137 Facts About Wendell Willkie


Wendell Willkie was born in Elwood, Indiana, in 1892; both his parents were lawyers, and he became one.


Wendell Willkie served in World War I but was not sent to France until the final days of the war, and saw no action.


Wendell Willkie settled in Akron, Ohio, where he was initially employed by Firestone, but left for a law firm, becoming one of the leaders of the Akron Bar Association.


Wendell Willkie was rapidly promoted, and became corporate president in 1933.


Between 1933 and 1939, Wendell Willkie fought against the TVA before Congress, in the courts, and before the public.


Wendell Willkie did not run in the 1940 presidential primaries, but positioned himself as an acceptable choice for a deadlocked convention.


Wendell Willkie ran for the Republican nomination in 1944, but bowed out after a disastrous showing in the Wisconsin primary in April.


Wendell Willkie is remembered for giving Roosevelt vital political assistance in 1941, which helped the president to pass Lend-Lease to send supplies to the United Kingdom and other Allied nations.


Lewis Wendell Willkie was born in Elwood, Indiana, on February 18,1892, the son of Henrietta and Herman Francis Willkie.


Wendell Willkie's father was born in Germany, son of Joseph Wilhelm Willecke or Willcke, born 1826.


Wendell Willkie's mother was born in Indiana, to German parents; his grandparents were involved in the unsuccessful 1848 revolutions in Germany.


Wendell Willkie was the fourth of six children, all intelligent, and learned skills during the nightly debates around the dinner table that would later serve him well.


Herman Wendell Willkie, who had come from Prussia with his parents at age four, was intensely involved in progressive politics, and in 1896 took his sons to a torchlight procession for Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, who had come to Elwood during his campaign.


Wendell Willkie started preaching to Wendell to get to work and that kid went to town.


Wendell Willkie was class president his final year, and president of the most prominent fraternity, but resigned from the latter when a sorority blackballed his girlfriend, Gwyneth Harry, as the daughter of immigrants.


Wendell Willkie involved himself in campus politics, successfully managing the campaign of future Indiana governor Paul McNutt for student office, but when Willkie ran himself, he was defeated.


Wendell Willkie graduated in June 1913, and to earn money for law school, taught high school history in Coffeyville, Kansas, coaching debaters and several sports teams.


Wendell Willkie enrolled at Indiana School of Law in late 1915.


Wendell Willkie was a top student, and graduated with high honors in 1916.


Wendell Willkie joined his parents' law firm, but volunteered for the United States Army on April 2,1917, the day President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany.


Wendell Willkie arrived in France as the war was ending and did not see combat.


In France, Wendell Willkie was assigned to defending soldiers who had slipped away for time in Paris against orders.


Wendell Willkie was recommended for promotion to captain, but was discharged in early 1919 before the paperwork went through.


Wendell Willkie considered a run for Congress as a Democrat, but was advised that the district was so Republican he would be unlikely to keep the seat even if he could win it, and his chances might be better in a more urban area.


Wendell Willkie got her way, and in May 1919 Wendell Willkie successfully applied for a job with the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio as head of the legal office that advised workers on wills and other personal matters.


Wendell Willkie was bored there, and on the advice of his wife, left for a law firm despite an offer from Harvey Firestone to double his salary.


Wendell Willkie was a delegate to the 1924 Democratic National Convention, and supported New York Governor Al Smith through the record 103 ballots, when the nomination fell to former West Virginia congressman John W Davis.


Wendell Willkie backed a proposed plank in support of the League of Nations that ultimately failed.


In 1925, Wendell Willkie led a successful effort to oust Klan members on the Akron school board.


Wendell and Edith Willkie moved to New York in October 1929, only weeks before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and found an apartment overlooking Central Park.


Wendell Willkie attended the Broadway theatre, and read through ten newspapers each day.


Wendell Willkie acquired a social life, and met Irita Van Doren, the book review editor of the New York Herald Tribune who became a friend, and later his lover.


Unlike Van Doren, Wendell Willkie was indiscreet about their relationship, and their affair was well known to the reporters covering him during his 1940 presidential campaign.


Much of his work was outside New York City; Wendell Willkie was brought in to help try important cases or aid in the preparation of major legal briefs.


Wendell Willkie promoted Willkie over 50 junior executives, designating the younger man as his successor.


Wendell Willkie maintained his interest in politics, and was a delegate to the 1932 Democratic National Convention.


Wendell Willkie backed Baker, and was an assistant floor manager for his campaign.


Wendell Willkie, although disappointed, backed Roosevelt, and donated $150 to his successful campaign.


Wendell Willkie appeared before the House Military Affairs Committee on April 14,1933.


Wendell Willkie approved of the ideas for development of the Tennessee Valley, but felt that the government role should be limited to selling power generated by dams.


TVA head David Lilienthal was impressed by Wendell Willkie, who left him "somewhat overwhelmed" and "pretty badly scared".


Wendell Willkie angrily denied that he had prompted the lawsuit, though plaintiffs' counsel proved later to have been paid by the Edison Electric Institute, of which Wendell Willkie was a board member.


Wendell Willkie warned that New York capital might avoid Tennessee if the TVA experiment continued, and when Roosevelt gave a speech in praise of the agency, issued a statement rebutting him.


In September 1936, Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie met again at the White House, and a truce followed as both sides waited to see if Roosevelt would be re-elected over the Republican, Kansas Governor Alf Landon.


Wendell Willkie, who voted for Landon, expected a narrow victory for the Republican, but Roosevelt won an overwhelming landslide as Landon won only Maine and Vermont.


Wendell Willkie took his case to the people, writing columns for major publications, and proposing terms for an agreement that The New York Times described as "sensible and realistic".


Wendell Willkie received favorable press, and many invitations to speak.


Securities and Exchange Commission chairman William O Douglas deemed Wendell Willkie to have outsmarted Lilienthal.


Wendell Willkie had long contemplated one, but made no announcement.


Wendell Willkie raised his stock considerably when on January 3,1938, he debated Assistant Attorney General Robert H Jackson on the radio show Town Meeting of the Air.


Wendell Willkie was initially dismissive of the many letters he received urging him to run for president, but soon changed his mind.


Van Doren thought Wendell Willkie could be president, and worked to persuade her contacts.


In that issue, Wendell Willkie wrote an article, "We The People: A Foundation for a Political Platform for Recovery," urging both major parties to omit anti-business policies from their party platforms, protect individual rights, and oppose foreign aggression while supporting world trade.


Wendell Willkie never had any doubt that Roosevelt would run for a third term, and that his route to the White House would have to be through the Republican Party.


Wendell Willkie blamed his allegiance shift on the Roosevelt policies that he deemed anti-business.


Wendell Willkie had voted for Landon in 1936, he said, and he felt that the Democrats no longer represented the values he advocated.


Wendell Willkie spoke often about the threat to America and the need to aid Britain and other Allies.


Kenneth F Simpson, Republican National Committeeman from New York, initially thought the idea of a Willkie run to be silly.


Wendell Willkie did not enter the Republican primaries, placing his hope in a deadlocked convention.


Wendell Willkie especially appealed to liberal, Eastern Establishment Republicans who saw none of the declared candidates to their liking.


Alice Roosevelt Longworth stated that the Wendell Willkie campaign came "from the grass roots of ten thousand country clubs".


Wendell Willkie, who had spoken out against isolationism, and who was a successful executive, was an attractive possibility.


Wendell Willkie made speeches widely, including in a tour of New England that paid off with promises of support, though delegates might first support a favorite son candidate for a ballot or two.


Important converts to Wendell Willkie's cause included Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen and Massachusetts Governor Leverett Saltonstall.


The move to Wendell Willkie was reflected in polls; he went from 3 to 29 percent in the seven weeks before the convention, while Dewey, the frontrunner, fell from 67 to 47 percent.


Dewey, Vandenberg and Taft had large public headquarters, but Wendell Willkie's campaign was run from clandestine rooms at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel.


The opening night of the convention saw the keynote speech by Governor Stassen; he subsequently announced his support for Wendell Willkie and became one of the candidate's floor managers.


Wendell Willkie's address went almost unheard in the hall because of problems with the sound system.


Pryor had cut ticket allocations to delegations that were not for Wendell Willkie, and distributed thousands of standing room passes to Wendell Willkie partisans.


Dewey had planned to go to the convention and withdraw, hoping to stop Wendell Willkie by endorsing Taft, but by the time he decided this, the fifth ballot was about to begin and he could not get to the Civic Center in time.


Wendell Willkie led with 429 delegates after the fifth ballot, while Taft held 377 and Dewey only 57.


Wendell Willkie had offered the vice presidential nomination to Connecticut Governor Raymond Baldwin, a key supporter, but scuttled those plans after his advisors and Republican officials felt that a New York-Connecticut ticket would not give sufficient geographic balance.


Wendell Willkie agreed, and got Baldwin to withdraw as others persuaded McNary, who had called Wendell Willkie a tool of Wall Street after arriving in Philadelphia.


Wendell Willkie had Republican National Committee chairman John Hamilton dismissed on the advice of some of his advisors, who felt Hamilton was too conservative and isolationist, though the former chairman was given the post of executive director with partial responsibility for the Willkie campaign.


At a time when little campaigning was done until after Labor Day, Wendell Willkie left on a five-week working vacation to The Broadmoor, a resort in Colorado Springs, but found neither peace nor privacy.


Wendell Willkie remained in Rushville, where he owned farmland, over the next month, trying to become more associated with his native state than with Wall Street.


Wendell Willkie gave interviews to reporters there, and his firm support of Roosevelt's aid to the Allies led Congressman Martin and Senator McNary to support a peacetime draft despite the strident objections of many Republicans and some Democrats.


Wendell Willkie promised to keep New Deal social welfare programs intact, expand Social Security, and provide full employment, a job for everyone: "I pledge a new world".


Wendell Willkie did not visit the Solid South, though he spoke in Texas, hoping to win it as Hoover had in 1928.


Wendell Willkie filled the Los Angeles Coliseum with 70,000 middle-class supporters, but reporters saw few working-class people at his rallies, and he cancelled some appearances at auto plants in the Midwest.


Wendell Willkie began to argue that Roosevelt would not keep the US out of war, but that he would.


Wendell Willkie was given room to make this argument by the United Kingdom's increasing success in the Battle of Britain, as it was clear a German invasion was not imminent.


The polls showed voters responding positively to this new tack, and Wendell Willkie kept on this course for the remainder of the campaign.


Wendell Willkie received 45 percent of the popular vote to Roosevelt's 55 percent.


Wendell Willkie won 10 states to the president's 38 though he did better than Hoover and Landon had against Roosevelt.


Landon had received some 6,000 letters commiserating with him in his defeat; Wendell Willkie received over 100,000.


Lend-Lease was highly unpopular in the Republican Party, and Wendell Willkie's announcement created a firestorm, with Landon and Taft decrying his actions.


Wendell Willkie had already been planning a visit in support for Britain.


Wendell Willkie visited the president at the White House for the first time as an ally on January 19,1941, the evening before Roosevelt's third swearing-in.


The president asked Wendell Willkie to be his informal personal representative to Britain, and Wendell Willkie accepted.


Wendell Willkie saw the damage Nazi bombing had inflicted on Britain, visiting bombed-out sites in London, Birmingham, Coventry, Manchester and Liverpool.


Wendell Willkie went to Ireland, hoping to persuade Eamon de Valera to abandon neutrality, but his urging was unavailing.


In late 1941, Wendell Willkie fought for the repeal of the Neutrality Act.


Roosevelt invited Wendell Willkie to dedicate Mount Rushmore, but because of other commitments, Wendell Willkie could not.


Roosevelt sought to have Wendell Willkie join his administration, which the Republican was reluctant to do, wishing to preserve independence of word and action.


Labor Secretary Perkins offered to have Wendell Willkie arbitrate between management and labor in war industries, but Wendell Willkie declined after White House officials informed the press.


In early 1942, Wendell Willkie considered a run for Governor of New York.


Wendell Willkie later stated that Roosevelt had been willing to endorse him, but Willkie ultimately concluded that the Dewey forces were too strong and a defeat might eliminate him from a possible run for president in 1944.


In Jerusalem, Wendell Willkie met with Jews and Arabs, told the British rulers of Palestine that both peoples should be brought into the government, and he later wrote that the conflict there was so ancient, it was unrealistic to think that it could "be solved by good will and simple honesty".


Wendell Willkie had been moved to add the Soviet Union to his itinerary when three Western reporters there urged him by telegram to do so.


In China, Wendell Willkie was hosted by Chiang Kai-shek and was deeply fascinated by Madame Chiang.


Wendell Willkie was taken to the front in order to observe the Chinese military forces in their fight against the Japanese, and he spoke out against colonialism, in China and elsewhere.


On October 26,1942, Wendell Willkie made a "Report to the People", telling Americans about his trip in a radio speech heard by about 36 million people.


Wendell Willkie promised to end racial segregation in Washington, DC Wendell Willkie gained the endorsements of the two largest African American newspapers, the Pittsburgh Courier and the Baltimore Afro-American.


Wendell Willkie warned Republicans that only a full commitment to equal rights for minorities would woo African Americans back to the party, and he criticized Roosevelt for yielding to Southern racists among the Democrats.


Wendell Willkie addressed a convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1942, one of the most prominent politicians to do so up to that point.


Wendell Willkie urged integration of the armed forces, and when a violent race riot broke out in Detroit in June 1943, he went on national radio in order to criticize both parties for ignoring racial issues.


On November 9,1942, soon after making his reports to Roosevelt and the American people, Willkie argued the case of Schneiderman v United States before the Supreme Court.


Wendell Willkie spoke out against those who blamed the Jews for the war, warning against "witch-hanging and mob-baiting".


Wendell Willkie spent much of 1943 preparing for a second presidential run, addressing Republican and nonpartisan groups.


Wendell Willkie did not meet with Roosevelt; with the presidential election approaching and with both men likely to run in it as candidates, their continued association would have been awkward.


Wendell Willkie spoke of appointing an African American to either the cabinet or the Supreme Court, and he warned California's Republican committee that the New Deal was irreversible and he stated that all they would get by opposing it was oblivion.


Wendell Willkie made his candidacy clear in an interview with Look magazine in early October 1943, arguing that a return to isolationism would lead the party to disaster.


Wendell Willkie decided to enter several presidential primaries in order to demonstrate his public support of the party, and he chose Wisconsin, with a primary on April 4,1944, as the first major test.


Wendell Willkie had not taken Wisconsin's electoral votes in 1940, though he had won in all parts of the state except Milwaukee.


Wendell Willkie's advisors feared the large German-American vote in Wisconsin, which had contributed to the state being firmly isolationist until Pearl Harbor.


Wendell Willkie stated that if he did badly in Wisconsin, he would end his campaign.


In Wisconsin, Willkie ran a slate of delegates led by future governor Vernon W Thomson, and he devoted two weeks to campaigning there.


Wendell Willkie was endorsed by most newspapers, but polls showed him well behind Dewey both in the state and nationwide.


Wendell Willkie attracted large crowds in most places, and he told them that the Republican party would fail unless it accepted the New Deal and recognized the need for the US to remain active in the world after the war.


Roosevelt was anxious to dump Vice President Wallace from the ticket in his bid for a fourth term, and he had an intermediary sound out Wendell Willkie about running in Wallace's place.


Wendell Willkie was reluctant even to respond, knowing that Roosevelt had made promises to potential running mates which he did not follow through on.


Wendell Willkie got Roosevelt interested in a new liberal party which would be formed once peace came that would combine the left of the two existing major parties, but Wendell Willkie broke off contact with the White House after there were leaks of this to the press, because he felt that Roosevelt had used him for political gain.


Roosevelt's son Elliott later stated that his father hoped to have Wendell Willkie be the first Secretary General of the United Nations, and the two men agreed to meet later in the year.


Wendell Willkie had not been invited to speak at the 1944 Republican National Convention in Chicago that nominated Dewey for president, and he declined a pass as an "honored guest".


Wendell Willkie wrote two articles for Collier's, one urging an internationalist foreign policy, and the other demanding advances in civil rights for African Americans.


Wendell Willkie had long been neglectful of his health and diet, smoking heavily and rarely exercising.


Wendell Willkie's heavy drinking had charmed the reporters in Philadelphia in 1940, but by 1944 it was becoming a problem.


When he arrived in New York, Wendell Willkie was in great pain and his press secretary called an ambulance to take him to Lenox Hill Hospital.


Wendell Willkie recovered to some extent, enough so that his friends expected him to be discharged.


Wendell Willkie spent time working on the galleys of his second book, An American Program, and planned future projects.


The hospital, which had been issuing reassuring bulletins to the public, was now forced to inform the public that Wendell Willkie's condition had worsened and that he was critically ill.


The next morning, Wendell Willkie suffered one last attack, which proved fatal.


Wendell Willkie had suffered over a dozen heart attacks in Lenox Hill Hospital.


Correspondent and author Warren Moscow wrote that after 1940, Wendell Willkie helped Roosevelt, who was always careful not to go too far in front of public opinion, "as a pace-setter with the President's blessing".


Wendell Willkie urged [Americans] to imagine and feel a new form of reciprocity with the world, one that millions of Americans responded to with unprecedented urgency.


Wendell Willkie's advocacy came at a cost to his standing in the Republican Party.