On September 16, 1948, San Antonio residents received news that President Harry S. Truman would visit the city during his transcontinental re-election campaign tour. He would be the fifth U.S. president to visit the city and the first during a presidential campaign. With his popularity declining, Truman decided that personal appearances would be needed to supplement radio broadcasts. After traveling from Washington to California, he included San Antonio on his four-day tour through Texas on his return trip to the East. Truman arrived in San Antonio on Sunday morning, September 25th. Over 200,000 people saw the president as he made appearances at a church service, luncheon, dinner, motorcade through downtown, and a visit to the Alamo. However, he made no political speech since it was the Sabbath.
By the next presidential election, personal campaigning and stumping had become the norm. Both Republican and Democratic nominees visited the city a few weeks before the election in 1952. Both delivered a speech in front of the Alamo, preceded by a wreath-laying inside the chapel. A motorcade through downtown and a speech on Alamo Plaza would become the pattern for visits of presidential contenders during the next two decades. Later, the speaking venue was moved from Alamo Plaza and a barge ride on the river replaced the motorcade.
These photographs were taken by staff photographers of the San Antonio Express-News and San Antonio Light newspapers.
President Harry S. Truman waits with his wife, Bess, and their daughter, Margaret, outside Sunset Railroad Station at the beginning of his overnight visit to the city, September 25, 1948. From there they went to a service at First Baptist Church and then to the Gunter Hotel. (San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-3641-A-4)
On his 62nd birthday, General Dwight D. Eisenhower delivers a speech describing the four cornerstones for building world peace, October 14, 1952. Sharing the speaker’s stand on Alamo Plaza are Texas Governor Alan Shivers and other members of the conservative faction of the Texas Democratic Party who supported the Republican candidate. At lower right is a 500-pound birthday cake to be sliced for 6,000 people. (San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-4415-K-05)
Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson, Democratic Party nominee for President, stands between the U.S. and Mexican flags at a rally in Milam Park, October 18, 1952. Stevenson’s speech paid tribute to the heritage and contributions made to the United States by Latin-American Texans. From there he traveled to Alamo Plaza to deliver another speech. (San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-4416-C-12)
The Kennedy-Johnson motorcade stops briefly for supporters outside USAA on Broadway as it heads from the airport to downtown, September 12, 1960. At Alamo Plaza, Senator Kennedy issued a challenge for better relations between the United States and its Latin American neighbors. (San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-6186-D-09)
Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Republican presidential nominee, responds to the cheers of the 20,000 people gathered on Alamo Plaza during his final campaign trip across Texas, November 3, 1960. Nixon selected the Alamo as the site for what he called the most important speech of his campaign. (San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-6355-H)
Republican Senator Barry Goldwater shakes hands with enthusiastic supporters following a speech to a crowd of 15,000 in Alamo Stadium, October 31, 1964. (San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-6235-E)
Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Democratic presidential nominee, encounters a donkey among the crowd welcoming him at International Airport, October 22, 1968. U. S. Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez is next to him as they walk toward the “Humphrey Howdy Hop” outside the airport, a prelude to two speeches in the city the next day. (San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-6386-C-37)
Following an evening rally on Alamo Plaza, Senator George McGovern poses with supporters at a reception in the Menger Hotel, October 16, 1972. On the left is Bill Clinton, co-coordinator of the McGovern-Shriver campaign in Texas. (MS 360: E-0026-004-07)
Former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter speaks at the “grand finale” of the local Democratic Party campaign, October 30, 1976. Joining him on the podium are many of the state’s prominent Democrats, including Gov. Dolph Briscoe, Sen. Lloyd Bensen, and Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez. Another group of Carter supporters objected to the Alamo as a site for the event and held a simultaneous rally at HemisFair Plaza. (MS 360: E-0039-200-27)
Former California Governor Ronald Reagan and wife, Nancy, pause on a pedestrian bridge over the San Antonio River Walk before proceeding to a rally for the Republican presidential nominee at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, September 16, 1980. (MS 360: E-0064-081-33)
Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis speaks to supporters in front of Municipal Auditorium, October 15, 1988. Prior to the speech, the Democratic presidential nominee placed a wreath at the nearby Vietnam Memorial. (San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-7169-103-31)
Vice President George H.W. Bush and wife, Barbara, greet supporters from a river barge before attending a rally at Arneson River Theater, August 25, 1988. (San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-7166-52)