(40.) WENDELL L. WILLKIE (1892-1944)
“Bare-Foot Lawyer from Wall Street”
Republican Willkie/Charles McNary
Defeated by Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt/Henry Wallace, 1940
Willkie was a lawyer and public utilities executive. He was born in Elwood, Indiana, educated at Indiana University, and came from an educated family of schoolteachers, lawyers, and professional men.
Willkie’s campaign was exciting. The things he said, the things he did, added interest to what was certain to be a one-sided result, but did capture the imagination of thousands who knew nothing, nor cared little about the issues. The “third term” was his principal target. The policies of the two candidates were so much alike that this fanciful monologue illustrates how the voters were forced to choose between personalities: “Say, Franklin, I like the road you’re taking and the way you’re driving. But I think I can do a better job, so please move over, I’m taking the wheel.”
After the campaign, Willkie is said to have explained some extravagant statement he made in electioneering, with the remark, “Oh that was just campaign hooey.” Willkie made a foreign tour, after which he wrote a book entitled, “One World.” He was building his fences for the next election, but did not receive the nomination and died soon after.
It was Harold Ickes, a Roosevelt cabinet member, who called Willkie “The Bare-Foot Lawyer from Wall Street,” in reference to Willkie’s having mid-western mannerisms in spite of serving big power interests.