President McKinley’s visit in 1901 marked a first for Vicksburg

Published 10:52 am Thursday, December 19, 2019

While on a tour of the United States, President William McKinley made a two-hour stop in Vicksburg on May 1, 1901.

At the time, McKinley, a Republican, was beginning his second term in office after defeating Democrat William Jennings Bryan in the 1900 presidential election, making him the first president to visit Vicksburg while he was in office.

McKinley’s visit began at 8:18 a.m. when he arrived by train north of Vicksburg near what was then the entrance to the National Cemetery, where a platform had been erected.

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He walked out of his car, waved to the crowd and went back to get his wife to escort her to a carriage decorated with red, white and blue bunting and pulled by two horses that took them on a tour of the National Cemetery.

After the tour, McKinley was met by Mayor W. L. Trowbridge and an honor guard of Confederate veterans, who provided his escort to the Warren County Court House (now the Old Court House Museum), where he was welcomed by a crowd of 15,000 people and gave a speech from a platform built on the Cherry Street side of the courthouse.

After the speech, he was escorted through town, where he was greeted by children waving flags, music from a military band and a cannon salute from a militia unit. The parade took his carriage under an arch of cotton bales, and as it passed a home flying a confederate flag, McKinley, a Union Civil War veteran, doffed his hat.

McKinley’s escort took him to a waiting eastbound train, where he was greeted by a contingent of officials from Edwards. At 10:08 a.m., the train left Vicksburg.

McKinley’s second term as president was short-lived.

On Sept. 14, 1901, four months after his visit to Vicksburg, he was assassinated while standing in a receiving line at the Buffalo (N.Y.) Pan-American Exposition when a deranged anarchist shot him twice.

The Vicksburg papers at the time reported the president’s death and the local reaction by residents. On the day of his funeral, local churches held services in his honor.

McKinley’s successor, Theodore Roosevelt, later visited Vicksburg in 1907 while campaigning for re-election and spoke at the Court House.

McKinley’s visit to Vicksburg is remembered by a floodwall mural, “President McKinley Visits the ‘Land of Cotton,’” showing the cotton bale arch and accompanied by a marker.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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