Cohen inspired by Kennedy, chose life in political service - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Cohen inspired by Kennedy, chose life in political service

Posted: Updated:
  • Cohen inspired by Kennedy, chose life in political serviceMore>>

  • Get FOX13 Breaking News on your mobile device

    Get FOX13 Breaking News on your mobile device

    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
    Get breaking news alerts on your mobile device direct from the FOX13 news desk. On average, you could get as many as three to five alerts on a busy day, as the news merits. Just fill out the form below
    Get breaking news alerts on your mobile device direct from the FOX13 news desk. On average, you could get as many as three to five alerts on a busy day, as the news merits. Just fill out the form below
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

On Friday the nation observed the 50th anniversary of the assassination of former President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Flags in Memphis were at half-staff in his memory.

His life was cut short but President Kennedy's legacy has remained vibrant and inspiring to generations of people. U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) is among those who chose a career in politics after being inspired by Kennedy to fight for social change.

Rep. Cohen's adoration happened years before When Kennedy made his only visit to Memphis. Despite being a heavily Democratic state in 1960, Kennedy's campaign swing through Memphis was more about getting a glimpse of the man rather than being enamored with his politics.

For a young Rep. Cohen it was an opportunity to record a piece of history, if his camera would cooperate.

MORE: Remembering JFK
Rarely seen images & exclusive stories

For those of us who are old enough to remember what hauntingly transpired on a sunny Nov. 22, 1963 day in Dallas, the stunning images and the painful memories have never faded in half a century.

Cohen was 13 when President Kennedy was assassinated. Like the rest of a shocked nation, he and his family became transfixed on the continuous television news coverage which fully ushered in the age of electronic media.

"People grieved, as I understand it, when Franklin Roosevelt died and I'm sure they did when President Lincoln was assassinated and other assassinations," Congressman Cohen said. "But, there wasn't the shared grief of watching it together and seeing the funeral."

But, for Cohen, whose remembrances of Kennedy have even extended to the designated "Kennedy walls" that adorn both his home and his office in Washington, D.C., there was another sunny day he'll never forget. A much more joyous time that came three years before the Dallas tragedy. When Democratic presidential candidate, then Massachusetts Sen. Kennedy came roaring into Memphis on the campaign trail Sept. 21, 1960.

As part of a much anticipated southern swing, Kennedy was greeted by 40,000 people along a motorcade from the Memphis airport. An 11-year-old Cohen knew the route the caravan of cars would take and stood ready.

"We went to the corner of Cooper and Union in the service station that's still there," Cohen recalled. "I had my camera with me. It was just a little crummy camera. I probably still got it. I took a picture that turned out to be a very good picture and he turned and waved right at me."

When he took to the podium set up at the base of Riverside Drive, the perpetually tanned Kennedy viewed an enthusiastic throng of 10,000 supporters. He gave a short speech, mostly centered on farm issues and the "rebuilding a stronger America" to ward off the menacing Communist threat. Though Republican nominee Richard Nixon would actually win the Shelby County and statewide vote in the 1960 presidential election, Kennedy's visit to Memphis is still far more remembered for its brief brush with the "King of Camelot."

"It was the combination of he and his wife," Cohen said. "He was handsome. She was beautiful. It was like a fairytale couple."

As a side note, President Nixon came to Memphis just six days after Kennedy and drew 25,000 for his speech at Handy Park.

Click here to leave a comment on our Facebook page
Click here to comment on our Twitter

Powered by WorldNow

WHBQ-TV | Fox 13
485 S. Highland St.
Memphis, TN 38111

Main Station: (901) 320-1313
Newsroom: (901) 320-1340

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices