Thursday, October 3, 1963
Greers Ferry Dam dedication
JFK was in Little Rock, Arkansas to dedicate the recently completed Greers Ferry Dam in Cleburne County. Considerable planning had gone into the dedication event and it was organized by Army Corps of Engineers and long-time employee Carl Garner. A spot was chosen overlooking the man-made lake resulting on the Little Red River after completion of the project.
A lawn had been specially planted and tended so that the lecturn used by the President was on grass. The speaker’s stand seated 36 VIP’s and platforms were built for the press. Choirs and bands from the University of Arkansas and Arkansas College (now Lyon College) played and sang and a large tent had been erected for JFK and the dignitaries to have lunch.
Kennedy’s group arrived in two helicopters at some distance to the dam and used a motorcade to reach the dedication ceremony. At 11:00 am Governor Orval Faubus welcomed the President and U.S. Senator John L. McClellan introduced JFK.
Kennedy opened his remarks by paying tribute to the importance of the Arkansas delegation to Congress and to those that were in attendance that day, including Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Wilbur Mills and Senator J. William Fullbright.
I suppose pound for pound, the Arkansas delegation in the Congress of the United States wields more influence than any other delegation of any of the other 49 states. That could be either good or bad for the country, but in this case it happens to be good. And I don’t know whether the people of Arkansas who may feel that Washington is far away and not every face may be friendly – I don’t know whether they realize that your delegation holds within its hands, in a very real sense, not only a good many important measures which affect this state, but measures which also affect this country.
After praising each member of the Arkansas delegation, Kennedy went on in the disarmingly self-deprecating tone that he was famous for,
Because of your distinguished Congressman, who is chairman of the most influential committee, the Ways and Means Committee of the House, which just ten days ago passed through by an overwhelming vote a tax reform and reduction bill which I think can do much for this state and other states in maintaining its steadily expanding economy. It said in the New York Times this morning that if Congressman Mills suggested it, that the President would be glad to come down here and dedicate this dam and sing ‘Down By the Old Mill Stream.’ or any other request made…. and I would be delighted.
And then, he turned to serious politics,
“This dam represents not merely the time of construction, it represents almost 30 years of effort.
JFK’s entourage arrived in two big helicopters and JFK, looking tanned and relaxed, exited to a raucous applause.