Monday, November 5, 2012

Walter Marshall Remembers John F. Kennedy’s Montana Visits

With the election tomorrow, politics are on everyone's minds. The candidates are wrapping up their full travel schedules. Here's a look back at another president's memorable Montana travels:

Walter Marshall was a great showman, promoter, Democratic supporter, and founder of Helena’s famous Brewery Theater. His book, I’ve Met Them All, describes the dignitaries and politicians he knew personally. Marshall first met John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie as newlyweds in the mid-1950s when Senator Kennedy spoke at the Finlen Hotel in Butte. Then Kennedy visited Helena in 1960, just before his nomination as a presidential candidate. Marshall arranged the logistics. Kennedy spoke at the Marlow Theatre and at a formal dinner at the Civic Center. During dessert, Kennedy whispered to Marshall, “Can we get out of here? My drivers haven’t shown up and I need to get to the airport.” Marshall took him outside to his old station wagon, which was a garishly painted advertisement for the Brewery Theatre. Marshall’s three big dogs were in the back seat. They had a little time, so Marshall, always the promoter, seized the moment to show off his theater. All the way, the three big dogs licked the back of Kennedy’s neck. And Kennedy did not like dogs. But Marshall got him to the airport on time.

JFK greets the crowd in Billings. Photo by Cecil Stoughton.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, via
After Kennedy’s election, the president spoke at the Shrine Auditorium in Billings. Marshall arranged the logistics. He drove his Brewery station wagon into the Shrine Auditorium to await Kennedy’s motorcade. When President Kennedy arrived, he recognized Marshall and the station wagon right away. “I am glad to see you, Walter,” said the President. “But I hope you left those blankety-blank dogs at home.” JFK visited Great Falls in September 1963. Fifty thousand people heard him speak. He told Marshall how much he had enjoyed that time in Helena and promised to return. Weeks later on November 22, an assassin’s bullet left that promise unfulfilled.

P.S. You can listen Kennedy speaking at the Yellowstone County Fairgrounds in 1963 here.


  1. you are wrong the president loved dogs Are you forgetting pushinka,charlie, wolf,shannon . clipper etc

    1. Maybe it was just Walter Marshall's dogs Kennedy didn't like, and according to Marshall, he did not like them at all. Thanks for reminding me that Kennedy's dislike of dogs may have only been in terms of those particular ones, and even the comments may have been somewhat tongue-in-cheek.