Opinion: Vice President Spiro Agnew visited city 50 years ago this week when Tennessee was ‘purple’

Vice President Spiro Agnew speaks as he attends the National Congress of American Indians convention in Albuquerque, N.M., Oct. 10, 1969. (AP Photo)

U.S. vice presidential visits to Chattanooga have not been uncommon in the latter part of the 20th century and early part of the 21st century, but they rarely come in the heat of an election campaign as one did when Tennessee was a purple state 50 years ago this week.

Fifty years ago this Wednesday, in the midst of President Richard Nixon's re-election battle, Vice President Spiro Agnew came to the city to campaign for the Republican ticket.

Although the Nixon-Agnew team would win 49 states that November, nothing was certain six weeks out, and Tennessee was at the time what would later be termed a purple state, meaning it couldn't be certain whether its voters would favor Democrats or Republicans. Indeed, from the election of 1964 through the election of 1996, the state voted for Republicans five times and Democrats four times.