That time JFK came to Arklahoma…


When you go down US Highway 259 out of Leflore County, you’ll come to the road’s intersection with State Highway 63 at Big Cedar, Oklahoma some 24 miles south of Heavener.

Named for the large trees that are found around it, most would think it just another bump in the road. Not many people remember that on October 29th, 1961 the President of the United States came to that intersection, with the pomp and circumstance that brought Oklahomans from miles around to come get a glimpse of him. He was there to dedicate the final stretch of the road that now connects the rest of the world with the Broken Bow-Idabel metropolis.

The President came in on an Army helicopter and spoke to the masses. He would leave after his speech and join Senator Robert Kerr at his ranch near Poteau shortly thereafter.

According to an interview between Kerr’s son and the Tulsa World, there was only one hitch in the trip, once Kennedy arrived at the Kerr ranch.

“My parents did not partake or serve alcohol, and the president liked to drink Scotch before dinner,” Bill Kerr told the newspaper in 2013. “The Secret Service had to go and find Scotch.”

Even though liquor was legal, many Oklahomans of the day opted to continue using bootleggers for secrecy and delivery.

“The Secret Service found a local bootlegger,” Kerr said. “It didn’t take them long to find him.”

Kennedy drank his hooch in the bedroom before joining the others for dinner.

For years, there was a monument at the intersection to commemorate Kennedy’s visit, which happened just two years before the President was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet just a few hours south of that lonely place in the woods. Now according to Roadside America, there isn’t a whole lot of remembering being done on an average day.

“The monument appears to have once had its own parking area, but it’s now used as a supply dump for concrete highway barriers and piles of wintertime road grit.” the website says. “Don’t worry, there are still plenty of places to park; you will probably be the only visitor.”

The President would come to Oklahoma one more time in January 1963, for Kerr’s funeral, after his death from a heart attack on New Year’s Day.


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