© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

May 19: A Living Tribute, A Working Memorial

Ways To Subscribe

This week in 1969 the Bismarck Tribune ran a fundraising advertisement for the new Kennedy Center, which was under construction at 1902 East Divide Avenue in Bismarck.

The advertisement aimed at Democratic Party faithful, reading: “The Kennedy Center, a living tribute … a working memorial. There have been political heroes in the past and there will be political heroes in the future, but John and Robert Kennedy were political stalwarts of this generation. These dedicated brothers believed that political action can better the lives of mankind. They lived for political action and they died tragically because of it. It is fitting and proper that we honor these two brothers with a living memorial that provides a continuation of the political action that motivated their lives.

“Education in government and politics will be part of the Kennedy Memorial Center. In addition to papers, photos and memorabilia of the Kennedy brothers, there will be a growing library of reference volumes on politics, government and North Dakota. Also, the Center will furnish, at long last, a safekeeping for the Democratic-NPL archives, which will include photos, meeting minutes, television and radio tapes of the past, old issues of The Leader, campaign posters, etc.

“It is important to know that the Kennedy Memorial Center will inspire on the one hand, and on the other hand will translate that inspiration into political action – because the Center will contain the headquarters of the Democratic-NPL. A vigorous two-party system is necessary to the vitality and effectiveness of our democratic system of government.

“You are invited to share in the construction of this working memorial.”

Construction of the center had begun in November 1968. The total cost of the structure was about $75,000. The first meeting hosted at the Bismarck Kennedy Center would be on September 13, 1969. The center would serve as the headquarters of the Democratic Nonpartisan League Party for 53 more years.

But times have changed. The headquarters is now in Fargo, and The Kennedy Memorial Foundation has been transforming the original building into a community center.

Dakota Datebook by Andrew Alexis Varvel


  • “The Kennedy Memorial Center” (advertisement), Bismarck Tribune, 20 May 1969, page 10.
  • “Kennedy Memorial Construction Begins”, Bismarck Tribune, 30 November 1968, page 21.
  • “Media Kicked Out: Officials Tell Newsmen It's Private Meeting” (Associated Press), Bismarck Tribune, 15 September 1969, page 10.
  • Personal communication with Tracy Potter, 12 April 2023.
  • (As of 12 April 2023, Tracy Potter was the chairman of the Kennedy Memorial Foundation.)
  • The following reference provides Governor Guy's version of events.
  • https://kennedyfoundation.nonprofitoffice.com/?SEC=9CF3BD16-1219-454E-B3CF-4F15FCED2688

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Related Content