Tag Archives: Harry S. Truman

Looking for a Candidate

Alben W. Barkley (Lincoln, Ill. Evening Courier)

Alben W. Barkley (Lincoln, Ill. Evening Courier)

It was 1952, and his sinking popularity had convinced President Harry S. Truman not to run for reelection.  But Truman disliked and distrusted the front-runner for his party’s nomination, Democratic Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, and began conspiring with other party leaders to find a more acceptable candidate.  Truman backed Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson, but Stevenson hemmed and hawed about jumping into the race.  Frustrated, Truman turned to his own vice-president, Alben W. Barkley of Kentucky.

Among those enlisted by Truman to promote Barkley at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago was Charles W. Sawyer, a delegate-at-large from Ohio.  When Sawyer met with him, Barkley and his wife Jane had just hiked a mile from the railroad station to their hotel in order to demonstrate the 74-year-old’s robust health.  Sawyer urged Barkley not to be shy about his desire for the nomination and to court as much publicity as possible, especially with his attractive wife by his side.

It worked, and soon Barkley was garnering attention as a serious candidate.  Unfortunately, his rivals, Senator Kefauver and diplomat W. Averell Harriman, convinced two prominent union leaders to pronounce Barkley too old for the nomination.  Barkley, a strong labor supporter, was devastated by the betrayal, and despite Sawyer’s urging to stand and fight, prepared to withdraw.

The party, nevertheless, offered Barkley a chance to speak at the convention.  He was tempted to lace his remarks with bitterness, but Sawyer discouraged him.  Barkley followed the advice, charming the convention with a generous speech and even reviving hopes that he could win the nomination.  But it was too late.  Adlai Stevenson had finally agreed to stand as the party’s nominee, only to suffer defeat in the general election at the hands of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Charles Sawyer’s account of his efforts on behalf of Vice-President Barkley at the 1952 Democratic Convention are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more political collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Comments Off on Looking for a Candidate

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

“Sober Rejoicing”

World War II-era envelope illustration (SC 1819)

World War II-era envelope illustration (SC 1819)

On May 7, 1945, only two weeks after the funeral of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the White House press office issued a short statement: the new president, Harry S. Truman, planned “to make an announcement to the nation by radio at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning.”  The end of World War II in Europe was at hand.

The press release was probably typed by Elizabeth (Phillips) Brite, a Bowling Green native, graduate of the Bowling Green Business University, and secretary to White House press secretary Jonathan W. Daniels.  Elizabeth was uniquely situated to witness Washington’s anticipation of the Nazi surrender.  On May 1, Truman had authorized Daniels to state that should hostilities cease, the President would “emphasize the necessity for thankfulness and for continuation by all Americans in the great war job which still lies before us.”  On May 2, the State Department released a chronology of the week’s negotiations with Germany–the summons of a Swedish intermediary, German commander Heinrich Himmler’s secret peace offer and his claim that Hitler was fatally ill, and America’s coordination with its British and Soviet allies.  Having demanded that capitulation be unconditional and delivered to all three Allied governments, President Truman agreed with London and Moscow that their announcements of victory would be simultaneous.

In Truman’s May 1 message, he had hoped that “there will be no celebration” in light of the unfinished struggle against Japan.  Fred Vinson, a Kentuckian directing the Office of War Mobilization, took a similar stance.  The government would “not attempt to prescribe a rigid rule of conduct” for local celebrations of victory, but he urged that there be no break in war production and “no greater interruption of normal activity than the peoples’ sense of sober rejoicing demands.”  Although many heeded his request for restraint, Victory in Europe Day–May 8, 1945, which also happened to be President Truman’s birthday–nevertheless brought jubilation.

Press releases and other materials relating to V-E Day are part of the Henry and Elizabeth Brite Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives holdings of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For other World War II collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

World War II-era envelope illustration (SC 1819) mocking Hitler by using the name of his father's unwed mother.

World War II-era envelope illustration (SC 1819) mocking Hitler by using the name of his father’s unwed mother.

Comments Off on “Sober Rejoicing”

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives