*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.
As this blog is being written, the United States recently completed another presidential election. For every election, there must be someone who did not win. The dictionary defines an also ran as the loser in a contest or race, particularly by a wide margin. The origin of this phrase is believed to be in the late 1800s, when it originally meant a horse which did not finish in the top 3. Let’s look at 8 of these non-winners who visited our area. To be clear, I’m only including those who visited on a non-successful presidential bid, and for whom we have photographs of that visit within University Archives Special Collections (UASC).
Let’s begin 100 years ago, with a 1920 visit from James Middleton Cox. Cox was born in Ohio in 1870, and served as its governor for 3 terms: 1913 to 1915 and 1917 to 1921, the first from Ohio to serve 3 full terms in office. He was also a successful journalist, owning and editing multiple newspapers in Ohio, Florida, and Georgia. Cox’s success as governor made him prominent within the Democratic party, which nominated him as its candidate for president. Cox chose as his running mate the then Assistant Secretary of the (U.S.) Navy a man you may have heard of … Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 1920, Cox visited our corner of the Hoosier state, seen here in Princeton, IN. Cox is 2nd from the left, pictured with several men from Evansville, including Mayor Benjamin Bosse, (2nd from right), a Democrat. Cox and Roosevelt lost in a landslide, winning only 127 electoral votes to 404 for another Ohioan, Warren G. Harding, and his running mate, Calvin Coolidge. Cox/Roosevelt only won 11 of the then 48 states, neither man even carrying his home state.
Next up was a Hoosier boy, Wendell Lewis Willkie, born February 18, 1892, in Elwood, IN. Elwood is about mid-way between Kokomo and Anderson. He graduated from the Indiana University School of Law in 1916, and after serving in World War I, moved to Akron, OH for a position with the Firestone Rubber Company. After going into private practice, he moved to New York, where he served as legal counsel for the Commonwealth & Southern Corporation, a public utility, eventually becoming its president.
Early in his career Willkie was a Democrat; indeed, he had supported the presidential aspirations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932. But, one of FDR’s New Deal initiatives was the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Willkie believed public utilities like he owned would be unable to complete with programs run by the federal government, and thus causing him to move to the Republican Party in 1939. In 1940, he was nominated as the Republican candidate for president. At this point, Willkie had never held any political office. Surprisingly, he won the nomination on the 6th ballot, defeating much better-known candidates, earning the sobriquet “Dark Horse.” He visited Evansville in 1939 or 1940, riding in a motorcade down Main Street. “Despite a well-fought campaign, Willkie lost the election to Roosevelt in a landslide, earning only 82 electoral votes to Roosevelt’s 449. He also lost the popular vote by nearly five million.” Willkie again sought the presidential nomination in 1944 but dropped out after poor early showings. He died October 8, 1944.
Thomas Edward Dewey was born March 24, 1902 in Owosso, MI. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1923 and received his law degree from Columbia University in 1925. He remained in New York, passing the bar in 1926. In 1931 he became chief assistant to the U.S. attorney for the southern district of the state, soon going after bootleggers and racketeers. In 1935 the governor of New York appointed Dewey as special prosecutor for the County of New York, aka Manhattan. He continued his crusade against the mob, eventually sending Lucky Luciano to Sing Sing prison. “Between 1935 and 1937, Dewey won 72 convictions out of 73 prosecutions. His success against New York’s biggest mobsters gave him a huge political platform. He was elected district attorney for New York in 1937; he immediately launched an effort to win the governor’s seat in New York in 1938 but lost. He was successful in his second try, winning the governorship in 1942 and two more terms, serving until 1955.“
Turning his attention to national politics, Dewey failed to garner the Republican presidential nomination in 1940. He was one of those far better-known candidates who lost to Willkie. Trying again in 1944, he won the nomination unanimously, choosing his former rival, Ohio governor John W. Bricker as his running mate. Dewey himself may well have visited Evansville that year, but we have this photographic proof that Bricker did, here speaking from the back of a train.
FDR’s wartime popularity proved too much to overcome. Dewey lost, 99 electoral votes to Roosevelt’s 432. They only won 12 of the then 48 states; Dewey won neither his home state of Michigan nor his adopted state of New York, although Bricker was able to garner the votes of his Ohio constituents. Undeterred, Dewey ran again in 1948. By this time, FDR was gone, having been succeeded in office by his vice-president Harry S. Truman after FDR died in 1945. This time Dewey chose California governor Earl Warren to run with him. Dewey was considered a shoo-in, unless he made a huge public gaffe. Truman’s Democratic party was split 3 ways. Dewey made a whistle-stop trip to Mt. Vernon, IN, and the sign on this caboose shows just how confident he and his supporters were!
After the dust had cleared, results showed that Truman earned 303 electoral votes to Dewey’s 189, with the remaining 39 going to Strom Thurmond. Dewey carried 16 states, Truman 28, and Thurmond 4 (and one of Tennessee’s 11 electoral votes). The Chicago Tribune made the famous gaffe in its headline seen here on November 3, 1948. Dewey went on to be active in Republican politics as an advisor until his death in 1971.
George Corley Wallace was born in Alabama on August 25, 1919. In 1942 he graduated from the University of Alabama Law School and then served in World War II. After the war, he served in the Alabama House of Representatives and as a state judge. He launched his first attempt at the Alabama governorship in 1958. After losing that race, he “became” what he was known for, a staunch segregationist and populist. His 1962 run for the governorship was successful, and he served from 1963 to 1967. His inaugural speech, written by a Ku Klux Klansman, ended with this sentiment: ”Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” In 1963 he made his famous “stand in the schoolhouse door,” literally standing in the doorway of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama to block the entrance of black students Vivian Malone and James Hood. Term limits prohibited a second term as governor, but no matter, his wife Lurleen won that election, making him governor in all but name only from 1967 until her untimely death in 1968. After successfully amending the Alabama constitution to permit a second term, Wallace served as governor of Alabama from 1971 to 1979 and again from 1983 to 1987. During this time period he also made 4 unsuccessful runs for the presidency. In 1964, he failed to get the nomination that went to Lyndon Johnson. In 1968, he ran on the American Independent Party ticket and got 46 electoral votes, winning 4 southern states (plus one vote in North Carolina). In 1972, he was back in the fray, this time vying for the Democratic party nomination against Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, and John Lindsay. Things were going well for Wallace, who had disavowed his earlier stance on segregation.
That is, until May 15, when, while campaigning at a shopping mall in Laurel, MD, he was shot 5 times by would-be assassin Arthur Bremer. One of the bullets lodged in his spinal column, rendering him paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. His 1972 campaign ended abruptly, but Wallace was up for one more try at the presidency in 1976, once again as a Democrat. “From the start, aides noticed that the applause dwindled once crowds saw his shiny wheelchair. Mr. Wallace noticed it, too, and in private he disputed friends who reminded him that Franklin D. Roosevelt had won despite crutches and wheelchair. ”Yeah,” Mr. Wallace told his confidant Oscar Adams, ”they elected Roosevelt, but they didn’t watch him on television every night getting hauled on a plane like he was half-dead.”” Wallace visited Evansville, holding a press conference at the airport April 22, 1976. He dropped out of the race in June, just before the Illinois primary. He served one more term as Alabama governor, dying some 11 years later, in 1998.
To date, the United States has had only one non-elected president, Leslie Lynch King, Jr. If you don’t recognize that we ever had any president by that name, you’d be both right and wrong. King was born in 1913 in Omaha, NE, but his mother soon divorced his father and in 1916 remarried a man in Grand Rapids, MI by the name of Gerald Rudolph Ford. “Leslie King, Jr., did not learn of his biological father until he was a teenager, and after graduating from college he officially changed his name to Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr.” Skipping ahead, Ford was elected to the House of Representatives from Michigan’s 5th district in 1948, serving 12 successive terms from 1949 to 1973. Meanwhile, Richard M. Nixon had been elected president in 1968, with his vice president Spiro Agnew; the two were re-elected in 1972. In 1973, Agnew resigned after pleading no contest to tax evasion and money laundering charges that began during his time as governor of Maryland and continued during his tenancy as vice president. Ford, then House Minority Leader, was nominated and elected by both the Senate and House to serve as vice president. During this time the Watergate scandal was spiraling out of control, and Nixon soon faced impeachment. He resigned on August 8, 1974, and the next day, after only 8 months as vice president, Gerald Ford was sworn in as president.
In 1976, Ford decided to run for election as president in his own right, winning the nomination narrowly after a heated battle with Ronald Reagan. Ford and his running mate, Kansas Senator Robert Dole, faced the Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter and his running mate, Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale. On April 23, 1976, Ford visited Evansville, seen in company of then Evansville Mayor Russell Lloyd in this photo.
On October 27, 1976 Ford’s running mate, Senator Robert Dole, also visited Evansville. History puts Ford/Dole in the also ran column, with Carter’s 297 electoral votes to Ford’s 240. Senator Dole stayed firmly in the also ran group, failing to win the Republic party nomination for president in both 1980 and 1988. In 1996, he was successful at winning the nomination, but lost the election to Bill Clinton, 379 to 159 electoral votes. Dole carried 18 of the 50 states. Ford passed away in 2006; at the time this blog was written, Dole was still living.