more about LaPorte County and its fascinating history, visit the LaPorte County Historical Society Museum and its website, www.laportecountyhistory.org.

12 Responses to “Robert Kennedy (check out this rare video!), Earhart, Roosevelt, Hope, and more visited LaPorte County”

  1. Mike Kellems

    Jun 14. 2017

    This is just fascinating! I wonder if there are more personal photos from those that were there when Robert Kennedy visited Michigan City and La Porte? It would be great to hear stories of those that were there.

    Reply to this comment
    • I was there as a little boy, Mrs Kennedy ran her fingers thru my hair and said such a cute little boy.

      Jun 15. 2017

      I was there, Mrs Kennedy ran her fingers thru my hair and said such a cute little boy, I was 8 years old

      Reply to this comment
  2. Lenny Sales

    Jun 15. 2017

    I remember my dad holding me on his shoulders so I could see RFK.

    Reply to this comment
  3. lawman

    Jun 15. 2017

    sad note to this-laporte couldn’t fill the civic when Bob Hope was here. maybe half full-1000 people.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Jim Reeder

    Jun 15. 2017

    President Nixon visited La Porte during the summer of 1983. He gave a speech at the Holiday Inn that was well attended.

    The same spring Bobby Kennedy was in La Porte, his democratic challenger, Eugene McCarthy was also here making the rounds and visiting restaurants and shops in the downtown area.

    I had the opportunity to shake President Eisenhower’s hand while he made a whistle stop speech at the NYC crossing at Madison St. back in 1952.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Jim Reeder

    Jun 15. 2017

    Another interesting story about Bobby Kennedy’s visit to La Porte was that a newsman on tour with Kennedy was from La Porte.His name was Daniel (Dan) Blackburn. LPHS Class of 1956 or 1957.
    Dan was a White House correspondent back then with either NBC or CBS. Dan was a well known journalist and retired in California.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Tim

    Jun 15. 2017

    Great stories. Indiana was very important to RFK that year. Our nation lost an amazing and forceful warrior of freedom when he was taken from us. Thanks to all who contributed to this article.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Doug Kiff

    Jun 15. 2017

    I think New York City mayor, John Lindsey, made a campaign visit to La Porte when he was running for the republican presidential nomination in 1964.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Name (required)

    Jun 15. 2017

    Looks like US Senator Birch Bayh on the left side of the photo and IN Senator Dennis Neary on the right.

    Reply to this comment
  9. RFK Fan

    Jun 15. 2017

    Who is the man with RFK in the car? Black suit, black tie and white pin.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Randy Mizia

    Jun 16. 2017

    Myself and a friend walked from Boston Jr. High after classes ended to attend his event. We stood next to the stage where Robert Kennedy would offer his speech. The Bare Facts performed the whole time while waiting for his appearance. If I remember correctly, it was a sunny and rather hot afternoon. His motorcade was late arriving and I believe on a 3 hr. delay. My friend left after a length of time as we both had Herald-Argus paper routes then. I stayed. When he finally arrived and was delivering his message, I was struck by appearance. His hair was more white than dark and his facial features were more lined than in photos. It was a great moment for me to be this close to such a great man. Sadly, within months he was gone.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Darlene Jesch

    Jun 18. 2017

    I lived on Lincolnway at that time and remember RFK being driven past my house. What a memory.

    Reply to this comment

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