Young Turks (U.S. politics)

The Young Turks was a splinter group of politicians in the United States within the Republican Party during the early 1960s. The group, mostly consisting of Congressmen who had become disenchanted with the course of the Republican Party, worked within the system to appoint their fellow members into leadership roles, so they could take control of the party.[1] They were considered "rebels" by the traditional Republicans.[1][2] Gerald R. Ford, who would become President of the United States, rose to prominence as a Young Turk.


There has been no special meaning given or discussed for the group's choice of the name "Young Turks" in any of the biographical collections of the members. The dictionary definition states, "an insurgent or a member of an insurgent group especially in a political advocating changes within a usually established group".[3] The name was inspired by the Young Turks, a Turkish nationalist reform movement in the early twentieth century.


The group began in the early 1960s as a loose network of younger Republican congressmen.[4] According to an article that appeared in New York Magazine in 1975, Charles E. Goodell of New York and Robert P. Griffin of Michigan got together in January 1963 and came up with a plan to supplant one of the elder statesmen, Charles Hoeven, who was Chairman of the House Republican Conference. They solicited Gerald R. Ford of Michigan as the challenger. Ford agreed and won the ballot, becoming the new Chairman.[2]

It was Lyndon B. Johnson's landslide defeat of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 Presidential election, coupled with heavy losses in the House, that mobilized all the key players to further action. The Young Turks questioned the Republican Party's viability[4] and wanted to change the direction of the Republican Party.[5]Donald Rumsfeld, another member of the group, later wrote about how dire it was, "Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives were reduced to a low of 140 of the 435 Members of Congress. There were so many Democrats that some had to sit in the Republican side of the [a]isle."[6]

The Young Turks decided it was time to take control and replace the top Republican leadership in Congress. They picked Gerald Ford over their other option, Melvin Laird (Wisconsin), to oust the presiding House Minority Leader, Charles Halleck. Their choice of Ford, and his subsequent win, set the stage for Ford to later be tapped as Vice President, and then President by succession.[citation needed]


According to New York, members included:[2]

Representative from Missouri, January 3, 1951–January 3, 1969
Representative from Kansas, January 3, 1961–January 3, 1967
Deputy Secretary of Defense, December 1975–January 1977 (under Ford)
Representative from Michigan, January 3, 1949–December 6, 1973
House Minority Leader, January 3, 1965–December 6, 1973
Vice President, December 6, 1973–August 9, 1974 (under Richard Nixon)
President, August 9, 1974–January 20, 1977
Representative from New York, May 26, 1959–September 9, 1968
Senator from New York, September 10, 1968–January 3, 1971
Representative from Michigan, January 3, 1957–May 11, 1966
Senator from Michigan, May 11, 1966–January 3, 1979
Representative from Wisconsin, January 3, 1953–January 21, 1969
Secretary of Defense, January 21, 1969–January 29, 1973 (under Nixon)
Representative from Minnesota, February 18, 1958–January 3, 1979
Governor of Minnesota, January 4, 1979–January 3, 1983
Representative from Illinois, January 3, 1963–March 20, 1969
White House Chief of Staff, September 21, 1974–November 20, 1975 (under Ford)
Secretary of Defense, November 20, 1975–January 20, 1977 (under Ford)
Secretary of Defense, January 20, 2001–December 18, 2006 (under George W. Bush)


  1. ^ a b Rumsfeld, Donald (2012). Known and Unknown: A Memoir. Sentinel Trade. p. 91. ISBN 978-1595230843.
  2. ^ a b c Reeves, Richard (October 13, 1975). "Why American Politicians Are So Bad: The Case History of Gerald Ford". New York Magazine: 35.
  3. ^ Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  4. ^ a b Siracusa Ph.D., Joseph M. (2012). Encyclopedia of the Kennedys: The People and Events That Shaped America. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1598845389.
  5. ^ Peabody, Robert L. "Professor of Political Science". ROBERT L. PEABODY RESEARCH INTERVIEW NOTES, 1964-67. Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  6. ^ Rumsfeld, Donald. "The Ford-Halleck Race 1964-1965" (PDF). Rumsfeld Personal Library. Retrieved March 23, 2013.