Wendell L. Willkie

From Ohio History Central
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Wendell Willkie, 1941

Wendell Lewis Willkie was born on February 18, 1892, in Elwood, Indiana. During the 1920s, Willkie practiced law in Indiana and in Akron, Ohio. He also embarked upon a political career and even sought the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 1932. Willkie lost the nomination to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the man who won the election of 1932.

Following his political setback in 1932, Willkie became the president of the Commonwealth and Southern Corporation, a utility-holding corporation, in 1933. Because of this position, Willkie became a major opponent of President Roosevelt's Tennessee Valley Authority. This program resulted in government control of various utilities in the Tennessee River Valley. Willkie believed that private businesses would not be able to compete with the federal government, possibly hurting his own company's profits. In opposition to Roosevelt's New Deal, Willkie switched to the Republican Party in 1939. In 1940, the Republican Party selected Willkie as its presidential candidate. Roosevelt easily defeated Willkie by five million votes. With World War II's outbreak, the Republican became a strong supporter of Roosevelt and his wartime policies. Roosevelt sent Willkie on numerous diplomatic missions to help built support for the war effort. Despite this new relationship between the two men, Willkie, however, did seek the Republican Party presidential nomination in 1944 to unseat Roosevelt, but the party's brokers objected to Willkie's earlier support for Roosevelt. The nomination went to Thomas Dewey.  

Following his unsuccessful bid for the Republican Party's presidential candidacy in 1944, Willkie sought to form a new political party. Before he could establish this new party, Willkie died on October 8, 1944, from a heart attack.

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