Henderson County, Kentucky


Popular Democrat Speaks at Central Park

He was 35 minutes but that merely added to the anticipation. Some 3,000 Henderson County residents had turned out for Franklin Delano ROOSEVELT'S appearance here, and they were ready to give him a rowdy welcome.

Mind you, he wasn't even president yet, nor was he running for that office.

This was October 2, 1920, and FDR was a candidate for vice president, the running mate of presidential contender Jimmy Cox.

It had been announced that ROOSEVELT would speak at the local Grand Theater, but that site couldn't hold all the dedicated Democrats who were championing the nominee.

Instead, they took to Central Park where they had expected to see and hear FDR at 1 p.m. But the train that brought him here from Madisonville didn't reach Henderson's Union Station until 1:30.

The Henderson Daily Gleaner reported the next day that he was whisked from the depot "in a high powered decorated automobile driven by Miss Francele HARRIS (daughter of Gleaner publisher Leigh HARRIS).

"…Following a hasty introduction, he faced a veritable sea of faces and just talked. Not with the air of a Chesterfield, but with characteristic, plain and self-possessed demeanor, he addressed the assemblage."

The primary topic of his 25-minute speech was the League of Nations. In that short period of time, the newspaper said he "ripped away the picture painted by recent Republication visitors of the League of Nations … and he left instead the vision of a peace angel with out stretched arms, welcoming the nation out of the company of Russia, Turkey and Mexico and into the company of 39 countries of 'civilized people' that went into the league to dethrone the war god for all time to come.

"He set Senator Harding and the Republication leaders on a fence juggling a pail of water on both shoulders on the League of Nations question."

ROOSEVELT told his appreciative audience that he was very glad to be here, and lamented "that I cannot speak about this campaign for two hours. I have got this campaign in my blood."

He challenged his Republican opponents and GOP locals by asking, "Would you have it said that this country will remain out of the league with Bolshevik Russia, Revolutionary Mexico and Unspeakable Turkey? Isn't that nice company to be associated?

"… I told a Louisville audience yesterday that more than 80 percent of the church heads in this country have expressed themselves of favoring the entrance of this country into the league and also that it was favored by the professors and teachers of the universities, colleges and primary schools.

"It has been endorsed by the Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists and others in conventions and Pope Benedict has taken a stand for the League of Nations."

Eleanor ROOSEVELT accompanied her husband here. The Gleaner told its readers that "Mrs. ROOSEVELT sat on the speaker's platform. She is an attractive slip of a woman, of slender proportions and dresses appropriately for the experience of following her energetic husband in his campaign of strenuosity."

Reprinted with permission.
Progress Edition, The Gleaner, Henderson, Kentucky, Saturday, March 30, 1996
Written by Judy Jenkins

Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2002 HCH&GS