When 2016 came we knew it would for sure bring two things: An extra day in February and a presidential election. We see enough comments about the election coming up, so I am not going to say too much on that subject. However, since we just celebrated the 4th of July and the election is coming up soon, I decided to use this blog to talk about the different presidents that have visited Kankakee County (it’s more than you think!). I am going to include those who visited either before or after they became president, but not those who were running for President but lost.
William McKinley: McKinley was president from 1898-1901. He visited Kankakee twice, once on November 1, 1894 while he was campaigning for governor of Ohio and on October 15, 1898 while he was president. During his 1898 visit, he arrived at the Illinois Central station at 8 pm on Saturday. There were about 5,000 people in attendance for the non-partisan event. McKinley gave a speech about his earlier visit, Illinois’ role in the Civil War, and the Lincoln-Douglas debates. His speech was cut off short; the train started rolling away while he was still talking. After his assassination in 1901, Kankakee held a memorial service on the courthouse lawn with 5,000 attendees.
Teddy Roosevelt: Although there is not a definitive time or mention when Teddy Roosevelt was in Kankakee County, he was known for hunting along the Kankakee River. He, along with Grover Cleveland, would hunt at the White House Hunting Club, located in Lake County, Indiana. However, there have been rumors that Roosevelt went further down the river into Kankakee County.
William Taft: Taft was known to go boating on the Kankakee River. Taft won Kankakee County’s votes both times he ran, although he only won the presidency for the first term.
Warren Harding: Harding campaigned in Kankakee in 1920. He would later win both the county and the country.
Dwight D. Eisenhower: Eisenhower visited Kankakee County in 1962 on a parade route. About 25,000 people stood along 10 miles of the route to see him.
Richard Nixon: Nixon visited Kankakee County in 1956 while he was vice-president to Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Gerald Ford: Ford became the last sitting president to visit Kankakee County. He would win the county, but not the election.
Ronald Reagan: Reagan visited both Kankakee County and Will County in 1976 while campaigning for the Republican nomination against Gerald Ford. Reagan spoke to 600 people at a breakfast speech at the Holiday Inn in Bradley on February 13, 1976. He spoke about gun control measures, said that Illinois “holds the world record” for professional welfarists, promised a balanced budget and said he’d stop inflation. Overall, his speech had 13 interruptions of applause. Reagan later lost the Illinois votes and the nomination to Ford.
Barack Obama: Obama also visited Kankakee County twice. In September 2004, Obama visited Morning Star Baptist Church. On February 18, 2005, while a senator, Obama gave a speech at the Hilton Garden Inn. He gave a pro-business speech in which he contrasted the departure of Maytag with Google. He also talked about improving businesses by bettering our schools, asking for more federal money for roads, and supporting the Peotone Airport. Later the same day, Obama spoke at Kankakee Community College about minimum wage.
For those of you not keeping track, that is 9 out of 44 presidents who have been to Kankakee County. That’s 20%! At that rate, we may have a few more visiting soon.Who knows, a future president may have been here already!
You Learn Something Every Day:
The Kankakee County Courthouse architect has been known to be Zachary Taylor Davis, pictured to the right. His wife was from Momence, giving him a special interest in the project. Davis and his firm also designed Comiskey Park and Weeghman Park, today known as Wrigley Field.