Community buzzed with excitement during 1968 Kennedy visit to Tell City

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By Vince Luecke

TELL CITY - Ronald Reagan's visit to Tell City's General Electric plant 13 years earlier may be better remembered in the annals of local history, but Sen. Ted Kennedy's barnstorming visit in 1968 left lasting memories for many who heard him speak at City Hall.

A U.S. senator since 1962, Kennedy, 77, died Tuesday and was buried Saturday.

It was Friday, April 19, 1968, that Kennedy, only 36 at the time, visited Tell City to support Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign. Indiana's May 7 primary was more than two weeks off and the youngest of the Kennedy clan touted RFK's platform for foreign policy and growing the economy.

 Robert Kennedy was vying with Sen. Eugene McCarthy and Vice President Hubert Humphrey for the Democratic nomination.

According to a News account of the visit, between 600 and 1,000 people gathered outside City Hall to hear Ted Kennedy, who was introduced by Mayor Walter Hagedorn and spoke from the west-side porch overlooking Main Street. Kennedy called it a privilege to visit Tell City and lauded the city's woodworking heritage.

Several hundred Tell City Chair Co. chairs were already in the White House and Kennedy joked about the size of his brother's family and said more would be needed if his brother, whom he called "Senator Bob," won the race for president.

Robert and Ethel Kennedy were already parents to 10 children and were expecting an 11th.

Photos of Robert Kennedy were passed out during the program and school children carried Kennedy signs. After his speech, Ted Kennedy signed autographs before driving to Rockport. Kennedy began the day in Evansville, where he visited Kennedy Towers, a public housing project named after President John F. Kennedy.

Robert Kennedy won Indiana's May primary, but was assassinated after winning the California primary in early June.

Perry Countians had a chance to vote for Ted Kennedy, himself, in the 1980 Democratic primary. Kennedy lost Perry County that May, and later the nomination to incumbent President Jimmy Carter, who in turn lost to Reagan. It was Reagan, known then as a Hollywood actor, who visited Tell City in 1955.