The Muses of Newcastle, Pa., told the Daily Mail they drove more than 260 miles for the occasion.
"We love Kennedy," Mrs. Muse said. "We've chased him all around the country where he's appearing."
As they waited for the hour-long statehouse ceremonies to begin, members of the crowd huddled under umbrellas, wrapped themselves in blankets and covered their heads with towels.
The Capitol steps where filled with uniformed state police officers, Charleston firemen, plainclothes detectives and members of the U.S. Secret Service distinguishable only by the small blue pins they wore on their lapels.
Across Washington Street on the roof of a state office building, state policemen armed with rifles kept watch over the crowd.
Kennedy arrived at Kanawha Airport at 11:15 a.m. A crowd of citizens and a delegation of state officials led by Barron greeted him.
Secret Service agents drove him to the Capitol in a special Lincoln that had been driven from Washington the previous day and was guarded by members of the West Virginia National Guard overnight.
Police vehicles flanked the car as it traveled first Greenbrier Street and then Piedmont Road and California Avenue to Kanawha Boulevard. It stopped at a guarded entrance to the Capitol. The president entered and took an elevator to the second floor.
After a brief introduction by Barron, Kennedy stepped onto the speaker's platform on the Capitol's north side. He was met with tremendous applause and a rendition of "Hail to the Chief" played by the Weirton High School Band.
Dressed in a blue suit, white shirt and blue tie, Kennedy smiled broadly as he looked across the sea of umbrellas on the Capitol lawn. As he spoke, Kennedy was kept dry by an umbrella held by Claude Saunders, captain of the Charleston Fire Department.
"This state was born in turmoil. It has known sunshine and rain in a hundred years, but I know of no state, and I know this state well, whose people feel more strongly, who have greater sense of pride in themselves, in their state and in their country, than the people of West Virginia and I am proud to be here," he said.
Kennedy spoke for less than three minutes. After his speech, which was interrupted multiple times by the roaring crowd, he unexpectedly ventured into the throng and began shaking hands with anyone within reach. He stopped and greeted the members of the high school band and briefly spoke to Col. Chuck Yeager, a native son and military hero, who was nearby.
The president's unscheduled mingling surprised Secret Service agents and local lawmen, who began scrambling to hold back rushing spectators and usher the president back into the designated area.
Kennedy then presented two flags to Sgts. John Hill and Edward Comer of the West Virginia National Guard. One was a 35-star American Flag, and the other was the state flag.
After his handlers managed to extract Kennedy from the crowd, he spent several minutes talking with friends and lawmakers in the Capitol before being driven back to the airport to leave for Washington.
Fifty years after Kennedy's visit, West Virginians again are preparing to commemorate a significant state birthday, this time its 150th. Kennedy's nephew, Mark Shriver, will speak during a West Virginia Day concert with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra this evening.
Shriver, who is the son of Sargent Shriver and Kennedy's sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, is the senior vice president of Save the Children's U.S. Programs.
"My parents, aunts and uncle often spoke about the special relationship between Uncle Jack - indeed, the entire Kennedy family - and the Mountain State," Shriver said via email.
Contact writer Charles Young at charles.yo...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1796.
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