RFK in EKY The Robert F. Kennedy Performance Project: Recreating Robert Kennedy's two-day, 200 mile
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Prestonsburg, KY

After many stops along the road conversing with different families in different hollers in Hemphill and Haymond, RFK went on to Prestonsburg where he and Representative Carl Perkins talked informally to an audience at the Floyd County Courthouse. Kennedy said, "Only today, I saw a family of six who have milk only one day a month. In this year of 1968, we have a gross national product of $800 billion. We spend $2 billion on dogs alone. Surely, children should have enough to eat."

After the courthouse meeting, Gov. Louis Nunn, a Republican, sent a private plane that took Kennedy to Louisville where he had dinner at the home of the Binghams, who were the publishers of the Courrier Journal.

Floyd County Courthouse in Prestonsburg, KY
RFK Speaking at the Floyd County Courthouse

RFK's Speech at the Floyd County Courthouse
Audio Tape Courtesy of Ronnie Dee Blair

(Banging of a gavel)

Judge Stumbo: Ladies and gentelmen, before I introduce I think I can talk loud enough Ladies and gentelmen, before I introduce the speaker that's going to introduce the senator, I'd like to say afew words of appreciation for the administration that has benefited this area so much. As you all know, over the past six to eight years, Prestonsburg and Floyd county, the Big Sandy Valley and Eastern Kentucky what's better know as Appalachia has gone forward under the democratic administration. We've been very fortunate to have a congress and a president, the late John F. Kennedy, who meant so much, who had the inspiration and foresight tosee to it that the people of Appalachia received their place in the sun. I'd like to point out to this audience it will be a repitition to those who are present but for the senator and again in all of our praises for congressman Perkins, I would like to recite ust a few things that've happened. The city of Prestonsburg in Floyd county, has received these large parking lots, we've received a new sewage system, we've received new housingwhich is taking care of our poverty. We have just received forty-two new houses, which will eventually catchup to our great demand. We haveover 300 applicants for the new houses for the 42 we are building. As a result of all these improvements, the water district in Betsy Lane, the improvements in metrics center, the proposed water parks of Beaver Creek. All of these have come to you under the benevolence and with the good wishes of the present democratic administration. We hope that our programs can go forward and Appalachia canreceive their just part in the future. Of course, Carl Perkins is back every month to associate among us. We feel that all these have been due tothe efforts of our congressman Carl D. Perkins. However, Carl is just one man in Washington, and through his untiring efforts and with his close cooperation with the other democratic officials in Washington, that these things have been made possible.


At this time and he needs no introduction to you all he is our great congressman congressman Carl D. Perkins.


Carl D. Perkins: Dr. Archer, Senator Kennedy girls and boys people of Floyd and surrounding counties I am delighted to put in an appearance here this afternoon with Senator Kennedy. In the greatcity of Prestonsburg, though I feel like I'm really a part of this courtroom. I loned my law schoolbooks to Carl Lee Connelly, who is now Circuit Judge. I was a prosecuting attorney here way back in 1939. I didn't think Judge Caudill was gonnaswear me in cause of my age and lack of experience at that time, but he did anyway. I'm delighted to see so many of our good citizens out here this afternoon.


RFK: Dr. Archer, Judge Stumbo, Congressman Perkins, distinguished members of the juciary and ladies and gentlemen, I'm very pleased to be here in Prestonsburg. We were talking in the car coming up here and we were talking about the fact I'd been in Athens and Rome, Rio de Janero, and Singapore. Carl Perkins said 'you haven't lived you haven't been any place unless you've been to Prestonsburg.'

(Loud Applause)

Prestonsburg was not on our schedule originally when we planned it. We had not intended to come here, but the way Carl Perkins described Prestonsburg, the amount of talk that he did about Prestonsburg I felt that we'd all go crazy if we didn't come to Prestonsburg.

(Laughter and applause)

Let me tell you all now that I am here, I'm delighted to be here. I'm delighted that we've had this opportunity to travel through Eastern Kentucky. Every time I mention Prestonsburg will somebody clap (laughter) I'm delighted that we've had anopportunity to travel through Eastern Kentucky in the last couple of days. I've visited Kentucky before. I visited more extensively in West Virginia in the coal mines of West Virginia. I was impressed at that time with the pride and the tenacity and the feeling of the people of West Virginia. And I might say that it's such a pleasure to come to Eastern Kentucky. To see the courage of the people here to see the determination of the people here to see the pride and their tenacity the feeling of the people of Eastern Kentucky is something that I will always remember and I'm delighted that I've had an opportunity to see them. Delighted that I've hadan opportunity to see them at work, and even seeing those who have problems and troubles who are facing difficult times now and will face difficult times in the future. Because they face it with such dignity and such feeling. And it seems to me that it's incumbent not only on the people of Eastern Kentucky, not only upon the people of this state, but upon all of us in the United States to ensure that people who want employment, who want work, can find jobs. That there is economic expansion in Eastern Kentucky. I think it is unsatisfactory at the moment and I think there is a great deal that needs to be done. And I think that what you've done here in Prestonsburg has shown the way. You've demonstrated what can be done. What can be done with a community that faces difficult economic problems. What can be done by a community that has the proper kind of leadership. Which has the kind of feeling whithin a community that they want to move ahead. That they're not going to accept the status quo. That they're not going to accept the fact that there can't be economic expansion. You've demonstrated here in Prestonsburg and the same thing can be done all across the rest of Eastern Kentucky.

(Loud Applause)

And Carl Perkins and I are trying to start all of this by making sure that highway 23 is four lane and paved.


Isn't that right Carl?

See I'm over in the senate and I have very little seniority. And so all of these difficult votes come up and I have to call over and say 'get Carl Perkins on the phone so I'll know how to vote on this one.' That's what he did with President Kennedy when he was in the House of Representatives. They came to the House of Representatives about the same period of time, but then a couple of years ..one another. And then President Kennedy greatly admired him and had freat affection for him and then Carl Perkins got him elected senator of Massachuesettes almost by himself. And then one day he said to my brother 'Why don't you run for president?', and my brother said 'I can't run for president' and Carl Perkins said 'you should be president of the United States.' President Kennedy said 'I don't have any that kind of following around the country.' And Carl Perkinssaid 'I'll get everybody together.' And the next thing we know without hardly doing anything John Kennedy was elected president of the United States. And then all of those problems that he faced, Carl Perkins was not responsible for the Bay of Pigs but everything else that he did all of those good things that were done at that time Carl Perkins was involved inem. There he is

So I'm pleased to be here with all of you, and I'm delighted to have an opportunity to see so many of you. I'm delighted to see so many of my young friends. I heard that they had the voting age at eighteen in Kentucky I'm gonna have to move down here. I'm trying to get it lowered to about nine myself. I do very well from nine to eighteen and then 21 or 22. It will be a shock, but some of them will become republicans. But I'm delighted to be here, delighted to see all of you. It's been a very meaningful and inspiring trip to see all of the to see these people the citizens of this part of the state who still live in poverty. Whose children don't receive enough to eat. Heads of the household who are unable to find jobs. Who are trained in some of our government programs, trained well but find no jobs and no employment at the end of them. This is unsatisfactory. Here we have a gross national productin the United States of 800 billion dollars. Here in the United States we spend 3 billion dollars a year on pets. 2 billion dollars on dogs alone. Why can we not make sure that all of our children have enough to eat.

(Commotion) (Ronnie Blair: Excuse me.)

It's alright, I wasn't interupted at all.


Why we can't ensure. You come up again and I'll (Laughter) Why we can't ensure, with all of this great wealth that we have here in this country, that children have enough to eat. I just left an hour and a half or two hours ago, a family with six children who has milk one day each month. And many of the families we saw spend no more than thiry cents a day for a child for food. Ten cents a meal on a child for food. And that's unsatisfactory. And you all know people like this and have relatives that live in that area friends who live in those kinds of areas. Well you've shown what can be done here. We've got to do the same kind of thing over the rest of Eastern Kentucky. It's unacceptable in this country in 1968, the late 1960's. It's unacceptable in this country that we should have this kind of poverty. And I think we need to do something about it not just the people of Kentucky but all of us in the United States. And I pledge to you that while I'm in the senate of the United States that I'm going to work to ensure that everybody has a decent living here in Eastern Kentucky.


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