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News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

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Historically Speaking: The Man Who Would Have Been President

By Tom Morrow

Henry Agard Wallace, born Oct. 7, 1888, nearly became president back in 1945, but the Democrat party bosses dumped him for a second term as vice president at the 1944 convention in exchange for a rather obscure senator from Missouri – Harry S. Truman.
Wallace was our 33rd vice president, serving from 1941 through 1945. At the 1944 Democrat convention, some 65 percent of the delegates wanted him for a second term a V.P., but party bosses feared Franklin D. Roosevelt wouldn’t last through another term; they were worried Wallace was too much of a progressive liberal and wouldn’t finish the War against Germany and Japan. The bosses maneuvered Wallace out and within less than a year Truman became president upon FDR’s death on April 12, 1945.
For the first two terms of FDR, Wallace was the Secretary of Agriculture (1933–1940), and after the election of 1944, he was the Secretary of Commerce (1945–1946).
Wallace was a strong supporter of FDR’s New Deal liberalism, and softer policies towards the Soviet Union. His public feuds with other officials and unpopularity with party bosses in major cities caused significant controversy during his time as V.P. under Roosevelt in the midst of World War II.
As Agriculture Secretary, Wallace’s policies were controversial: to raise prices of agricultural commodities he instituted the slaughtering of hogs, plowing up cotton fields, and paying farmers to leave some lands fallow. His family was publisher of the popular farm publication, “Wallace Farmer” of Des Moines, Ia.
The conservative wing of the Democratic Party, many of them Southerners, distrusted Wallace. The old guard Democratic Party bosses thought Wallace was a Republican in disguise and as a doe-eyed mystic who symbolized all that they found objectionable about what they saw as the hopelessly utopian, market-manipulating, bureaucracy-breeding New Deal.
Boos echoed through the convention hall in 1940, when Roosevelt’s choice of Wallace was announced, and the delegates seemed on the verge of rebellion. It was only after Roosevelt threatened to decline the nomination and Eleanor Roosevelt delivered a conciliatory speech that they grudgingly yielded.[28] Wallace received the support of 626 votes, some 59 percent of the 1,100 delegates when nominated at the convention.
As of 2017, Wallace remains the last Democratic vice president who never served in the United States Senate and indeed the last vice president of any party who had not previously held any elected office.
Although a Gallup poll taken just before the 1944 Democratic National Convention found 65 percent of those surveyed favored re-nomination for Wallace and only 2 percent favored Truman , it was the Missouri senator who went on to win the vice presidential nomination. During the 1944 Democratic convention Wallace had a favorable lead on the other candidates for the vice presidential nomination, but lacked the majority needed to win the nomination. In a turn of events much scrutinized, just as Wallace began to receive the votes needed for the nomination, the convention was deemed “a fire hazard” and bosses pushed back voting to the next day. When the convention resumed Truman made a jump from 2 percent in the polls all the way to winning the nomination, Truman succeeded to the Presidency when FDR died.
During his later years Wallace made a number of advances in the field of agricultural science. His many accomplishments included a breed of chicken that at one point accounted for the overwhelming majority of all egg-laying chickens sold across the globe. The Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, the largest agricultural research complex in the world, is named for him.
In 1950 during the McCarthy era, when North Korea invaded South Korea, Wallace broke with the Progressives and backed the U.S.-led effort in the Korean War. Despite this, according to Wallace’s diary, after his 1951 Senate Internal Security Subcommittee testimony, opinion polls showed he was only beaten by gangster Lucky Luciano as the “least approved man in America,”
He wrote various letters to “people who he thought had maligned him” and advocated the re-election of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. In 1961, President-elect John F. Kennedy invited Wallace to his inauguration ceremony, even though he had supported Kennedy’s opponent Richard Nixon.
Wallace first experienced the onsets of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 1964. He died in Danbury, Conn., on Nov. 18, 1965. His remains were cremated and the ashes interred in Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines, Iowa.

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Historically Speaking: The Man Who Would Have Been President