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Wendell Willkie, the last liberal Republican Presidential nominee

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  • Ram Lau
    Wendell Lewis Willkie (February 18, 1892 – October 8, 1944) was a lawyer, born in Elwood, Indiana, the only native of Indiana to be nominated as the
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 19, 2005
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      Wendell Lewis Willkie (February 18, 1892 – October 8, 1944) was a
      lawyer, born in Elwood, Indiana, the only native of Indiana to be
      nominated as the presidential candidate for a national party, having
      never held any sort of high elected office. In 1940 he was the
      Republican nominee for the 1940 presidential election. Willkie lost
      the election to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

      Contents
      1 Political life
      2 External Links
      3 Willkie's Legacy
      4 Notes
      5 Sources

      Political life
      After fighting in World War I, Willkie moved to Akron, Ohio and soon
      gained status in the local Democratic Party. In 1929, Willkie became
      a legal counsel for the New York-based Commonwealth & Southern
      Corporation, the country's largest electric utility holding company.
      He rose through the ranks of the company, and became president in
      1933. He had been an active campaigner at the 1932 Democratic
      National Convention, and might have seemed an unlikely candidate to
      challenge either Roosevelt or one of the president's favorite New
      Deal programs. He had backed another man, Newton Baker, in 1932, but
      once FDR captured the nomination, Willkie supported him and
      contributed to his campaign.

      Soon after the election, Roosevelt proposed legislation creating the
      Tennessee Valley Authority, an organization with far-reaching
      influence that promised to bring flood control and cheap electricity
      to the extremely poor Tennessee Valley. However, this organization
      would compete with existing power companies in the area, including
      Commonwealh & Southern. This prompted Willkie to become an active
      critic of the New Deal, especially the TVA. Willkie had stated
      publicly since 1930 that it would be unconstitutional for the federal
      government to enter the utility business, and now this was quickly
      becoming reality. In April of 1933, Willkie testified against the TVA
      legislation before the House of Representatives. His testimony
      compelled the House to limit the TVA's ability to build transmission
      lines that would compete with existing utility companies (including C
      & S). However, FDR got the Senate to remove those restrictions and
      the resulting law gave the TVA extremely broad power. Because the
      government-run TVA could borrow unlimited funds at low interest
      rates, C & S was unable to compete, and Willkie was forced to sell C
      & S to the TVA in 1939 for $78.6 million. Willkie formally switched
      parties in 1939 on a platform of opposition to Roosevelt's New Deal.
      Willkie campaigned against the New Deal and the government's lack of
      military preparedness. During the election, Roosevelt preempted the
      military issue by expanding military contracts and instituting a
      military draft. Willkie supported a military draft but then reversed
      his approach and accused FDR of warmongering. On election day
      Roosevelt received 27 million votes to Willkie's 22 million, and in
      the U.S. Electoral College, Roosevelt defeated Willkie 449 to 82.

      After the election, Willkie became one of Roosevelt's most unlikely
      allies. To the chagrin of many in his party, Willkie called for
      greater national support for controversial Roosevelt initiatives such
      as the Lend-Lease Act and embarked on a new campaign to awaken
      America from its isolationist slumber. On July 23, 1941, he urged
      unlimited aid to the United Kingdom in its struggle against Nazi
      Germany. That same year he traveled to Britain and the Middle East as
      Roosevelt's personal representative, and in 1942 visited the USSR and
      China in the same capacity. In 1943, Willkie wrote One World, a plea
      for international peacekeeping after the war. Extremely popular,
      millions of copies of the book sold. The book helped to bring the
      U.S. out its isolationist slumber. Also in 1943, together with
      Eleanor Roosevelt and other Americans concerned about the mounting
      threats to peace and democracy, Willkie helped to establish Freedom
      House.

      In the 1944 presidential election Willkie once again sought the
      Republican nomination, choosing his wife's hometown, Rushville,
      Indiana, as his campaign headquarters. But his liberal progressive
      views gained little support due to the rightward shift of the
      Republican Party. Willkie did not support the eventual 1944
      Republican nominee, Thomas Dewey. Willkie began working with the new
      Liberal Party of New York to launch a new national party, but his
      unexpected death ended that movement.

      After surviving several heart attacks, Willkie finally succumbed,
      dying on October 8, 1944 at age fifty-two. Shortly before Willkie
      died, he told a friend, that if he could write his own epitaph and
      had to choose between "here lies a president" or "here lies one who
      contributed to saving freedom," he would prefer the latter. Eleanor
      Roosevelt in her October 12, 1944 My Day column eulogized Willkie as
      a "man of courage.... (whose) outspoken opinions on race relations
      were among his great contributions to the thinking of the world." She
      concluded, "Americans tend to forget the names of the men who lost
      their bid for the presidency. Willkie proved the exception to this
      rule." (1)

      Willkie is buried in East Hill Cemetery, Rushville Indiana.

      External Links
      An Excellent biography of Willkie which includes pages about each
      period of his life (http://www.usfamily.net/web/timwalker/index.html)

      Willkie's Legacy
      Willkie's name was prominently metioned by keynote speaker Zell
      Miller at the 2004 Republican National Convention. Miller, in speech
      approved by key aides to President Bush, praised Willkie's support of
      President Roosevelt's creation of a military draft, and chided John
      Kerry for being critical of President Bush's foreign policy. Miller's
      speech was followed by the renewal of the military draft becoming a
      key campaign issue, with President Bush repeatedly denying Senator
      Kerry's charge that he intended to renew the draft if re-elected and
      with the House of Representatives voting 402-2 against a bill -
      introduced by New York Democrat Rep. Charles B. Rangel - to renew the
      draft.

      Notes
      Eleanor Roosevelt, "My Day." October 12, 1944.
      It's difficult to nail down the correct spelling of "Willkie". A very
      common spelling is "Wilkie", used by the Library of Congress and
      other authoritative sources. However, campaign buttons and other
      material originating from Willkie or his campaign spell it "Willkie",
      along with a U.S. Postal Service stamp commemorating Willkie.

      Sources
      As of this writing (January 20, 2003), most of the text of this
      article was copied from the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site
      (http://www.nps.gov/elro/glossary/wilkie-wendell.htm) operated by the
      National Parks Service (http://www.nps.gov) and placed into the
      public domain (http://www.nps.gov/disclaimer.htm). The original
      authors cite the following sources:

      Kavanagh, Dennis. ed. A Dictionary of Political Biography: Who's Who
      in Twentieth Century World Politics. New York: Oxford University
      Press, 1998, 505.
      Roosevelt, Eleanor. "My Day." October 12, 1944.
      Norton, Mary Beth, et al. A People and a Nation: A History of the
      United States. 6th ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001, 724.
    • greg
      I looked up information on Newton Baker, the man that Wilkie supported in 1932, and here s what I found: http://www.firstworldwar.com/bio/baker.htm Who s Who:
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 19, 2005
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        I looked up information on Newton Baker, the man that Wilkie supported
        in 1932, and here's what I found:

        http://www.firstworldwar.com/bio/baker.htm
        Who's Who: Newton Baker
        Updated - Saturday, 17 April, 2004

        Newton Diehl Baker (1871-1937) Served as U.S. President Woodrow
        Wilson's Secretary of War from March 1916.

        Born in West Virginia in 1871, Baker studied law at John Hopkins
        University before entering legal practice in Cleveland in 1892.

        Baker, a reformist Democratic, was elected mayor of Cleveland from
        1912, a position he held until 1916 when, in early March, he accepted
        Wilson's invitation to become his Secretary of War. His appointment
        came as something of a surprise to many given Baker's earlier
        professed pacifist beliefs. Such views were not forgotten however by
        his right-wing opponents.

        Wilson however had deliberately determined to replace Baker's
        aggressive predecessor, Lindley Garrison, with someone of markedly
        less bellicose, even pacifist, inclinations. Baker had earlier turned
        down, in 1913, Wilson's invitation to become interior secretary.

        Baker's first task as Secretary of War was to authorise and oversee
        the construction of a punitive expedition to Mexico. In agreement with
        Wilson he also supervised America's 'limited preparedness' for war as
        head of the new Council for National Defense in August 1916.

        It was Baker who, in 1917, appointed 'Black Jack' Pershing as
        Commander in Chief of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), a
        decision that sparked the ire of Wilson's Republican nemesis Henry
        Cabot Lodge, who had championed the cause of Leonard Wood (removed
        from field command under the direction of Wilson). Cabot Lodge
        remained deeply suspicious of Baker's pacifist background.

        While Secretary of War Baker drew up plans for compulsory military
        conscription of up to four million men, although performing (along
        with his president) a volte face as their plans drew sustained
        critical fire.

        He gave Pershing consistent backing in the former's desire to maintain
        U.S. independence of frontline command, as well as in supporting
        Pershing's estimate of the men and materials he would need to bring
        with him to France.

        Following the armistice Baker travelled to Paris as a member of the
        U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Along with
        Wilson he helped engineer the League of Nations; ironically U.S.
        participation was eventually vetoed by Congress (once again led by
        Cabot Lodge).

        With war over and a Republican returned to the White House, Baker
        returned to his legal practice in 1920. Eight years later he joined
        the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague. A year later, in
        1929, Herbert Hoover appointed Baker to the Law Enforcement Commission.

        In retirement Baker wrote Why We Went To War (1936). He died the
        following year on Christmas Day 1937 at the age of 66.
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