Monday, June 27, 2022
June 27, 2022

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From the Newsroom: Clark County’s presidential visits

By , Columbian Editor

I wasn’t surprised by the news that President Joe Biden was going to visit the Pacific Northwest. It’s campaign fundraising season, and there are a lot of Democrats with deep pockets in Washington and Oregon. And I also wasn’t surprised that the president was going to tout his infrastructure bill, arguably his biggest win in Congress, thus far, or talk about Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project, which is one of the Pacific Northwest’s most glaring needs.

I was surprised he missed a chance to visit Vancouver to deliver his remarks.

When the news first broke, I predicted that Biden would speak at the Waterfront Vancouver, where the visuals are much better than on the Portland side. I figured the contrast between the new private investment on the river and the aging bridge would be the perfect visual backdrop.

Now you know why I am in journalism and not managing political appearances!

At any rate, I used the opportunity to dig out the list of Clark County presidential visits that Gregg Herrington, a legendary Columbian reporter and editor, gave to me years ago. Here is his list (not counting future or past presidents who visited).

  • Oct. 2, 1880: Rutherford B. Hayes visits Vancouver, the first sitting president ever to do so. Hayes and his wife attend Methodist church service at Eighth and Washington streets on Sunday, Oct. 3. The next day they head upriver, but stop briefly in Vancouver on the way back downstream Oct. 7.
  • Oct. 2, 1909: William Howard Taft’s train passes through Vancouver about 6:30 a.m. from Tacoma to Portland. No public appearance.
  • Oct. 11, 1911: Taft speaks to local crowd at railroad depot from rear platform of his train. Taft speaks for about 10 minutes and, as he is talking, the train begins to pull away. He waves and says good-bye.
  • July 4, 1923: After a speech in Portland, Warren G. Harding’s train stops at 11:30 p.m., and he addresses 5,000 from his train at Vancouver depot. A.W. Calder presents Harding with several boxes of Clark County dried prunes. Within a month Harding is dead. Despite a long-running local myth, the prunes never have been implicated.
  • Sept. 28, 1937: Franklin D. Roosevelt is at Bonneville Dam, via Portland, for the dam’s start-up ceremony. Late that afternoon, he comes through Vancouver to the railroad depot. He greets children from the rear car before his train departs for Seattle.
  • Sept. 23, 1942: Roosevelt tours Vancouver’s Alcoa aluminum plant. Due to wartime, the tour is kept secret from the general public, with the media not reporting it until FDR is back in Washington. The Columbian’s story runs Oct. 1.
  • May 21, 1980: Jimmy Carter kicks off a tour of the devastation caused by the May 18 eruption of Mount St. Helens with a briefing by the U.S. Forest Service in federal building, 500 W. 12th St.
  • Feb. 14, 1996: Bill Clinton tours much of flood-ravaged Western Washington, including Woodland, making a 45-minute tour of homes damaged by the North Fork of the Lewis River.
  • Sept. 19, 1996: Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and their wives appear at an evening rally on Officers Row. It’s the first time a president and vice president appear in the county together.
  • Aug. 21, 2003: George W. Bush flies into Portland for a fundraising lunch. His motorcade crosses the Interstate 205 Bridge to state Highway 14 and proceeds west to the I-5 Bridge and across it back into Oregon and on to the University of Portland. The motorcade makes no stops here and does not travel via Vancouver on the return to the airport.
  • Aug. 13, 2004: Bush’s motorcade travels via state Highway 14 between PDX and campaign appearances in the Portland area, both coming and going, but does not stop.

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