On October 27, 1960, less than two weeks before the general election, incumbent Vice President and Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon arrived at the New York Central Railroad depot (now the Gandy Dancer restaurant) to greet a crowd of Ann Arbor supporters. Less than two weeks earlier, John F. Kennedy, the Democrat nominee, came to Ann Arbor and delivered an inspired impromptu speech on the steps of the Michigan Union that helped build momentum toward the establishment of the Peace Corps. Nixon, who always thought he was in second place, but was actually leading in public opinion polls at the time, visited Michigan to shore up support in a state whose votes could tip the balance of the election.
In this series of photographs taken on October 27, 1960 by Ann Arbor News photographers Duane Scheel and Eck Stanger, we see Nixon and his wife, Pat, disembarking from the train, shaking hands with well-wishers, and making their way to the speaker’s platform while surrounded by notable Ann Arborites, including former Ann Arbor mayor Cecil O. Creal; local realtor, Wendell Hobbs; Ann Arbor Police Chief Rolland Gainsley; and his successor, Walter E. Krasny.
On the platform, Steven Stockmeyer, head of the University of Michigan's Campus Republicans, presents Nixon with a scroll of student signatures to demonstrate their support, and Nixon flashes his ubiquitous “V” sign. One of the best photographs shows Nixon speaking to the crowd against a backdrop of the old Broadway Bridge. Other photos, including this aerial view and photos taken on the hilly area above Depot St. and below High St. show the extent of the crowd.
Alas for Nixon supporters, Kennedy went on to carry Michigan’s 20 electoral votes and win the election that year.