February 12, 2020

Montgomery County Presidential Sightings

Although some hold that the designation of Presidents Day is a celebration of George Washington’s birthday, many consider the day time to honor all U.S. presidents. Regardless, the holiday gives time to pause and reflect on our history and the impacts of our distinguished leaders.

Many presidents have visited Montgomery County throughout history. Here are some snippets of Montgomery County presidential visits:
  • Many locals call the Town of Brookville the “U.S. Capital for a Day” because President James Madison and his wife Dolley stayed in Brookville after the British troops attacked the city and set fire to the White House in 1812.
  • President John Quincy Adams enjoyed skinny-dipping in the Potomac River, according to reports. After a long day, President Adams is said to have frequently walked several miles to enjoy an evening bath in the river. While it is unclear as to whether Adams swam from the Montgomery County shores, imagine hiking aside the Potomac and coming upon the president’s clothes hanging along the riverbank.
  • According to a Bethesda Beat article, President’s Abraham Lincoln visited Rockville in 1861, which was pivotal in keeping Maryland in the Union.
  • Montgomery County is home to a hospital, the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center located in Bethesda, that has served, treated and cared for every president of the United States and their families since 1942. The Base Realignment and Closure Act merged Walter Reed with the National Naval Medical Center in 2005. The two historic, facilities became America’s first national military medical center to provide world-class medical care for injured and ill Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, their families, and retirees.
  • Sadly, President John F. Kennedy’s body was autopsied at what was then called Bethesda Naval Hospital. The facility was chosen by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy because of the presidents’ service in the Navy.
  • In 1972 Richard Nixon visited Alabama’s Governor George Wallace at Holy Cross Hospital after Wallace was shot during a campaign event in Laurel.
  • Holiday Park, one of Montgomery County Recreation’s Senior Centers, has been the site of two presidential announcements:
  • President Bill Clinton spoke about his proposed Patient Bill of Rights and officially signed the presidential directive at the same visit. Vice President Al Gore accompanied the president on this visit.
  • President Barack Obama discussed the Affordable Care Act, the week that it was first proposed, at a national tele-town meeting held at Montgomery County Recreation’s Holiday Park Senior Center.
  • President Obama was the assistant coach for his youngest daughter, Sasha’s, basketball team, which played in Montgomery County Recreation’s youth basketball league at the Jane Lawton Community Center. She played in the league for two years. Vice President Joe Biden’s granddaughter also played on the team and it was always a presidential Saturday morning when the President, Vice President, and First Lady Michelle Obama came out to cheer on the young hoop-shooting athletes.
Thanks to Ben Miller, Blair High School graduate and current sophomore at the University of Chicago, and Councilmember Gabe Albornoz for contributions to this story.