Hail to the chiefs: A look back at some mid-valley visits from men who reached the White House

2013-02-17T09:00:00Z 2013-02-17T12:21:47Z Hail to the chiefs: A look back at some mid-valley visits from men who reached the White HouseBy Kyle Odegard, Albany Democrat-Herald Corvallis Gazette Times
February 17, 2013 9:00 am  • 

Monday is Presidents Day, and plenty of United States presidents have visited Linn and Benton counties over the years.

Albany in particular was a popular “whistle stop” destination for candidates.

Local historian Ed Loy noted that Albany was on the main train route between Portland and San Francisco.

“In the earlier days, that was the main form of transportation,” said John Buchner, who grew up in Albany and is a retired publisher of the Albany Democrat-Herald.

“I remember my dad getting me out of grade school to see Ike,” he said.

Here are some notable visits by presidents, or men who would become presidents, to the mid-Willamette Valley. The list isn’t meant to be complete, but there certainly are some interesting stories.

1) Ronald Reagan rides through Albany

The then governor of California and Oregon Gov. Tom McCall were the grand marshals of the Linn County Veterans Day Parade in 1967.

Former Albany mayor Russ Tripp recalled in a 2004 D-H article that Reagan cut a “dashing figure” as he rode a horse during the parade.

Afterward Reagan sped to Corvallis to watch the University of Southern California and O.J. Simpson lose to Oregon State University’s Giant Killers.

2) Barack Obama enjoys a slice at American Dream

“There’s something very metaphorical going on here,” said Obama, as he made his way into the pizza joint in Corvallis in March 2008.

The stop was unscheduled — the candidate spoke to a crowd of 3,000 earlier in the day at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center — but our current president worked the crowd and ordered a slice of cheese pizza.

Less than an hour later, Obama was back on the campaign bus and headed to a Eugene speech at the University of Oregon’s McArthur Court.

3) Richard Nixon, 45 minutes late at Gill Coliseum

The candidate’s campaign bus missed a freeway exit and he was 45 minutes late for a campaign speech at Gill Coliseum during the 1968 primary election.

Nixon apparently had to drive halfway to Eugene before he could turn around.

This was his second visit to Corvallis. In 1952, Nixon visited Corvallis while campaigning for Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Former Gazette-Times publisher Bob Ingalls described Nixon as an intelligent and aggressive man who lacked personal warmth.

4) Rutherford B. Hayes travels by rail to Albany

The president was on a tour of the West in 1880, even though he had decided against running for re-election. Instead, Hayes was trying to promote national harmony.

Hayes arrived by train from Eugene and was greeted by a ladies’ cornet band.

Also on the train was Gen. William T. Sherman, the destroyer of Atlanta during the Civil War and by then the commander of the U.S. Army.

5) Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife

Bill Clinton spoke at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center in April 2008, stumping for his wife, Hillary

The ex-president wowed former Democrat-Herald editor Hasso Hering, who mused whether the 22nd Amendment (that limits presidents to two terms) might have been a mistake.

In Corvallis in May 2008, Clinton stood on the back of a pickup and spoke to a crowd at Lincoln School in a May visit.

6) Harry S. Truman heckled

A 10-minute Albany stop was a bit more than Truman bargained for when the president came to Albany in June 1948.

An unidentified woman heckled him about his age and being a Democrat, and Secret Service agents were kept busy warding off residents who kept trying to shake the president’s hand, including World War I veterans.

Truman, who had visited flood-ravaged areas near Portland, joked about the treatment he received traveling by train as a nobody versus riding the rails as president.

7) Dwight D. Eisenhower tells crowd peace goal

Ike made a campaign speech from the back of a train to about 3,000 people in Albany, telling the crowd that his main goal was to secure peace.

“Peace, he emphasized, could be maintained only by a strong America, an America that would mean what it said and be able to back it up,” wrote the Democrat-Herald in October 1952.

Information for this article came from the archives of the Albany Democrat-Herald and the Corvallis Gazette-Times. Have more details on a president or presidential candidate’s visit to Albany? Email Kyle Odegard at kyle.odegard@lee.net.

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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