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1960 Democratic National Convention
1960 Presidential Election
John F. Kennedy, White House photo portrait, looking up.jpg 37 Lbj2 3x4.jpg
Date(s) July 11 - July 15
City Los Angeles, California
Venue Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena
Presidential Nominee John F. Kennedy
of Massachusetts
Vice Presidential Nominee Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas
1956  ·  1964

The 1960 Democratic National Convention was held in Los Angeles. In the end, the Kennedy-Johnson ticket was assembled and went on to secure an electoral college victory and a narrow popular vote plurality (slightly over 110,000 nationally) in the fall over the Republican candidates Richard M. Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.


Presidential nomination

In the week before the convention opened, Kennedy received two new challengers when Lyndon B. Johnson, the powerful Senate Majority Leader from Texas, and Adlai Stevenson II, the party's nominee in 1952 and 1956, announced their candidacies. However, neither Johnson nor Stevenson was a match for the talented and highly efficient Kennedy campaign team led by Robert Kennedy. Johnson challenged Kennedy to a televised debate before a joint meeting of the Texas and Massachusetts delegations; Kennedy accepted. Most observers felt that Kennedy won the debate, and Johnson was not able to expand his delegate support beyond the South. Stevenson was popular among many liberal delegates, especially in California, but his two landslide defeats in 1952 and 1956 led party leaders to search for a "fresh face" who had a better chance of winning.

Two Johnson supporters, including John B. Connally, brought up the question of Kennedy's health. Connally said that Kennedy had Addison's disease. JFK press secretary Pierre Salinger of California denied the story. A Kennedy physician, Dr. Janet Travell, put out a statement that the senator's adrenal glands were functioning adequately and that he was no more susceptible to infection than anyone else. It was also denied that Kennedy was on cortisone.[1]

Kennedy won the nomination on the first ballot:

The presidential tally
John F. Kennedy 806
Lyndon Johnson 409
Stuart Symington 86
Adlai Stevenson 79.5
Robert B. Meyner 43
Hubert Humphrey 41
George A. Smathers 30
Ross Barnett 23
Herschel Loveless 2
Pat Brown 1
Orval Faubus 1
Albert Rosellini 1

Kennedy was the first senator since 1920 to be nominated for the presidency by either the Democrats or the Republicans.[2] On the last day of the convention, Kennedy delivered his acceptance speech from the adjacent Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.


The Democratic platform in 1960 was the longest yet.[2] They called for a loosening of tight economic policy: "We Democrats believe that the economy can and must grow at an average rate of 5 percent annually, almost twice as fast as our annual rate since 1953... As the first step in speeding economic growth, a Democratic president will put an end to the present high-interest-rate, tight-money policy."[3] Other planks included national defense, disarmament, civil rights, immigration, foreign aid, the economy, labor and tax reform. Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina attempted to soften the party's plank on civil rights. A speech by Hawaii delegate Patsy Mink persuaded two-thirds of the party to keep their progressive stance on the issue.[2][4]

Vice-presidential nomination

After Kennedy secured the nomination, he asked Johnson to be his running mate in a move which surprised many. To this day there is much debate regarding the details of Johnson's nomination—why it was offered and why he agreed to take it. Some historians speculate that Kennedy actually wanted someone else (such as Senators Stuart Symington or Henry M. Jackson) to be his running mate, and that he offered the nomination to Johnson first only as a courtesy to the powerful Senate Majority Leader. According to this theory, Kennedy was then surprised when Johnson accepted second place on the Democratic ticket. Another related story is that, after Johnson accepted the offer, Robert Kennedy went to Johnson's hotel suite to dissuade Johnson from becoming the vice-presidential nominee. Johnson was offended that "JFK's kid brother" would brashly urge him to stay off the ticket. In response to his blunt confrontation with Robert Kennedy, Johnson called JFK to confirm that the vice-presidential nomination was his; JFK clearly stated that he wanted Johnson as his running mate. Milton DeWitt Brinson, a North Carolina delegate, asked Senator Sam Erwin to get down on his knees and beg Johnson if need be to convince him to take the nomination. The record shows that the N.C. delegation was instrumental in his decision to run. Johnson and Robert Kennedy became so embittered by the experience that they began a fierce personal and political feud that would have grave implications for the Democratic Party in the 1960s. Despite the reservations Robert Kennedy had about Johnson's nomination, the move proved to be a masterstroke for his older brother. Johnson vigorously campaigned for JFK and was instrumental in helping the Democrats to carry several Southern states skeptical of Kennedy, especially Johnson's home state of Texas.

The nomination was carried by voice vote, although many there thought that more people screamed "Nay!" than "Aye!"

In culture

The convention was the setting for Norman Mailer's famous profile of Kennedy, "Superman Comes to the Supermart," published in Esquire.[5]

Preceded by
Democratic National Conventions Succeeded by


  1. ^ Geoffrey Perrett, Jack: A Life Like No Other, New York: Random House, 2002, pp. 253-254
  2. ^ a b c "Democratic National Political Conventions 1832-2008". Library of Congress. 2008. pp. 19–20. Retrieved 2009-01-06.  
  3. ^ Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 293. ISBN 0465041957.  
  4. ^ Mink, Patsy. "undated handwritten notes for speech given in support of civil rights plank at the Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles, California, July 12, 1960". Retrieved 2009-01-06.  
  5. ^ Mclellan, Dennis (July 2, 2008). "Clay Felker, 82; editor of New York magazine led New Journalism charge". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-11-23.  

External links




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