The Page One headline of The Marion Daily Star on July 4, 1922, said it all. President Harding had returned home to celebrate the centennial of Marion’s founding. The visit would be Harding’s only visit to his hometown during his brief 29 months as president, and the last of his life.
President Harding, and his wife, Florence, left the White House by automobile on Saturday afternoon, July 1, and expected to complete the 446-mile trip the next day. The group of 12 vehicles in the president’s entourage traveled over two-lane roads up and down the mountains of West Virginia. Heavy rainstorms made the mountain roads slippery, and numerous detours uprooted the timetable. The president arrived in Marion at 10:30 p.m. July 3. Included in the group were newspaper reporters, General John Pershing, Charles G. Dawes, director of the Bureau of the Budget, and Secret Service agents.
Once in Marion, the party scattered to different homes where they were being hosted. Since the Hardings had rented out their home, they stayed at the home of Warren’s father, Dr. G.T. Harding. The Hardings visited a bit with Warren’s family the next morning, then lunched at Florence’s brother’s home during their quick, 48-hour visit.
On the afternoon of July 5, the president addressed thousands of people assembled at the Marion County Fairgrounds. In his speech, Harding said that preservation of the nation in peacetime is just as important at preserving the nation in wartime. “My one outstanding conviction, after sixteen months in the presidency,” he said, “is that the greatest traitor to his country is he who appeals to prejudice and passion, when sober judgment and honest speech are so necessary to firmly establish tranquility and security once more in the land.” Pershing, Dawes and other speakers followed Harding, and Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, one of the popular heroes of The Great War, also made an appearance.
Harding also noted that the presidency is much more difficult than people assume. “Some of you think it is a very fine thing to be president of the United States and it is good to keep on thinking it,” he said, “because when you wake up from your dream, you will find it a very different thing.”