The presidential election of 2016 is rapidly nearing an end. Although neither candidate has visited the Homewood-Flossmoor area this year, a number of presidential candidates, presidents and a former president have visited the area in the past.
On Saturday, Oct. 29, 1960, Vice President and Republican presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon passed through Homewood and Flossmoor on his way to a campaign stop at Park Forest Plaza that afternoon.
Initial plans were for Nixon’s motorcade to take Dixie Highway through Homewood and Flossmoor to Lincoln Highway in Chicago Heights and then travel west to Western Avenue. The route, however, was changed at the last minute for security reasons.
Local papers reported after the event that the motorcade did exit the toll road at Dixie Highway, but it followed Route 54 (Governors Highway today) to Lincoln Highway, then went east to Western Avenue in Park Forest.
Newspapers indicated large crowds gathered at Dixie Highway and Route 54 (175th Street) in Homewood and at other major intersections along the route. Nixon made a similar visit to Park Forest during the 1956 presidential campaign as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s running mate.
Former President Gerald Ford visited Ravisloe Country Club on Thursday Sept. 28, 1978, and spoke at a fundraiser for Republican Robert Dunne, a candidate for Illinois’ Third Congressional District. Dunne was trying to unseat two-term Democratic congressman Marty Russo of South Holland.
More than 400 people attended the event, and between his speech and a press conference held at the club, Ford mingled with the crowd and was even given a set of golf clubs. Russo won the election.
On Friday, June 28, 1985, President Ronald Reagan visited Chicago Heights, where he gave a speech on the steps of Bloom High School touting a tax reform proposal.
The crowd that came to see him was in a festive spirit and the Bloom and Marian High School bands performed at the event as did a local polka band. Reagan flew by helicopter to Chicago Heights, landing and taking off from the athletic fields just north of the school.
Three years later, on Thursday Nov. 3, 1988, Reagan’s vice president, George H. W. Bush, also visited Bloom High School in Chicago Heights while campaigning for president, but not before stopping in Homewood for lunch at Three Brothers Restaurant, then located on the southeast corner of Ridge Road and Dixie Highway. Bush was accompanied by his daughter, Dorothy, and muscleman turned actor and later California governor Arnold Schwarzenneger.
Bush ordered a Greek salad and steak.
After lunch he greeted a large crowd that had gathered outside.
Bush won the election, besting Democrat Michael Dukakis.
The most recent presidential visit to our area occurred in 1996 when President Bill Clinton chose Blue Ribbon Award-winning Homewood-Flossmoor High School as a stop on his re-election campaign trail.
Clinton arrived by helicopter for the school visit on the afternoon of Sept. 17. A crowd estimated at more than 25,000 people turned out to greet him.
Clinton was introduced to the crowd by the school’s student body president and then Homewood resident Brendan Cumiskey.
Clinton would go on to win re-election over opponents Republican Robert Dole and Reform Party candidate H. Ross Perot.
Only time will tell who the next president will be and whether or not he or she will take some time to visit Homewood or Flossmoor.
Jim Wright is an official with the Homewood Historical Society and is the author of a book of local history, “Homewood Through the Years.”
This story appeared in the September 15, 2016, print edition of the Chronicle.