Remembering Battle Creek Presidential Visits
President Trump will visit Battle Creek a week from Wednesday at Kellogg Arena. It’s not every day that a sitting president comes to visit Battle Creek. In fact, it hasn’t happened very many times at all, depending on who you ask. Here are some visits we know about. Maybe you remember more?
September 21st, 1911 President William Howard Taft. Taft was visiting Battle Creek as part of a 13,000 mile western trip by special train and used his speech to talk about reorganizing large corporations to bring them into compliance with the anti-trust law. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (in white coat), C. W. Post, and W. K. Kellogg among other local and state dignitaries.
Taft spoke at the Michigan Central Depot and was met at the train station by 4,000 school children with flags. Thousands flocked to the depot and strained to hear the President. After the speech he paid a brief visit to the Battle Creek Sanitarium.
September 3rd, 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson President Johnson flew into Battle Creek’s Kellogg Airport to a huge crowd and big welcome signs. He then spoke in front of the (now demolished) Fieldstone Building, also known at one time as the Battle Creek Sanitarium Annex.
The visit marked the 100 year birthday of the renowned health institute. Johnson used the occasion to speak about health care, the newly created Medicare program, and other accomplishments of his presidency. There’s a video in the Johnson Library that shows his arrival and speech in Battle Creek that day. The Battle Creek portion starts at the 6:41 marks and ends at the 8:05 mark.
WBCK covered the Johnson visit in 1966, and former News Director Tom McHale and Morning Mayor Dave Eddy told an interesting story about it. The station had an ElectroVoice “shotgun” microphone, manufactured in Buchanan, Michigan. It was a long, “gun shaped” device, like the one pictured in this ebay ad.
The story goes that Dave and Tom were communicating with News Director Jim Cleaver and other staff on walkie-talkies. One person said “I’ll go around front and you go around the side and get him with the shotgun.” All very innocent in radio station circles. Not so innocent in Secret Service circles. The staff had some explaining to do, but the Secret Service let them go when they saw the “Shotgun” microphone.
August 28th, 1996 President William Clinton
President Clinton’s train stopped at the Community Action building, the former Grand Trunk Depot, and spoke for nearly a half hour. C-Span has a video of the event.
September 13th, 2004 President George W. Bush
President Bush stopped here to speak at C.O. Brown Stadium at Bailey Park, on his way to another stop in Kalamazoo. Retired Battle Creek Battalion Chief Jim Barney was part of the support team at the rally, and shook hands with the president outside of the stadium.
There have been visits by other presidents to Battle Creek. Ronald Reagan was here in 1980 just before being elected. Teddy Roosevelt was here in 1916 after he was President. George H.W. Bush landed in Battle Creek in a 1992 visit to Stryker Corporation in Kalamazoo. The Battle Creek Executive Airport at Kellogg Field, formerly W.K. Kellogg Regional Airport, has a long enough runway to accommodate Air-force One, unlike the Kalamazoo Airport.
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