Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 13, 1976 · Page 75
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 75

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 13, 1976
Page 75
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Page 75 article text (OCR)

Alfred E.Smilli... A Catholic conservative. William Jennings Bryan. Wanted a fourth shot. William C.MoAdoo... Backed hv the K!an. Oscar W. Underwood... Wanted an anti-Klan plank. values. It was Christ on the cross who said, 'Father forgive them for they know not what they do.' And my friends, we can exterminate Ku K l u x i s m better by recognizing their honesty and teaching them that they are wrong." Boos and hisses followed him off the podiurn. The balloting took two hours and it was 120 minutes of uncontrolled pandemonium. Fights broke out all over the hall. There were arguments, there was name calling, there was wrestling matches and brawls. The galleries chanted and roared and stamped their feet. At last it was over and the attempt to name the Klan had failed by one vote. The chairman announced the tally and quickly declared the session adjourned. The Klan fight, most observers now agree, hardened the prejudices of the two opposing camps. The convention had become the battleground of a religious war. McAdoo's delegates, angered by the Smith galleries, were determined to stay with their man to the end. Smith partisans "seeing a burning cross and a white sheet behind McAdoo" were equally determined to deny him the n o m i n a t i o n . It became a struggle to the death. The state by state voting for the presidential nominees began accompanied by chants of "Ku, ku McAdoo" from the galleries whenever McAdoo's name was mentioned countered by "Booze, booze, booze" from the floor when anyone mentioned Smith. In two days, the convention took 30 ballots and there was almost no change in the relative standing of the two leading candidates. On July 2. eight days after the convention had opened, just after the 38th ballot Bryan asked permission to explain his vote to the convention. He had come back to McA- d o o i n s p i t e o f t h e D o h e n y connection, s a y i n g t h a t if there were any drop of oil on McAdoo "it has beeri washed off through the virulent opposition of Wall Street to his candidacy." A m i d catcalls of "Throw him out! Throw him out! Bryan spoke for more than an hour. It was a rambling, disconnected speech in terrupted time and again with jeer: and angry i n s u l t s . When Bryai stumbled from the stage, delegate: rose to shout they were sorry the\ ever voted for him three times. The stalemate continued. To win i' Ma.aazinr. -June !·'!. 1H7H a c a n d i d a t e needed more than a simple majority of the delegates voting. He needed two thirds of the votes and while McAdoo came close, he never achieved this magic figure. Smith had an unbreakable lock on enough votes to deny McAdoo the n o m i n a t i o n . On July 3 alone. 19 ballots were taken -- the most on any single day of any convention in American history. The total number of roll calls reached 61 -- and while the Democrats didn't know it, they still had 42 to go- The delegates were running out of money. "Gentlemen," the leader of the pro-Smith Massachusetts group told his delegation, "we've got to pick a more liberal candidate or a cheaper hotel." The Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan fell ill of ptomaine poisoning and only the quick intervention of the 1,200 policemen assigned to control the convention prevented the Texas delegation from burning a cross outside Madison Square Garden. Davis, who was staying in New York at the home of Frank Polk, was dismayed at the course the convention had taken. A f t e r the 60th inconclusive ballot, he wrote a letter to Clem Shaver asking his name be withdrawn because "this is no time for the pursuit of personal ambition" but the letter was either never delivered or, if delivered, never used. Davis met with Sen. Glass and they discussed events. Between themselves, they decided that Davis would make one more try and if he failed he would swing his support to Glass. Glass already had the promises of the leaders of the New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, and several other delegations that they would give their votes to him on the 104th ballot. Meanwhile, influential supporters of McAdoo and Smith had been pushing their candidates to withdraw to save whatever was left of the party. Smith agreed but McAdoo dug in his heels. He was determined on one last ditch effort. On July 8. his lieutenants worked to bring stray delegates back into the fold, but the effort was futile. And on July 9 a weary McAdoo surrendered. James M. Cox of Ohio, the party's presidential nominee in 1920 and its titular leader now called on his state delegation to rally behind Davis as the only candidate "even remotely able to reunite the party." Davis's vote total began to mount although William Jennings Bryan denounced him as a "Wall Street man" and scurried from.delegation to delegation attempting to stem the Davis tide. So thankful were the delegates at last to have seemingly found a candidate they could agree on that they hastened to support Davis without any clear knowledge of where he stood on the issues. Gov. Pat Neff of Texas said his state was switching its votes because "Texas is proud to support that outstanding liberal. John W. Davis." This, wrote Elmer Davis wryly, "was news to a good many people who supported John W. Davis because he seemed to them to represent the finest type of conservative Democrat. But who can refuse 40 votes?" Franklin D. Roosevelt switched 40 of New York's 60 votes to Davis and then, on the 103rd ballot, Sen. Claude K. Swanson of Virginia delivered his state's vote to Davis. declaiming?"The wound of 1863 is closed. V i r g i n i a f a l l s in behind West Virginia. Righteousness and peace have kissed each other; Virg i n i a casts 24 votes for J o h n W. Davis." In Clarksburg, they set off fireworks and held a parade. In Charleston. Gov. Ephraim F. Morgan, a Republican, praised Davis's character. The Charleston Gazette, a Democratic newspaper, burbled with editorial joy at the choice. "West V i r g i n i a now is on the map," the Gazette crowed. "She is. by a bound, lifted to a position of first importance . . . The country has answered the misrepresentations to which this proud people has been subjected. The voice of reason has been heard and this state, rich in resources of men. women, and the materials of industry, has been named to lead the country out of the w i l d e r n e s s of doubt and distress . . . There arc literally tens of thousands of Republicans who are today West Virginians and who will take" p r i d e in h o n o r i n g her i l l u s - trious citizen by seeing to it that John W. Davis receives the vote of the state in the electoral college." The Republican Daily Mail was more restrained. "The Democrats," the Mail said in a lead editorial, "succeeded in picking what most West Virginians, irrespective of party, will hail as the best man of the entire lot for their candidate for president. The Democrats, in national convention assembled, have rarely exhibited such good sense." The M a i l i n d i c a t e d , however, that it still preferred Coolidge as president since he was a Republican and thus not susceptible to the quirks and follies which even the best Democrat was heir to. The Democratic party had picked its candidate, but it was in a shambles. The party's bickerings and fratricidal battles had been carried into American homes by radio and the general feeling was that a party that couldn't govern itself any bettor t h a n that, c e r t a i n l y c o u l d n ' t govern the country. Davis recognized his problems. When a friend congratulated him o n h i s n o m i n a t i o n , h e a n swered: "Thanks. But you know what it's worth." Driving one last nail into its cof- f i n , the Democratic p a r t y chose 'Jov. Charles Bryan--William Jenn i n g ' s b r o t h e r -- a s Davis's vice presidential running mate. It was an attempt to shut off Bryan's caterwauling about "Wall Street lawyers" and in t h i s , at least, it worked. But it set other Democratic teeth on edge. Al Smith later said t h a t d u r i n g t h e c a m p a i g n , "hundreds, no thousands, of people, mostly women, asked me if there was any way they could vote for Davis and not for Bryan." And Carter Glass fumed: "The one haunting thing . . . is . . . t h a t a man l i k e J o h n Davis would consent to have on the ticket with him a fellow l i k e Brother Charlie, a cheap edition of the party's most pestiferous harlequin . . . his support is not worth a bauble . . . it will weaken Davis in those debatable eastern states, which he must carry in order to be elected." Davis's candidacy was doomed from the start. No one could possibly pull the party back together. The McAdoo people and the Smith people h a t e d each other w i t h a burning h;itred that no call to parly loyalty could overcome. D a v i s t r i e d . He spoke everywhere in the tones of sweet reason. Most of his speeches he wrote himself and those who heard them say there was nothing to compare to them until Adlai E. Stevenson cam- paigned in 1952 and 1956. He didn't gel much help. McAdoo l e f t for Europe and d i d n ' t come back until the election was over. Smith made a couple of speeches, but then pleaded "rheumatism" and quit the stump to begin laying his own plans for 1928. Bryan supported Davis fcrvenlly and no one sver figured out if this helped or Hurt. Coolidge, the Republican candidate, sat in.the White House and ;aid nothing. Teapot Dome was sel- ,ling and none of the scandal had duck to him. "I don'l recall," Coolidge told )ne Republican party official who ,vas after him to make a speech, 'any candidate for president that ,'ver injured himself by not talk- n 8-" Sen. Robert M. LaFollette, the Wisconsin Republican, siphoned off some of the support Davis might have had by d e c l a r i n g himself a Progressive and running for president on his own ticket. On election day, 1924, Davis went down to defeat, losing even his own home precinct in Clarksburg and his own stale of West Virginia in the Coolidge landslide. Coolidge won with almost 16 million popular votes and 382 electoral voles lo eight and a h a l f m i l l i o n popular votes and 136 electoral votes for Davis. What kind of a president might Davis have made? In his book, They Al* Kan, Irving Stone writes of Davis that "in his rich and versatile nature he had every quality except anger" and compares him f a v o r a b l y with Thomas Jefferson. Davis's biographer, Harbaugh, says however thai in the essentials, Davis and Coolidge were much alike and thai a Davis presidency, while warmer and more outgoing t h a n that of Coolidge, probably would not have changed Ihe course of the nation's history. Davis was never bitter about losing the election. "I believe," he lold a friend lale in life, "I have been a fair success cxcepl as a c a n d i d a t e for president." Davis also wrote: "After Ihe campaign was over, one of my rigidly pielislic friends s a i d : ' D i d you say a n y l h i n g you didn't believe?' 'Oh, yes,' I said. 'I w e n t a r o u n d t h e country t e l l i n g people I was going to be elected and I knew I hadn't any more chance than a snowball in hell." CIIAKUWON. W.VA -, m

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