Several residents of Otter Tail County went to Fargo to greet presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Colburn Hvidston, who took photos at that event, displayed those JFK pictures during a photo exhibit in the fall of 2019 at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.
PHOTO BY TOM HINTGEN

Even in 1960, when Kennedy won the presidency, Otter Tail carried by Republican Richard Nixon

Voters in Otter Tail County, for presidential races, more often than not, vote for Republicans.

This was the case in 1960 when Richard Nixon won the overall county vote against John F. Kennedy.

But once JFK took office, he captivated people of both parties with his charisma.

President Kennedy was the first United States president to hold live TV news conferences. He held 64 press conferences, an average of one every 16 days, from January 1961 until his tragic death in November 1963.

Most of those press conferences were held in the spacious state department auditorium which could hold up to 300 people in the nation’s capital.

A typical press conference ran for about a half hour, in mid-afternoon, allowing time for the major TV networks to prepare news reports from what was discussed.

One of those early evening news shows was the NBC Huntley-Brinkley Report, anchored by Chet Huntley in New York and David Brinkley in Washington, D.C.

Many kids in Otter Tail County could catch the end of some of JFK’s TV press conferences, after school, before the press briefings ended close to 4 p.m. Central Standard Time.

Some of those kids had traveled with their parents and other family members to Fargo to see JFK in 1960, while he was on the campaign trail.

Back then the population of the United States was 180 million people. On average, an estimated 18 million viewers watched JFK’s press conferences.

Kennedy would open each press conference with updates on economic stimulus, foreign affairs, U.S. defense, voting rights and other topics.

Kennedy was at ease with news men and women and was well prepared when he took questions from several reporters.

In a 1962 interview, JFK said, “There isn’t any doubt that I could not do my job as president in a free society without a very, very active press.”

Polls showed that viewers had a 91 percent favorable impression of JFK’s press conference performances.

President Kennedy also had humor during his news conferences.

Asked a reporter in July 1963, “The Republican National Committee recently adopted a resolution saying you and your administration were pretty much a failure. How do you feel about that?”

Replied JFK, “I assume it passed unanimously.”