He was very tan and looked like a movie star.
That’s how Barren County Circuit Court Judge Phil Patton described John F. Kennedy.
On Oct. 8, 1960, less than a month before Kennedy was elected president, 14-year-old Patton shook his hand during a speech at the University of Kentucky.
“I never have forgotten it,” Patton said. “He came over to the edge of the platform and shook hands with people that stuck their hands up there. That’s how I got my hand shook by him, along with you know, a hundred other people or however many there were.”
Earlier that day, Patton said his older brother took him to downtown Lexington to watch Kennedy’s motorcade.
“He was sitting on the back seat in this convertible,” Patton said. “Governor [Bert] Combs was in the back seat with him, but seated on the seat, not up high [like Kennedy was.] He was waving.”
After that, Patton and his brother raced to the campus to hear Kennedy speak, he said.
“The car pulled up in front of the administration building and there were huge crowds,” Patton said. “...Then he introduced all the dignitaries and made a speech. I don’t remember the details of the speech.”
Patton said he remembered some of the individuals who were on the platform with Kennedy.
“[Former Kentucky senator] Happy Chandler spoke from like a flatbed truck,” Patton said. “And there was [Kentucky] governor Bert Combs up there. There was King Johnson, who was running for the state senate for the democratic nominee and Kentucky congressman [John C.] Watts. There were four or five other people who I don’t remember.”
Patton said he was shocked about something Kennedy didn’t mention.
“Kennedy arrived up on the platform and he and Chandler hugged and talked a little bit,” Patton said. “When Kennedy started his speech,...he [introduced] Governor Chandler and then identified the congressman and the guy running for the senate. He didn’t mention Burt Combs. I thought ‘does he not know who is governor?’ He was just riding in the car with governor Combs.”
His dad had an explanation for why Kennedy didn’t mention Combs.
“I learned that Chandler and the Kennedy family had some friendship and also learned that at the democratic convention that year, all the Combs people were for Lyndon Johnson and voted for him for the nomination,” Patton said. “But the Chandler people voted for Kennedy.”
Patton said he wanted to see Kennedy speak because his father was for Kennedy, which made him a fan as well.
“We were a family that followed public events closely,” Patton said. “We would visit historic sites and we would watch the news together and discussed what was going on and we had followed the democratic convention.”
There was a big concern at the time about Kennedy being a Catholic, Patton said.
“I remember most of my relatives were not for Kennedy because he was a Catholic,” he said. “My father said, ‘You know, he will not follow what the Pope tells him to do. He will be his own man.’ He thought it was a non-issue, and kind of an unfair issue.”
Three years after Patton shook Kennedy’s hand, he was assassinated.
“I was in senior English class [when I heard the news], Patton said. “They turned on the intercom and the principal said that President Kennedy had been shot. Then the rest of the day, they just played the radio feed over the intercom. And I remember the bulletin coming through that he was dead. There was no school after that until after the funeral.”
Patton said he was emotional after Kennedy died.
“I cried and cried,” Patton said. “And I still have newspapers from that day, Life magazine, stuff like that, saved somewhere at the house all those years.”
Read more of this story in the print or digital Glasgow Daily Times. http://glasgowdailytimes.cnhi.newsmemory.com/