Pep and Revelry! Betty Barton, Kilgore Rangerette recalls the 1960 campaign parades for JFK and Nixon
by Krishna Shenoy, Librarian/Archivist, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
In September of 1960, school had just started for the Kilgore College freshman Betty (Klutts) Barton. She had spent two weeks trying out for the nationally recognized Kilgore Rangerettes drill team and was thrilled to pass the auditions. From a young age, she had dreamt of high-kicking in the red, white and blue uniform and cowgirl hat.
The Kilgore Rangerettes started in 1940 and are known as “the first precision dance team in the world.” The Rangerettes continue to perform to the present day. In the early 1960s, the length of their uniform skirts – shortened to above the knee since the program’s inception in 1940 – was a subject of some local controversy.
Just weeks after earning her uniform, Mrs. Barton and the Rangerettes were called upon to travel to Dallas and march in two parades in two days. The parades celebrated presidential candidates Richard Nixon and John Kennedy, who both made campaign stops in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on September 12 and September 13, 1960.
In an oral history interview recorded with Mrs. Barton on October 5, 2016, she revealed that the parade on September 12th for Richard Nixon was her first parade performance as a Kilgore Rangerette. The Rangerettes performed a hand-jive routine as they marched through downtown Dallas. The Nixon parade ended at the doors to Dallas Memorial Auditorium; the poised Rangerettes split into two lines and waited to shake hands with Vice-President Nixon and his wife Pat. Mrs. Barton believes the spirit of the Rangerettes and the festive parade must have touched Mrs. Nixon, because she handed each girl she passed a red rose from the bouquet she had been carrying. Mrs. Barton was on the side with the vice-president and was thrilled to shake his hand, but recalls her disappointment at not receiving a red rose like the other girls.
That evening, the Rangerettes spent the night at the White Plaza Hotel in Dallas and awoke the next morning for a repeat performance, but this time for Senator Kennedy. Mrs. Barton did not get to meet the senator, however she clearly recalls the Rangerette routine flowing smoothly and the crowds enjoying the revelry.
You can learn more about Kennedy and Nixon’s 1960 election campaign and even see a photo of the Rangerettes marching in the parade in our special election year exhibit, A Time For Greatness. But don’t wait too long, the exhibit closes next Sunday, November 13!
by Ani Simmons, Education Program Coordinator, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Teachers! Congrats on surviving the first week back to school with students! As a former teacher, I know this is always a great week of meeting new students and an exhausting week as you look ahead to the next 180 days of instruction.
Here at The Sixth Floor Museum, we have lots of resources to enhance your school year and hopefully, you’ll be able to take advantage of some of them.
In addition to our permanent exhibit, which tells the story of President Kennedy’s assassination and its impact, we have 2 special temporary exhibits this year that are certain to fit into your curriculum. Of course, you can book a school visit to the Museum at anytime.
A Time For Greatness: The 1960 Kennedy Campaign, through November 13, 2016
It’s the final few months of our special election year exhibit about one of the closest elections in U.S. history, Kennedy’s victory over Richard Nixon in 1960. Don’t miss this in-depth look at what is often considered to be the first modern day presidential campaign—noted for being the first election to feature a televised debate, the first to include all 50 states and the first to elect a president born in the 20th century.
Check out our TEK-aligned education program and lesson plans available at JFK.org/ATimeForGreatness, and don’t forget to book your trip to visit the exhibit before it closes after Election Day!
Amending America: The Bill of Rights, A National Archives and Records Administration Traveling Exhibit, January 24 – March 16, 2017
This special spring exhibit marks the 225th Anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Students will learn about how the first 10 amendments came to be and how each amendment protects our citizens.
Amending America: The Bill of Rights was created by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. The national tour is presented in part by AT&T, History®, Seedlings Foundation, and the National Archives Foundation.
Stay tuned for public and education programs and pre/post-visit lesson information!
Did you know you can get more out of your visit to the Museum by adding a 50-minute in-depth program presented by the Museum‘s Educator and Curatorial staff? Programs are primary-source based and cover Texas standards related to critical thinking, primary sources and general social studies skills in grades 5-12. (National Standards can be found here.) Our Core Education Programs cover topics such as:
- Civil rights
- Elections and politics
- The Space Race and the Cold War
- Crime scene investigation and law enforcement
- Oral histories
Most programs are available 3 ways: at the Museum, at your school or via distance learning (DL) and range in price from $50 to $125. Visit JFK.org/education to see detailed program information and book today!
Primary Source Research Opportunities
Do you have a student (or several) interested in being part of the National History Day competition in 2017? The theme, Taking a Stand in History, has lots of connection possibilities to The Sixth Floor Museum! Find out more by checking out our FREE research library, the Reading Room, and the topical resource guides that our librarian has created just for you and your students who are interested in several popular topics, including: Civil Rights, Cuba, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, reporters, investigators and eyewitnesses to the Kennedy assassination and many more!
We offer teacher workshops mainly in the summer months; however, with special temporary exhibits we often offer teacher previews and workshops on the day before of the first day of the exhibit opening! Join our teacher email list and be the first to know about these special workshops and other special events throughout the year. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be put on the educator email list!
Did you know, as an educator, you can get discounted admission to the Museum with a valid educator ID? See President Kennedy’s story for just $8.50 year-round!
As a bonus, educators also get a 10% discount at the Museum Store+Café!
It is my pleasure to do what I can to make your job easier! Let me know how I can help! Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or visit JFK.org/education anytime for more information about all we have to offer!
Have a great year and we’ll see you at the museum!
by Lindsey Richardson, Curator of Collections, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Jacqueline Kennedy and Pat Nixon both supported their husband’s campaigns to become President of the United States, but they did so in very different ways.
In early 1960, Jackie Kennedy discovered that she was pregnant. She had had difficulties in the past and her doctor recommended that she take it easy. Because of this, Jackie did not take to the campaign trail at her husband’s side very often, in fact less so as the year progressed. Kennedy’s sisters accompanied him on the campaign trail in her stead.
Although she did not accompany him on campaign stops around the country, Jackie supported her husband’s campaign in other ways. She did cover stories for magazines such as Look or Life in the months leading up to the election, and in October 1960 she sat down for a number of television spots and commercials including an interview with leading pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock. Jackie also recorded the first American presidential campaign commercial in the Spanish language. It’s included in the video that accompanies our exhibit A Time for Greatness.
Perhaps Jackie’s greatest contribution and success as a partner to her husband during his presidential campaign was through her syndicated column “Campaign Wife” that ran weekly in newspapers across the country from September 17 to November 1, 1960. Using personal stories and her own perspective on campaign issues, Jackie wrote primarily for the audience of women who were interested in her role as the candidate’s wife. She addressed a wide variety of topics, including writing about her interest in education as a campaign issue, responding to remarks about her appearance, and encouraging voters to “Call for Kennedy” and to arrange debate-watching parties.
Pat Nixon was in many ways a younger version of the then-current First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower. She had a great deal of enthusiastic support from many women and girls, as demonstrated by the many versions of the pin to the right that proliferated during the campaign, and the vocal supporters who greeted her during campaign stops.
At the Republican National Convention in July, Richard Nixon promised that he would visit all 50 states before Election Day. This was the first federal election in which 50 states would vote – Alaska and Hawaii had both joined the union in 1959 – so this was a big promise for a candidate to make. He did visit all 50 states and Pat accompanied him.
Although Pat was accustomed to traveling with her husband – she had made many trips with Nixon during his Vice Presidential trips from 1952 to 1960 – she had already made her strategy of political campaigning clear to members of the press: “I don’t answer political questions.” She told an Associated Press reporter in 1960 that she liked to keep her role “strictly to handshaking and small talk.” She said she didn’t want to know any secrets of state: “I wouldn’t want the responsibility of knowing.”
In the end, Kennedy very narrowly defeated Nixon, and Jackie Kennedy became First Lady. Eventually Pat Nixon also became First Lady and both women influenced public perception of the White House, their husbands’ presidencies, and popular opinions both of themselves and of their husbands.
Don’t forget to check out our full 1960 election exhibit, A Time For Greatness, on display until November 13 in our Seventh Floor Gallery. If you’re at the Museum this Friday, stick around for our Gallery Talk on the 1960s Campaign Wives at noon! It’s free with Museum admission or $5 for the talk and exhibit admission.
by Krishna Shenoy, Librarian/Archivist
Money in politics can often be a lightning rod issue during a presidential election, casting a reflection of a candidate’s character and influence. Today, we live with unprecedented access and discovery of a candidate’s fundraising operations – large or small contributors, soft money versus hard money– but that was not always the case.
While disclosure of campaign finance information was enacted in 1910, it was not enforced until 1967. However, in 1958, when little information concerning campaign finance was available, a group called the Citizens’ Research Foundation (CRF), a non-partisan, non-profit organization, began collecting financial data on national-level politics. The Foundation issued a series of studies on presidential campaign financing, starting with the 1960 presidential election. This original, staple-bound issue of Financing the 1960 Election (which sold for 50 cents at the time) from our collection gives details about the financial operations related to Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy.
In campaigns, no expense is spared when votes are at stake. During the 1960 election, Vice-President Nixon made a $35,000 flight to Alaska and Ohio, the weekend before the election, which paid off for Nixon, when most had predicted both states to go to the Democrats. The campaign staff of Senator Kennedy included a speech professor to teach the candidate voice control, a psychologist to evaluate the size, composition and reactions of campaign crowds, and an official photographer (Jacques Lowe). Both candidates hired stenographic teams to catch and transcribe ever word the candidate uttered to make accurate transcripts available to reporters within minutes after a speech.
Such expenses revealed the high stakes and great lengths each candidate went to gain the winning edge. Financing these endeavors was no easy task. In 1960, both political parties attempted to broaden their financial base with fundraising drives and dinners. In Syracuse, the “Kennedy for President Club” gave trading stamps in return for contributions at the rate of 10 stamps per dollar. The CRF study reported 213 (142 Republican and 71 Democratic) fundraising dinners, luncheons, breakfasts and cocktails parties. Other fundraising innovations included the Republican party’s “Dinner with Ike,” a series of dinners being held simultaneously in numerous cities and linked via television, with a price per plate ranging from $5 to $100. As Charles Grutzner, New York Times columnist and reporter once said, “The knife and fork are mighty implements in the Presidential campaign.”
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln’s winning general election campaign reportedly cost about $100,000, and his opponent Stephen Douglas’s campaign about $50,000. One hundred years later, John Kennedy’s campaign spent about $9.7 million to defeat Nixon, whose campaign cost about $10.1 million. In 2012, Barack Obama spent $985 million to defeat Mitt Romney, who himself spent $992 million. Our current election in 2016 is bound to exceed these numbers and in 2017, after the final tally is done, we will pause to consider what the rising cost of presidential campaigns means for the direction of our democracy.
To learn more about the 1960 election, click on JFK.org/ATimeForGreatness or visit the Museum’s Reading Room and its latest exhibit, A Time For Greatness: The 1960 Kennedy Campaign, open through November 13.