Bush in Niles in 1987, campaigning for his dad

Published 1:05 pm Monday, May 3, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- President Bush's arrival in Niles today will not be the first time our community has welcomed a president.
In fact, today's visit is not even the first time that George W. Bush has been in Niles.
In 1987, he made at a stop at the Niles Holiday Inn in support of his father's presidential campaign.
A photograph from the Dec. 3, 1987, edition of the Niles Daily Star, reveals a younger, dark-haired Bush holding a Brandywine Bobcats sweatshirt that he had received as a gift.
His visit to Niles was an attempt to encourage local Republicans to attend their county conventions in support of his father's run for the 1998 Republican nomination.
In September 1986, the elder Bush, then vice president, made a stop in Niles to benefit a young, up and coming politician running for U.S. Congress named Fred Upton, who would eventually go on to win his first term as congressman.
The private fundraiser, which took place at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Judd Leighton, of 2003 Morris Drive, Niles, was made up of separate indoor and outdoor receptions.
Tickets to the more intimate, indoor event were $1,000 per couple and included a photo with Bush. Tickets to the outdoor, tent reception were $250 per couple and included brief comments from the vice president.
On May 15, 1976, President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford ended their Michigan whistle-stop tour with a speech at the Niles Depot.
His short Niles speech centered on the economy, world peace and trust in the White House. He asked for the crowd's support in the upcoming primaries and the election in November.
After being defeated by Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter, Ford never got that opportunity.
But, his stop at the Niles train station can still be looked at as a more successful visit than President Andrew Johnson's visit on September 5. 1866.
To prepare for Johnson's campaign stop, a platform was constructed at the Niles train station, then called the Michigan Central Railroad Station at Niles.
As Johnson and several dignitaries, including Civil War generals Ulysses S. Grant and George Armstrong Custer, made their way on to the platform, it collapsed. This caused everyone to crash to the ground, except for the president, who managed to keep his balance on the edge of what remained of the platform.
No one was seriously injured in the incident, but it did cause Johnson to cut his speech short.
Richard Nixon also paid a brief visit to Niles as part of a whistle-stop campaign in the fall of 1956.
The then vice president was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd estimated at 4,000.
In August of 1996, there was much anticipation in Niles regarding President Bill Clinton's train passing through our city on his way to Michigan City, Ind.
Though the train was not scheduled to stop, there were reports that the president would be at the back of the train waiving to the public as the train slowly moved pass.
Thousands gathered hoping to catch a glimpse of Clinton, but due to the lateness of the train, plans were changed and Clinton did not make an appearance from the train's platform.
In 1856, a relatively unknown politician from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln made a stop in Niles while campaigning for Republican presidential candidate John Fremont.
According to an issue of the Niles Daily Star from February 1921 that recounts the visit, Lincoln stopped in Niles to make a few observations and shake hands with some of the citizens.
Some other eventual presidents who have made stops in Niles include Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and Millard Fillmore.