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50th anniversary of JFK's visit to Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 Utah) – Just 55 days before he was assassinated, President John F. Kennedy made a stop in Salt Lake City.
SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 Utah) – Just 55 days before he was assassinated, President John F. Kennedy made a stop in Salt Lake City. He met with leaders from the LDS Church and addressed the state from the Tabernacle.

50 years later, one man who helped draft the president's words is reflecting on this historic moment for our state.

"There were a lot of things about him that were new and invigorating and people just responded to him," said Oscar McConkie, long time friend of the Kennedy family.

Respond the people did, there was standing room only when the president addressed our state from the tabernacle.

"It was not a partisan talk, it was a talk that inspired confidence in the people. And I think he partook of the spirit of the Salt Lake Tabernacle when he spoke," said McConkie.

That day, September 26, 1963, Kennedy honored Utahns for their work in educating children and told them, “as the Mormons succeeded, so America can succeed.”

It was a tailored message that even ended with a reference from the Doctrine and Covenants.

"I talked personally to President Kennedy about it. So, when President Kennedy concluded his talk he said, "as the lord said to Brigham Young, we will go as pioneers to the land of peace," said McConkie.

The president spent the night at Hotel Utah. The next morning he met with Church President, David O. McKay over breakfast. The two had a mutual respect for one another.

"John F. Kennedy turned to me and said of David O. McKay, that man is ideally suited to be the religious leader of his people," said McConkie.

On his way out of town the president met up with the Bureau of Reclamation to start the first generator at the Flaming Gorge Damn.

Less than two months later he was gone, McConkie had ridden with the president in the very same car he was assassinated in.

"Walked up and down the street with tears rolling down my cheek, because we lost such a wonderfully, promising personality," said McConkie

The tabernacle has been a popular venue for the highest office in the land. JFK is one of 18 presidents to visit. It has also hosted other national figures and celebrities over the years.

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