Nov 22, 2013 1:07 PM by Lupita Murillo

JFK's Tucson connections

TUCSON- This week marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's death.

In life, he visited Arizona, and Tucson several times.

Many say he played a role in shaping Arizona's growth, such as the Central Arizona Project, and the expansion of Saguaro National Park West. He also influenced some of Arizona's politicians.

It was 52 years ago this week, President Kennedy was in Phoenix. He was there celebrating Senator Carl Hayden's 50th anniversary in Congress.

Also attending the event, Tucsonan Joe Cesare. He says he remembers vividly one of the remarks the president made referring to Senator Hayden.

"I know that Congress does not conduct business in an efficient manner. If any corporation had a board of directors as inefficient as Congress it would become bankrupt in a year." The audience clapped and roared with laughter.

2,000 people packed the Westward Ho . Danny Thomas was the entertainment, also attending, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, the Supreme Court Justices, and the President's Cabinet. Cesare says, unlike today there was no security. "You could walk up to the people, touch them, see them. Judge Evo Deconcini managed to get me into a chair that was maybe 10 feet from the podium at the furthest. So I felt very honored to be there. "

In April of 1960, then Senator Kennedy was in Tucson, next to him Congressman Stuart Udall who would later be appointed Secretary of the Interior under Kennedy.

The event was held at the Highway House, now called the College Place. Judge Evo Deconcini was the state chairman of the Democratic Party and introduced Kennedy. Also in the crowd, a U of A student Dennis Deconini . He later became Pima County Attorney, and then U-S Senator.
"He spoke about progressiveness was the theme I remember him talking about. That we needed more progressive approach to government that government wasn't an enemy it was a partner. Those are terms I plagiarized many times, when I was running for office."

Joe Cesare was also a college student and attended the gathering. Next to the Hi Way house, La Fuente Restaurant, where Kennedy dined.

He was also in Tucson in 1958. He spoke at the Tucson Sunday Evening Forum. He was met with "Viva Kennedy" signs at the airport.

Kennedy, known for his humor was asked, "If a man could be president at his age. " He was 42 he responded, "I don't know about a 42 year old man, but I think a 43 year old man can."

John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the 35th president of the United States. A 1000 days into his presidency, he was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
Cesare remembers hearing the news, "I was listening to the radio, driving up Miracle Mile, near Grant Road, and I literally pulled my car off and stopped and couldn't believe it."

Senator Deconcini, was in his father's office downtown.

"I don't think he cried, but he came close. He said oh my God, this is a tremendous loss ."

For days, the country was glued to the T-V as a nation mourned his death.
The President who projected an image of youth and strength was now gone.


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