When Bill Clinton traveled to New Bedford in March 2016 to help with his wife Hillary’s presidential campaign, it was not his first visit to Whaling City — nor the first visit by an American president.
Bill Clinton’s trip from Hope, Arkansas, to the annals of American political history included at least one other stop in New Bedford. Clinton appeared in downtown New Bedford in 2012 as a guest of Mayor Fred Kalisz for a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shannon O’Brien. Clinton opened the rally by saying, “I mean it’s good to be back in New Bedford for me. No one I know remembers Clinton being around until 2012.
As I said, Clinton was not the first US president — sitting, aspiring, or former — to visit New Bedford. There were at least 11 others. Ann Marie Lopes, formerly of New Bedford Cable Access, produced an excellent room recalling all known visits by US Presidents.
Among the sitting presidents to visit New Bedford: Ulysses S. Grant in 1874; William Howard Taft in 1912; Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936; and Harry S. Truman visited three times, once as a presidential candidate in 1944, again when he was re-elected in 1948, and again in 1952.
Abraham Lincoln visited New Bedford as a congressman in 1848. John Quincy Adams, who lived a short distance away in Quincy, Massachusetts, visited twice as a former president in 1835 and 1843.
John F. Kennedy, also from Massachusetts, visited New Bedford several times as a United States Senator.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush are other presidents who passed through New Bedford on their way to the White House.
As we celebrate Presidents Day 2022, we can look back and appreciate the role, big or small, the New Bedford area has played in national politics. Judging by the number of US presidents who have visited New Bedford, it becomes clear how important this really is.
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