Aug 202012


If you listen closely to news about the 2012 presidential election, you will note that some folks predict the Republicans will have a “brokered” convention in Tampa come August. A brokered convention is possible when an individual candidate doesn’t reach the magic number of delegates to win the nomination.

Some even speculate that the current crop of Presidential candidates won’t produce a candidate that can win over the opposition. Indiana’s Governor Mitch Daniels has been mentioned as a possible “last minute” candidate for the Republican Party.

Over Sunday lunch, we discussed what this would mean for Indiana.

I asked my husband — who is better schooled in history than me — if this had ever happened before.

“Wendell Willkie,” he said.

My husband grew up near Elwood where Willkie was born to two lawyers, and is still considered Elwood’s favorite son though as an adult he maintained his Indiana residence in his wife’s hometown of Rushville. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from Indiana University. According to a site from George Washington University, Willkie ran against Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 election. Willkie, who was originally a Democrat, worked as a lawyer in New York City and had some heavy hitters from the media who encouraged him to run against FDR. Willkie had never served in public office.

At the Philadelphia convention, on the first ballot the dark-horse Willkie was third to Thomas Dewey. Six roll call ballots later, Willkie was declared the nominee.

Tradition of the day was that the Republican honchos came to Indiana to officially declare Willkie the nominee. On August 17, 1940 Willkie gave his acceptance speech in Elwood to hundreds of Hoosiers and other interested people at a city park.

“On Election Day, FDR received 27 million votes to Willkie’s 22 million, and in the Electoral College, Roosevelt buried Willkie 449 to 82,” according to the GWU website.

Reminiscent of Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals,” Willkie soon became an ally of FDR working closely with the President on many issues. Willkie wrote the best-selling book “One World” in 1943 as a plea for international peace.

When he died in 1944, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt eulogized him in her popular nationwide newspaper column, “My Day.” She wrote Willkie was 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.” For more information, read this history.


Published March 2012 in the “Good Morning” column of the Evansville Courier and Press.

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