Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

President Dwight Eisenhower waves from a car during a parade in June 1953.
President Dwight Eisenhower waves from a car during a parade in June 1953.
S.D. State Archives
June 6, 2016

IN HISTORY: President Eisenhower Visits Black Hills, June 11-13, 1953

President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the Black Hills in early June 1953, although the precise dates have been difficult to pin down. There is a newspaper article dated June 11 reporting a Rapid City parade and Eisenhower's dedication and renaming of Ellsworth Air Force Base on June 13

A collection of undated photos in the South Dakota State Archives document his arrival, the parade and a speech at Mount Rushmore. According to this account from Custer State Park Resort, Eisenhower's stayed at the Custer State Park Game Lodge for three days. He was the second president to stay there, following Calvin Coolidge who spent the summer in 1927.

According to the Custer State Park Resort website: "In 1953, the park was again home to a President. President Eisenhower, on a visit to the Black Hills for a speaking engagement, stayed in the State Game Lodge. The visit lasted only three days, but as an indication of how times had changed, it occasioned even greater preparations for the lodge with tighter security, an extensive communications system, and a far bigger crowd of secret service agents, staff members, and reporters. 

"Activities at the lodge that week included several formal dinners and speeches, but Eisenhower also took the opportunity to spend as much time as he could fishing for trout in the pools of French Creek."

A room at the lodge is now named for Eisenhower, as is one for Coolidge.

At his dedication of Ellsworth Air Force Base, Eisenhower honored Brig. Gen. Richard Ellsworth, who had died during a mission three months prior. 

He said: "We are met here in tribute to a gallant and patriotic American, a man whose name will always be an inspiration to the members of his family and his loved ones, his friends, to the members of his garrison, to all the Armed Services, and to Americans everywhere. It is now my very great honor to dedicate this great base in memory of Brigadier General Richard Ellsworth."

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