Jamestown marked the 60th anniversary of the construction of the World’s Largest Buffalo last summer.
The dedication of the monument didn’t occur until June 5, 1960, making this month the 60th anniversary of that event.
Construction work finished on the big buffalo after the summer season in 1959 and it may have been considered just too late in the season for a big event in 1959.
The featured speaker for the event was Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York.
Rockefeller had gained the governor’s mansion in Albany, New York, in 1959 but had thrown his hat in the ring for the Republican presidential nomination early in 1960. It should be noted the dedication of the World’s Largest Buffalo was about three weeks before the North Dakota 1960 primary election.
But by June, Richard Nixon had a commanding lead in the Republican polls and Rockefeller had ended his campaign.
Rockefeller may have agreed to participate in the dedication while he was a candidate but evidently decided to come to Jamestown anyway.
Instead, Rockefeller campaigned for North Dakota Gov. John Davis who was running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Davis and Quentin Burdick were contesting for the seat of Sen. William Langer, who had died in office. The special election was held June 28, 1960.
Even though Rockefeller wasn’t running for any office in Jamestown or North Dakota, he acted like he was on the campaign stump.
“(Rockefeller) pumped hundreds of hands and patted scores of youngsters’ heads,” wrote Bill Wright, editor of The Jamestown Sun, in a front page article. “Rockefeller appeared to enjoy every second of his strenuous visit to Jamestown.”
Photos of the day, published in the Sun include Rockefeller speaking with the monument in the background along with pictures of the wives of governors Davis and Rockefeller signing autographs.
Another photo showed Rockefeller and Jamestown’s Rev. N.E. McCoy reportedly at the buffalo burger lunch at the Gladstone Hotel.
Rockefeller didn’t travel light when he came to Jamestown. The Sun reported the party included the governor, his wife, nine aides and “a baker’s dozen or so out-of-state political writers." For a day it would seem, Jamestown was on the national political news landscape.
The candidates Rockefeller was backing in his Jamestown stop didn’t fare so well in the 1960 elections.
Nixon was defeated by John F. Kennedy for president and Davis lost out to Quentin Burdick by the slimmest of margins. Out of about 208,000 votes cast, Burdick defeated Davis by about 1,100 votes.
The event became more politics than tribute to the bison, the Jamestown community and Native American culture, at least in some people’s minds.
Author Keith Norman can be reached at www.KeithNormanBooks.com