Kennedy Brothers at Defremery Park

On June 1, 1968, I was driving my 1949 Ford down Adeline when I saw a crowd in Defremery Park. I saw a white man on truck talking to a crowd of black people. Up front were about twenty Black Panthers shouting and pumping their fists. I had pulled over, and now got out of my car and walked to the edge of the crowd. I could not believe I was hearing the voice of Robert Kennedy. In doing research on this speech I discovered John F. Kennedy spoke here on November 2, 1960. I am sure Bobby was making a statement, that he intends to walk in his brothers footsteps which is tragic for Bobby was murdered on June 5th. I had seen John drive through Oakland on his way up Telegraph. There was a light around his head. His younger brother had that same light. This park is worthy of a National Monument. I just sent Senator Kamala Harris this message.

Dear Vice President Elect: While studying the Oakland History that my friend, Ed Howard, has put together – with love – I saw that he had helped put a High School reunion together at Defremery Park in Oakland. I had driven by this park in 1968 and heard Robert Kennedy’s voice. He was speaking to a crowd of blacks. In the front were about twenty Black Panthers doing a chant, and pumping their fists. John Kennedy also spoke here on November 2, 1960. It looks like Bobby was giving the message he was walking in his brother’s footsteps which is tragic, for he was gunned down four days after he spoke to the people of Oakland where you were born. The man this park was named after married a mulatto woman. When you read John’s speech, it is the same message many Democrats are giving – this very day! We need to launch a real progressive movement here, not one that has been watered down. I know Ed Howard and I would like to see our history not go round in circles. We are in our seventies. We would like to see you come home and launch your Vice Presidency at Defremery Park that should be declared a National Park and Monument. Ed and I would like to be on the committee. We are Oakland natives with a mountain of ideas and enthusiasm.

John Presco

President: Royal Rosamond Press

Virginie was the “daughter of Leon Herckenrath, wealthy Dutch merchant and Consul of Netherlands in charge of the states of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina during the 1820’s, and his wife, Juliette Louisa McCormick de Magnan, a beautiful mulatto slave girl whom her father had purchased when she was 11 years old, much to the shock of Charleston, So. Carolina’s social elite. 

Their first child was Virginie. Her father and mother returned to Holland from So. Carolina with their family and they eventually had fifteen children.” 1

De Fremery Park and Recreation Center West Oakland – FoundSF

James de Fremery

James de Fremery and Virginie Herckenrath de Fremery 8James de Fremery (February 17, 1826–1899) was a well-to-do merchant born in the Netherlands. He came to San Francisco in 1849 and was a “commission merchant.” His merchant firm was, fittingly, called “de Fremery and Company.” 2

James de Fremery married Virginie Therese Herckenrath, the daughter of wealthy Dutch merchant Leon Herckenrath and his wife Juliette Louisa McCormick de Magnan. Leon Herckenrath was also the Consul of Netherlands in charge of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, Juliette Louisa McCormick de Magnan was a former slave whom Leon purchased when she was 11 years old, then later married. The Herckenraths went on to have 15 children, of which Virginie was the oldest.

James de Fremery was the founder of the Savings Union Bank of San Francisco (which became Wells Fargo) and, like many early residents of Oakland, owned large amounts of real estate in Oakland. 1This land included an area known then as “The Point”: six city blocks between Adeline and Poplar and between Sixteenth and Eighteenth Streets. 7

James de Fremery was also president of the Chamber of Commerce (not clear if Oakland or San Francisco), involved in the Savings and Loan Society, the Giant Powder Company, the American Sugar Refining Company and the railroads. de Fremery died on a train, of heart disease. 4 de Fremery died a wealthy man: his estate was estimated between $100,000 and $500,000. 6

He is the author (1860) of “Mortgages in California: a Practical Essay” (available as a free Google eBook). He also contributed to newspapers. 5

de Fremery built the family estate “The Grove” in Oakland, where he and the family lived for many years until the death of his son, James Leon de Fremery, who left the estate to the City of Oakland to be used as a park. The estate is now de Fremery Park, and the home, an Oakland Landmark, is the de Fremery Recreation Center.


Dutch Consul in San Francisco3

Death and burial

James de Fremery died in 1899 on a train on his way back to the Bay Area. He is buried in the de Fremery family grave in plot 8 in Mountain View Cemetery.

CC SA-BY Our OaklandCC SA-BY Our Oakland

Links and References

  1. Fardon, GR et al. San Francisco Album: Photographs 1854-1856. Chronicle Books: 1999.

I want the people of the world to know that in 1960 a new generation of Americans is taking over, a generation committed to progress, committed to picking this country up and moving it forward. I want America to stand as a symbol around the world of what freedom can do. I want everyone in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia, to look to us, not to Khrushchev, but to us. What this country can do, fairness for all people justice – I want progress and we are going to get it. I ask your help. (Applause)


Byron Rumford, distinguished Californians, Jeff Cohelan, who I hope you are going to elect Congressman from this District — he is a great one. I want us to go all the way for him, because he is fighting for this District and the United States; George P. Miller, with whom I served in the Congress for 14 years, who speaks for this district and for the United States; Governor Brown, Allen Broussard, ladies and gentlemen — we are not discriminating against you over there. (Laughter) I am here tonight, here in California, in the closing days of this campaign, to ask your help, to ask your help in defeating the Republican Party. (Applause) I understand Mr. Nixon is coming here on Saturday. He is going to South Carolina on Thursday and here on Saturday. I want you to ask him three questions.

First, name one piece of progressive legislation in behalf of the people that he has supported that has been enacted into law, just one that served the people. (Response from the audience)

Second, I would like to have him explain why, when a bill was up seven times, seven times, in the House of Representatives, when he and I were both on the Labor Committee, seven times to provide fair employment practices, why I voted for it seven times and he voted against it seven times. (Response from the audience)

Ladies and gentlemen — we are on again. Ladies and gentlemen, this is an important election, and I come here and ask your help. I speak for the party of progress in 1960. I speak for the party that is committed to a progressive platform to advance equal opportunity for all Americans. (Applause)

Mr. Nixon represents a party which has opposed progress for 25 years. It opposed progress under Franklin Roosevelt. Mr. Nixon leads a party that voted 90 per cent in the 1930s against a 25 cent minimum wage. He leads a party that voted 90 per cent against $1.25 minimum wage in 1960. Mr. Nixon leads a party that controlled the House, the Senate and the White House in 1953 and 1954. Not a single civil rights bill saw the light of day in either body.

I am not interested in commitments to progress in 1960. I want to look at the record. I want to look at the record, and I want the people of this state and country to know the record of Richard Nixon and the Republican Party. It has stood against progress for 25 years. And we stand for progress and this country needs it. This country has to move ahead. I don’t see any reasons why here in this rich country of ours, 35 per cent of our brightest boys and girls who graduate from high school never see the inside of a college. I don’t see any reason why 15 million Americans should live in substandard housing. I don’t see any reason why a Negro baby and a white baby born side by side on the same day, that that white baby has three times as much chance of finishing high school, four times as much chance of finishing college, one fourth as much chance of being out of work, four times as much chance of owning his own home. We want opportunities for all. We want fairness for all. We want progress for all. (Applause)

Today, the most important new continent in the world is Africa. Do you know how many Negroes there are in our Foreign Service, out of 6,000 people? Do you know how many federal district judges there are in the United States who are Negroes? I think we can do better. I don’t say that everyone has the same talent, but I think everyone should have the same chance to develop his talent. That is what we say. (Applause)

We are committed to progress. We are committed to national justice. We are committed to using the talents of every man and woman. We are committed to moving this country ahead. We are committed to full employment. We are committed to going ahead. The Republican Party is committed to standing still and looking to the past. And I come here tonight in Oakland once again in the closing days of this campaign and ask your hand, your voice. I ask you to join us in moving this country ahead. (Applause)

Franklin D. Roosevelt fought this same fight in the 1930’s, social security, minimum wage, housing, unemployment compensation and fair opportunity. We fight it now in the Sixties. This is your fight. You are involved in this. You hold jobs. You live in homes. You want your children educated. You want full employment. You want medical care when you are older and social security. You want progress. You know this country either moves ahead or falls back. Nobody stands still in the 1960’s. This is your country. This is your fight and I ask you to join me in retiring Richard Nixon to Whittier, California. (Applause)

I want the people of the world to know that in 1960 a new generation of Americans is taking over, a generation committed to progress, committed to picking this country up and moving it forward. I want America to stand as a symbol around the world of what freedom can do. I want everyone in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia, to look to us, not to Khrushchev, but to us. What this country can do, fairness for all people justice – I want progress and we are going to get it. I ask your help. (Applause)

I ask you to march with us. I want to make it clear that the fight in 1960 is between those who are comfortable and those who are concerned, between those who want progress and those who look to the good old days, between those who stand where Dewey stood and Landon and all the others, and those who stand where Woodrow Wilson stood and Franklin Roosevelt. I come here to Oakland in the last five days of this campaign, and I ask your help in moving California and the nation and strengthening the cause of freedom. Join us. Move with us. Let’s go. (Applause)

Speech sourcePapers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Series 12. Speeches and the Press. Box 914, Folder: “Defremery Park, Oakland, California, 2 November 1960”.

When I announced my political memorabilia contest last week, I neglected to tell you my own story of a political memento lost. You could call it the whale that got away from a young boy, though it didn’t quite seem like a whale then.

In early June of 1960, when I was 10 years old, my pastor father went to a Jefferson-Jackson Day Democratic dinner in Minneapolis. Among the candidates who spoke that night was Sen. John F. Kennedy, who was closing in on the presidential nomination.

My dad, who had a parish in a distant suburb on Lake Minnetonka, approached Kennedy afterward and asked for an autograph for his son. Kennedy was charming. “Mixing a little church and state, eh, pastor?” he said when he saw my dad’s collar.

In our family, that wasn’t wholly a joke. My dad was an unabashed liberal who adored Adlai Stevenson. My mom was even more active in Democratic politics. Later that summer, my father took me to the party’s convention in Los Angeles, where he was an alternate delegate (And yes, committed to Stevenson, even when the cause was hopeless).Top Articles

Around that same time, there was an attempt in his Minnesota congregation to fire him for his political activity.

It was effectively scotched when a very conservative elder stood up and said, “Yeah, I don’t like his politics either. But when my mother was in the hospital, he was the first guy there.” My father understood constituent service.

A candidate’s scrawl

At the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, my father thrust a program into Kennedy’s hands, and JFK inscribed it, “To Scott, with best wishes, John F. Kennedy.” His last name was only a K and a line.

I remember being stunned that someone could break so many rules in cursive. Later on, of course, I learned that Kennedy broke many more rules than that.

Certainly, I knew the autograph was special, though to me it came nowhere near matching a Hank Aaron rookie card. When we moved to Tucson, Ariz., a year later, I tossed it in with the rest of my stuff. I took no special care to preserve it.

I haven’t been able to find it since, though I occasionally paw through my childhood mementos in forlorn hope. I’ve always thought of my loss as an act of filial disrespect.

My father went to some lengths to get it. (He did, after all, distrust Kennedy’s father. In our family, the story of the Kennedys buying the West Virginia primary was recited like a chapter from Leviticus).

The contest

Ironically, my JFK autograph would win no prizes in my memorabilia contest: I’ve specified that the political keepsake — button, pen, whatever — has to be local, essentially Santa Clara County.

I tell the story, however, in the hopes that it may jog you into entering. Grab your smartphone, take a photo of your memento, and send it to

We have four categories: Wackiest, Most Historic/Rare, Most Authentically San Jose and Best Button Ensemble. We’ve received several formidable entries — including a Joe Colla nail file and an Al Garza button — but we can use more.

After our judges have selected finalists, readers will get a chance to vote online for their favorites. The prize? Immortality. I’ll write about your entry in the absolute conviction that you have a happier back story than my own.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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1 Response to Kennedy Brothers at Defremery Park

  1. Reblogged this on Rosamond Press and commented:

    My post just for removed from the Belmont Historical Society facebook. I will be contacting a attorney.

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