Dakota Datebook

A Chance Meeting with JFK

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


If you could were able to share a meal and talk a little with anyone you wanted, who would you like to meet with?


On this date in 1960, the Aneta Star reported that John L. Hanson, a native North Dakotan who grew up in Aneta and graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1953, didn’t get to pick the who, but he found himself with a very prominent historical figure – Senator John F. Kennedy.


Hanson, who was working in New York for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, ran into Kennedy at a hotel. Kennedy was in town for a fundraising dinner. He also met up with four presidents of New York and New Jersey dairy co-ops.


Hanson’s report read: “While crowds were milling around the lobby of the hotel hoping to catch a glimpse of the candidate, I happened to be meeting a business friend and associate on the eighth floor. As my friend and I were on our way to dinner, we approached a small group of men in the hall. I stopped and asked one of them for a match. While I was lighting my cigarette, the door next to me opened and out stepped Senator Kennedy.”


Hanson and his friend followed the small group into an empty room, where they received a few questioning looks. Hanson said he wished to cover their informal conference for his hometown newspaper. With that explanation, Hanson remained, and did indeed share the story with the Aneta paper. The report was quite brief, with Hanson calling the meeting an enjoyable conversation that mostly covered farm issues and general election topics.


He concluded with the comment that he did not mean to write the article to be “politically pointed”; however, he did write, “I would like to share with some of my home town friends in Aneta the fact that I was impressed by Sen. Kennedy’s appearance, sincerity and apparent adeptness.”


On this, the 50th year since Kennedy’s assassination, historians, fans, politicians, scholars and people from all walks of life can note the opportunity one North Dakotan saw and took…and as a result, Hanson got to rub elbows with a bit of history.


Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker



The Aneta Star, October 24, 1960


This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

« Go Back

Award-winning radio, television, and public media services that educate, involve, and inspire the people of the prairie region.

Donate Now

Breaking News

Follow Us On Social Media