VICKSBURG FACTS: Hello, Mr. President — Presidential visits to the River City

Published 8:00 am Friday, December 9, 2022

Did you know Vicksburg has had three presidential visits?

The first United States president to visit Vicksburg was William McKinley. President McKinley and his wife visited Vicksburg on May 1, 1901. He was directed to the courthouse where he gave his speech to the citizens of Vicksburg.

“I could not have received a more enthusiastic, spontaneous, and kindly greeting from the citizens of my own native state of Ohio than has been accorded me joy by the great-hearted and loyal people of Vicksburg,” said President McKinley in the May 2, 1901, edition of the Vicksburg Herald.

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The president arrived by train and appeared on the rear platform where he was greeted by the people of Vicksburg with an ovation. His speech to the people was to inspire patriotism in the citizens of Vicksburg about all the amazing things about living in the United States; however, his speech was brief. After the speech, a short program was performed for the President and he left by 10 a.m. to continue his tour around the country, according to the Herald.

The next president to visit Vicksburg was Theodore Roosevelt, also known as Teddy Roosevelt. Once again, the citizens of Vicksburg were preparing for the president’s arrival on Oct. 3rd, 1907, at 3 p.m., as mentioned in the Sept. 12, 1907, edition of The Vicksburg Evening Post.

However, he arrived later in October and delivered a surprising speech to the people of Vicksburg.

“Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, surprised and startled the entire South in his Vicksburg speech, and eliminated every prejudice hitherto that might have existed against him in any Southern heart,” it was stated in the Vicksburg Herald.

The president’s speech consisted of his plans for the mighty Mississippi River, digging up the waterway from the lakes of the Gulf, the progression of the Panama Canal, the necessity of a larger military, especially the navy, and even paying tribute to Jefferson Davis.

The crowd went wild over his speech and it pleased many Southerners. After his speech, the president enjoyed listening to schoolchildren perform the song “Dixie,” according to the Vicksburg Herald.

The last president to visit Vicksburg was William Howard Taft in 1909. Instead of arriving by train, Taft arrived on a river fleet known as The Orelander; however, the ship arrived late. All of Vicksburg was worried about the Taft Day celebration they had planned for the president’s arrival.

As stated in the Vicksburg American, the president’s purpose for this trip was to meet with engineers and committee members about the levees along the Mississippi River. The slogans during President Taft’s visits were, “River regulation is rate regulations,” and “ River improvement will be railroad improvement.”

The president had a brief visit to the city and continued his tour down to New Orleans.