President Donald Trump is set to visit Elkhart Thursday with a rally at North Side Gymnasium, it got us thinking; how many other sitting presidents have visited the City with a Hart?
While it might be difficult to know for sure about any pre-newspaper visits that there may have been, EPL’s extensive records of the Elkhart Truth and Daily Record help shed light on the past 150 years or so.
The New York Central Railroad definitely helped the early visits of presidents and candidates made to Elkhart. Back 116 years ago, former president Theodore Roosevelt made a short stop in Elkhart on his campaign train following the 1912 Progressive Party Convention in Chicago. After his nomination as the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party candidate, Roosevelt made a seven-minute stop in Elkhart to campaign.
The Elkhart Daily Record on Aug. 9, 1912, wrote that his speech was interrupted several times by an over-eager crowd, including several “elderly but determined women” who called themselves “suffragettes.”
On Oct. 26, 1948, then-President Harry Truman stopped his campaign train in Elkhart just one day ahead of his opponent, Thomas Dewey. Truman blasted the Republican-controlled Congress and told an estimated crowded of 10,000 that “If every voter casts his ballot in their favor…there is no doubt I will be the next president.”
The next presidential visit most will remember was Lyndon Johnson’s April 14, 1965 visit following the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak. Recovery was ongoing during Johnson’s visit and he promised that he would “do everything we can” for the victims of the tornadoes.
While many politicians made stops in the South Bend area as officials or on campaign stops, it wasn’t until Barack Obama made a post-inaugural visit to Elkhart, one of several he made as both a candidate and President, that a sitting President visited Elkhart. His first presidential visit was on Feb. 9, 2009, just weeks following his inauguration to tout a federal job creation stimulus grant that funded several Indiana projects.
He returned on June 1, 2016, bringing his presidency in full circle, to tout the progress the community had made since the bottom of the economic recession that wreaked havoc on the area’s economy. He also filmed a PBS Town Hall at the Lerner Theatre.
Trump will be the next chapter in presidential visitors and in the future that story will be found right here in the EPL archives.