It was November 4, 1960, just four days before the election, when Kennedy's plane touched down at Woodrum Field.
Waiting was a crowd several thousand strong, including a young reporter who snagged what might have been the only interview that day.
"I was there with microphone in hand when JFK came down the steps from the plane."
Frosty Landon went on to a distinguished career with the Roanoke Times, but in 1960 he peppered the candidate with questions for a live broadcast on WDBJ radio.
"I didn't remember a single question, but I certainly remembered the one distinctive thing," Landon told us. "And that was showing on the right hand of Kennedy, a band-aid that obviously was there to protect what was left of his hand after a long arduous campaign."
Fay Yopp couldn't hear the speech. Just ten years old, she was too far away, but she remembers seeing Kennedy walk down the steps of the airplane and the excitement that surrounded his visit.
"My dad was just a big Kennedy promoter," Yopp said in an interview. "He was just big and he decided he was coming to the airport, so we all hopped into the car and went out to the airport to see him come in."
Kennedy wouldn't win Virginia, but Landon speculates his Roanoke stop might have helped in West Virginia, which turned out to be a key to his victory over Richard Nixon. And his visit foreshadowed a day when Virginia would become a battleground in presidential politics.
"This was the era of closing schools and massive resistance, and the Byrd machine was in its last hurrah," Landon said. "And here was Kennedy coming in and kind of saying you're going to be a purple state one of these days."
If Kennedy's 1960 visit was a moment of excitement for Roanoke, the reaction three years later was much different. Friday, we'll dig into the WDBJ7 archive again for local coverage of the Kennedy assassination.