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John Nance Garner III (November 22, 1868 – November 7, 1967), known among his contemporaries as "Cactus Jack", was an American Democratic politician and lawyer from Texas. He was the 32nd Vice President of the United States, serving from 1933 to 1941. He was also the 39th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1931 to 1933. Along with Schuyler Colfax, Garner is one of two individuals to serve as Vice President of the United States and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

John Nance Garner
John Nance Garner.jpg
32nd Vice President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1933 – January 20, 1941
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by Charles Curtis
Succeeded by Henry A. Wallace
39th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
December 7, 1931 – March 4, 1933
President Herbert Hoover
Preceded by Nicholas Longworth
Succeeded by Henry T. Rainey
House Minority Leader
In office
March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1931
Deputy William Allan Oldfield
Preceded by Finis Garrett
Succeeded by Bertrand Snell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 15th district
In office
March 4, 1903 – March 4, 1933
Preceded by Position Established
Succeeded by Milton H. West
Personal details
Born John Nance Garner III
(1868-11-22)November 22, 1868
Red River County, U.S.[1]
Died November 7, 1967(1967-11-07) (aged 98)
Uvalde, Texas, U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mariette Rheiner Garner
Children Tully Charles Garner (1896–1968)
Alma mater Vanderbilt University – dropped out
Signature Cursive signature in ink

Garner began his political career as the county judge of Uvalde County, Texas. He served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1898 to 1902 and won election to represent Texas in the United States House of Representatives in 1902. He represented Texas's 15th congressional district from 1903 to 1933. Garner served as House Minority Leader from 1929 to 1931, and was elevated to Speaker of the House when Democrats won control of the House following the 1930 elections.

Garner sought the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1932 presidential election, but he agreed to serve as Franklin D. Roosevelt's running mate at the 1932 Democratic National Convention. Roosevelt and Garner won the 1932 election and were re-elected in 1936. A conservative Southerner, Garner opposed the sit-down strikes of the labor unions and the New Deal's deficit spending. He broke with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in early 1937 over the issue of enlarging the Supreme Court, and helped defeat it on the grounds that it centralized too much power in the President's hands. Garner again sought the presidency in the 1940 presidential election, but Roosevelt won the party's presidential nomination at the 1940 Democratic National Convention. Garner was replaced as vice president by Henry A. Wallace and retired from public office in 1941.

Contents

BiographyEdit

Early life and familyEdit

Garner was born on November 22, 1868 in a log cabin near Detroit in Red River County to John Nance Garner II and his wife, Sarah Guest Garner[2]. The mud-chinked log cabin that Garner was born in no longer exists but the house that he grew up in survives and is located at 260 South Main Street in Detroit, Texas. It is a large white 2 story house. Garner attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, for one semester before dropping out and returning home. He was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He eventually studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1890[1], and began practice in Uvalde, Uvalde County, Texas.

[3]

Garner was opposed in the County Judge primary by a woman—Mariette Rheiner, a rancher's daughter. Two years later, on 25 November 1895, she married Garner in Sabinal, Texas. They had one child, Tully Charles Garner.

Garner was elected County Judge, and served until 1896.

Texas politicsEdit

 
John Nance Garner as a younger congressman
 
Garner as Speaker of the House

Garner was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1898, and re-elected in 1900. During his service, the legislature selected a state flower for Texas. Garner fervently supported the prickly pear cactus for the honor, and thus earned the nickname "Cactus Jack". (The Bluebonnet was chosen.)

In 1901 Garner voted for the poll tax, a measure passed by the Democratic-dominated legislature to make voter registration more difficult and reduce the number of black, minority and poor white voters on the voting rolls.[4] This disfranchised most minority voters until the 1960s, and ended challenges to Democratic power; Texas became in effect a one-party state.[5]

In 1902, Garner was elected to the United States House of Representatives from the newly created 15th congressional district, a narrow strip reaching south to include tens of thousands of square miles of rural areas. He was elected from the district fourteen subsequent times, serving until 1933. His wife was paid and worked as his private secretary during this period.

Garner was chosen to serve as minority floor leader for the Democrats in 1929, and in 1931 as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, when the Democrats became the majority.

Garner supported passage of the federal income tax but opposed most tariffs except for those on wool and mohair, which were important to his Texas base. He also believed in rural investment, bringing taxpayer dollars to farmers of the Brush Country region of South Texas.[6][unreliable source?]

Garner was popular with his fellow House members in both parties. He held what he called his "board of education" during the era of Prohibition, a gathering spot for lawmakers to drink alcohol, or as Garner called it, "strike a blow for liberty." (The "board of education" was continued by future Speaker Sam Rayburn after Prohibition had ended and Garner had left the House.)[6]

Vice PresidencyEdit

 
Garner with Governor Roosevelt and Kansas Governor Harry Woodring in September 1932

In 1932, Garner ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination. It became evident that Franklin D. Roosevelt, the governor of New York, was the strongest of several candidates, but although he had a solid majority of convention delegates, he was about 100 votes short of the two-thirds required for nomination. Garner cut a deal with Roosevelt, becoming his Vice-Presidential candidate.

Garner was re-elected to the Seventy-third Congress on November 8, 1932, and on the same day was elected Vice President of the United States. He was the second man, Schuyler Colfax being the first, to serve as both Speaker of the House and President of the Senate. Garner was re-elected Vice President with Roosevelt in 1936, serving in that office in total from March 4, 1933, to January 20, 1941.

Like most Vice Presidents in this era, Garner had little to do and little influence on the President's policies. He famously described the Vice-Presidency as being "not worth a bucket of warm piss". (For many years, this quote was bowdlerized as "warm spit".)[7]

During Roosevelt's second term, Garner's previously warm relationship with the President quickly soured, as Garner disagreed sharply with him on a wide range of important issues. Garner supported federal intervention to break up the Flint sit-down strike, supported a balanced federal budget, opposed the Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937 to "pack" the Supreme Court with additional judges, and opposed executive interference with the internal business of the Congress.[8]

During 1938 and 1939, numerous Democratic party leaders urged Garner to run for President in 1940. Garner identified as the champion of the traditional Democratic Party establishment, which often clashed with supporters of Roosevelt's New Deal. The Gallup Poll showed that Garner was the favorite among Democratic voters, based on the assumption that Roosevelt would defer to the longstanding two-term tradition and not run for a third term. Time magazine characterized him on April 15, 1940:

Cactus Jack is 71, sound in wind & limb, a hickory conservative who does not represent the Old South of magnolias, hoopskirts, pillared verandas, but the New South: moneymaking, industrial, hardboiled, still expanding too rapidly to brood over social problems. He stands for oil derricks, sheriffs who use airplanes, prairie skyscrapers, mechanized farms, $100 Stetson hats. Conservative John Garner appeals to many a conservative voter.[9]

Some other Democrats did not find him appealing. In Congressional testimony, union leader John L. Lewis described him as "a labor-baiting, poker-playing, whiskey-drinking, evil old man".[10]

Garner declared his candidacy. Roosevelt refused to say whether he would run again. If he did, it was highly unlikely that Garner could win the nomination, but Garner stayed in the race anyway. He opposed most of Roosevelt's policies, and on principle, opposed presidents serving third terms. At the Democratic National Convention, Roosevelt engineered a "spontaneous" call for his renomination, and won on the first ballot. Garner got only 61 votes out of 1,093. Roosevelt chose Henry A. Wallace to be the Vice Presidential running mate.[11]

Final years and legacyEdit

Garner left office on January 20, 1941, ending a 46-year career in public life. He retired to his home in Uvalde for the last twenty-six years of his life, where he managed his extensive real estate holdings, spent time with his great-grandchildren, and fished. Throughout his retirement, he was consulted by active Democratic politicians and was especially close to Roosevelt's successor Harry S. Truman.

On the morning of Garner's 95th birthday, November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy called to wish him a happy birthday. This was just hours before Kennedy's assassination. Dan Rather states that he visited the Garner ranch that morning to film an interview with Garner, where Miss Texas Wool was in attendance, and that he then flew back to Dallas from Uvalde to deposit the film at then-CBS affiliate KRLD-TV (now Fox owned-and-operated KDFW-TV).[12]

Garner died on November 7, 1967, at the age of 98 years and 350 days, 15 days before his 99th birthday, making him, as of 2017, the longest-lived vice president or president in United States history, a record which was previously held by Benjamin Harrison's Vice President, Levi P. Morton (who died in 1920 on his 96th birthday). He is interred in Uvalde Cemetery.

Garner and Schuyler Colfax, Vice President under Ulysses S. Grant, are the only two Vice Presidents to have been Speaker of the House of Representatives prior to becoming Vice President. As the Vice President is also the President of the Senate, Garner and Colfax are the only people to have served as the presiding officer of both Houses of Congress.

The popular Garner State Park, located 30 miles (48 km) north of Uvalde, bears his name, as does Garner Field just east of Uvalde. The women's dormitory at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde bears Mrs. Garner's name. John Garner Middle School, located in San Antonio's North East Independent School District, is also named after him.

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ a b "John Nance Garner, 32nd Vice President (1933-1941)". Retrieved October 23, 2017. 
  2. ^ https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fga24
  3. ^ In 1893, Garner entered politics, running for county judge of Uvalde County. (Although the county judge in Texas is now primarily the chief administrative officer of a county, comparable to the mayor of a city, the office is a judicial position, and the county judge sits in small civil cases, misdemeanor criminal cases, and probate cases.) At that time, Democrats entirely dominated politics in Texas, and the Democratic nomination for an office was tantamount to election. Thus the Democratic primary election was the real election, with the general election being a formality.
  4. ^ "Nixon v. Condon. Disfranchisement of the Negro in Texas", The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 41, No. 8, June 1932, p. 1212, accessed 21 March 2008
  5. ^ Texas Politics: Historical Barriers to Voting, accessed 11 Apr 2008 Archived April 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b Patrick Cox, University of Texas at Austin, "John Nance Garner," West Texas Historical Association joint meeting with the East Texas Historical Association at Fort Worth, February 26, 2010
  7. ^ Johns, Daniel (July 1, 2012). "The Vice Presidents That History Forgot". Smithsonian. Retrieved January 3, 2017. 
  8. ^ Sean J. Savage (1991). Roosevelt, the Party Leader, 1932–1945. University Press of Kentucky. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-8131-1755-3. 
  9. ^ see online
  10. ^ Time August 7, 1939
  11. ^ Timothy Walch (1997). At the President's Side: The Vice Presidency in the Twentieth Century. University of Missouri Press. p. 50. 
  12. ^ Dan Rather, The Camera Never Blinks (1976), page 113.

Further readingEdit

  • Anders, Evan. Boss Rule in South Texas. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1982.
  • Champagne, Anthony. "John Nance Garner", in Raymond W Smock and Susan W Hammond, eds. Masters of the House: Congressional Leadership Over Two Centuries (1998) pp 144–80
  • Timmons, Bascom N. Garner of Texas: A Personal History. 1948.
  • Will, George. "In Cactus Jack's Footsteps". Jewish World Review Jan 6, 2000.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Curtis
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1933 – January 20, 1941
Succeeded by
Henry A. Wallace
Preceded by
Nicholas Longworth
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
December 7, 1931 – March 4, 1933
Succeeded by
Henry T. Rainey
Preceded by
Finis Garrett
Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives
March 4, 1929 – December 7, 1931
Succeeded by
Bertrand Snell
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
New district
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 15th congressional district

March 4, 1903 – March 4, 1933
Succeeded by
Milton H. West
Party political offices
Preceded by
Joseph T. Robinson
Democratic nominee for
Vice President of the United States

1932, 1936
Succeeded by
Henry A. Wallace
Preceded by
Finis Garrett
House Democratic Leader
1929–1931
Succeeded by
Henry T. Rainey