Wendell Willkie Speaks


On Oct. 29, 1940, listeners lined the roof of the old Huntington Post Office
 to see and hear Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie
 speak from the steps of Huntington City Hall.

 File photo | The Herald-Dispatch


HUNTINGTON — In 1932, Indiana lawyer Wendell Willkie unsuccessfully
 sought the Democratic nomination for president. He lost the nomination to
 Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who went on to win the election.

Willkie was a hard-hitting opponent of President Roosevelt’s New Deal
 polices. In 1939, he even switched parties and the following year
saw the Republicans choose him to run against FDR,
 who was seeking an unprecedented third term.

Traveling tirelessly during his 1940 campaign, Willkie spoke
 in countless communities large and small, often drawing
enormous crowds. Speaking from the front steps of
Huntington City Hall on Oct. 29, only days before
the election, he drew an estimated 43,000
listeners, said to be the biggest
 crowd in the city’s history.

Beginning that morning, members of the huge audience flocked to Huntington
 from southern West Virginia, southern Ohio and eastern Kentucky.
Nearly 300 law enforcement officers — members of the Huntington
Police Department, the Cabell County Sheriff’s Office, the
West Virginia State Police and visiting officers loaned
from nearby towns — were on duty to keep order.

Willkie traveled to Huntington aboard a special Chesapeake & Ohio Railway train.
 Earlier in the day, both the C&O and the Norfolk & Western (N&W) operated
special trains to bring rally goers to Huntington. Arriving 30 minutes late for his
 scheduled 4 p.m. address, the candidate was greeted by 3,000 people at the
 C&O station. There he joined a short parade that made its way to City
Hall. An estimated crowd of 5,000 people lined the parade
 route. At least half a dozen downtown stores closed
 for the afternoon so their employees could
 attend the big event.

On Election Day, Roosevelt easily defeated Willkie by 5 million
 votes. And despite the record-setting Huntington crowd that
turned out to see and hear Willkie, FDR carried Cabell
 County by a vote of 27,806 to Willkie’s 20,273.


Note:  This Article and picture appeared in the Herald-Dispatch Newspaper on June. 14, 2022..


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