No election in West Virginia has attracted more attention than its 1960 Democratic primary, where U.S. senators John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota vied for their party’s nomination for president of the United States. Humphrey had a long record of fighting political battles for the nation’s workers and those who had not shared fully in the opportunities of the United States, while Kennedy was a member of one of the country’s wealthiest families. Humphrey was a Protestant and Kennedy a Catholic, and it was widely held that a Catholic could not win in overwhelmingly Protestant West Virginia. Some members of the national press even suggested that West Virginians were so hopelessly bigoted and intolerant that Kennedy had little chance.
Humphrey conducted an intense campaign in West Virginia, traveling over much of the state by bus. Kennedy, for whom money was no object, spent lavishly. He and his family held scores of teas and parties. Kennedy won, and Humphrey withdrew from the race. Kennedy went on to win a narrow victory over Richard M. Nixon, his Republican opponent. Kennedy’s victory in West Virginia has been regarded as a key point on his road to the White House, and it ended the notion that a Catholic could not be elected president of the United States.
While campaigning in West Virginia, Kennedy was deeply moved by the poverty and distress that he found in the coal-mining regions, and he made a promise that, if elected, he would take steps to improve conditions. During his brief administration more than $100 million was poured into the state, about $45 million of it in direct relief for the needy.
Efforts to relieve the deep-rooted problems of West Virginia and Appalachia were continued under President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of his Great Society programs. One contribution was the establishment of the Appalachian Regional Commission, which took numerous steps to improve the quality of life in Appalachia. West Virginia also took steps of its own to ease its problems. Of special interest to coal miners were the federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1977 and state legislation for funding, research, and treatment of black lung disease, which frequently afflicted miners. "West Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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