Election 1940: Willkie Deplores Racial Attack (10-13-40)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 13, 1940)

Defense Efforts Scored —

Deplores Prejudice, Cites Failure of Efforts To Build Up Arms

By Joseph L. Myler, United Press Staff Writer

Albany, N.Y., Oct. 12 –

Wendell Willkie charged tonight that the Democratic Party was attempting to “arouse racial prejudice” in the United States and asserted that his criticism of the New Deal had been answered only by silence and failure to build “any defense of any kind.”

Speaking before an estimated 18,000 persons in Hawkins Stadium, the Republican presidential nominee departed from his prepared address on national defense to charge that the Democratic National Committee had made “an attack on my father and my wife.”

He began his address by saying he had just listened to a radio broadcast by President Roosevelt “on a presume military inspection.”

Mentions Roosevelt Talk

In that speech, he (Mr. Roosevelt) spoke at great length about the necessity of tolerance in America and of the necessity of the people in this new land to live in peace and tolerance and understanding. He very properly said that only thus would this way of life continue in America.

On the self same day, the Democratic National Committee distributed as scurrilous an attempt as ever occurred in American life to arouse racial prejudice.

In New York, Julian D. Rainey, chairman of the Negro Division of the Democratic National Committee, branded as a falsehood the charge that his organization had circulated an anti-Willkie statement accusing the Republican presidential nominee of racial bias. The alleged statement had referred to the nationality of Mr. Willkie’s father and his wife. Mr. Willkie’s grandfather was born in Germany. The statement also said that Mr. Willkie’s wife was born in Kentucky "of German parentage. His (Willkie’s) whole background is German."

“It (the alleged statement) seeks to arouse class against class, section against section, all for purely political profit,” Mr. Willkie charged, adding that he would reply to it in greater detail at a later date.

Denounces Spending

“I denounced that,” he declared.

Then the presidential nominee reverted to the prepared text of his speech in which he criticized New Deal spending and defense “delay.”

Mr. Willkie alluded to Mr. Roosevelt’s statement in 1932 that there was “nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Now, we are in a different crisis – a different kind of crisis. And the chief difference between this crisis and the previous one is that we do indeed know what to fear.

We must fear the New Deal.

Mr. Willkie said the only answer to his charges against the New Deal had been silence and sham “military inspection trips” and increased activity by “corrupt political bosses.”

Long Delay Cited

Mr. Willkie said that “this administration has hampered defense” and cited in proof what he said was a two-and-a-half year delay in passing the defense plant amortization bill.

There was, he said, “No defense of any kind, just the drawing of a ‘red herring’ across the trail by mentioning an international crisis which the New Deal itself help to create.”

When the candidate read in his text a letter from General William Haskell, commanding general of the New York National Guard, to the effect that the general did not know when he was going to receive essential defense weapons, someone in the crowd shouted: “They’re on order.”

Mr. Willkie replied:

Yes, they’re “on order,” but no doughboy ever made the mistake of firing a rifle that was “on order.”

Arsenal Work Hit

Mr. Willkie charged that in addition to delay in passing the amortization bill signed by the President last Wednesday, the New Deal also had failed to keep the national arsenals operating at a high rate of production.

The government arsenals should be pilot plants. They should serve as a model to show the way to private industry in a national emergency.

But the New Deal, he said:

…is stubbornly opposed to production. For two and a half years, it blocked a vital measure needed to permit the expansion of our private industrial plants, and all the while it was letting our government arsenals become run down and obsolete.

Mr. Willkie attacked Mr. Roosevelt’s “military inspection” trips which, he asserted, were purely political.

New Deal Talk Hit

With all due deference to the third term candidate, he doesn’t know anything about the manufacture of steel.

In asserting that the New Deal knew nothing of production, Mr. Willkie added:

Except the production of words – which it produces in large and useless volumes.

The recital of such a record brings joy to no one. The leader of the nation talking recklessly to this nation and that nation threatening this nation and that nation…

He said, “such an incompetent administration,” was:

…playing politics with our defense; they are playing politics with our security; we must rid ourselves of this administration; we must save this free land; we cannot afford to have it involved in any foreign was for which we are hopelessly unprepared because of the caprices of this administration.

Earlier today, Mr. Willkie told thousands in industrial Massachusetts that “the smokeless factory is the perfect symbol of what the New Deal has brought about” and promised, if elected President, to “set the wheels of industry turning again.”

The Republican nominee proclaimed a triple policy of “prosperity, adequate defense and national unity” in Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, before going to Albany.

Promises Higher Pay

He was greeted by crowds which ranged, according to police estimates, from 4,000 to 20,000.

Noting that it was Columbus Day, Mr. Willkie paid tribute to the discoverer’s daring and vision and declared:

If you release the courage and imagination of Americans, we can make these towns grow again. If we don’t make America prosperous, we are but forging the instruments with which some dictator will one day enslave us.

Asserting that he knew how to create “jobs at constantly higher wages,” Mr. Willkie said he would give industry “the blessing of the government and not its hatred,” and he would free industry from “a hostile government that spends billions to control votes.”

Hits Rising Debt

At the textile city of Lawrence, Mr. Willkie told a crowd which had voted Democratic in the past that he, rather than President Roosevelt, represented the Democratic Party’s true principles.

Andrew Jackson completely paid off the federal debt and Democrats have always been the watchdog of the Treasury. Certainly concentration of power in Washington is not a democratic principle.

At Springfield, Mr. Willkie told the crowd, estimated by police at 15,000 that he had visited some 39 states in his month-old continental tour and that “overwhelming” audiences had greeted him everywhere.

He said, “this way of government cannot continue to function unless there is full free discussion of public issues.” The crowds which had head him, he said, were proof that “democracy was still working” here.


The Pittsburgh Press (October 13, 1940)

’Smear’ Effort Charged —

Negroes Note German Ancestry and Alleged Racial Prejudices

New York, Oct. 12 (UP) –

The Colored Division of the Democratic National Committee began issuing pamphlets today calling attention to Wendell L. Willkie’s German ancestry and alleged anti-Negro activities of his birthplace, Elwood, Indiana. The National Committee of Democrats-For-Willkie simultaneously charged that Democratic leaders had “descended to a smear campaign.”

The Colored Division pamphlets were sent to prospective Democratic campaign speakers. It was recalled that during a speech here last weekend, Mr. Willkie, the Republican presidential nominee, had said that a “whispering campaign” was being waged against him and that anyone who impugned his patriotism was “a coward and a cur.”

The pamphlet began:

Wendell Willkie’s father was born in Germany. Willkie’s grandfather was born in Germany. Willkie’s mother’s parents were born in Germany. Willkie’s wife was born in Kentucky of German parentage. His whole background is German.

Willkie Backers Reply

Alan Valentine, executive director of Democrats-For-Willkie, whose members include John W. Hanes, former Under Secretary of the Treasury under President Roosevelt and Lewis W. Douglas, former budget director, said:

The press disclosed today the depths to which Edward J. Flynn (Democratic National Chairman) and Charles Michelson (Democratic publicist), accredited leaders of Mr. Roosevelt’s third term campaign, have descended in their attempts to smear Wendell Willkie, and tie him up with Adolf Hitler.

The pamphlet continued:

Hitler, in his book Mein Kampf, states that “Negroes are lower than apes.” He says that France must be destroyed because it is polluted with Negro blood…Willkie was never a candidate for public office until the present international situation arose…Mr. Willkie was nominated at Philadelphia by the Hitler formula, otherwise known as the blitzkrieg…

Mr. Valentine said this was “an unscrupulous attempt to make voters believe Mr. Willkie is running for office simply to help Hitler.” Of the Philadelphia “blitzkrieg” charge, Mr. Valentine said:

This, from a little group of ambitious men who nominated Mr. Roosevelt in Chicago!

Family Excoriated

The pamphlet said that:

Willkie was born in Elwood, Indiana. His father was the leading citizen…and took the leadership in forming all of its policies. Among these policies was the policy excluding all Negroes from residence in Elwood…signs were displayed…reading: "Nigger, don’t let the sum go down on you."

Mr. Valentine said:

These charges and slurs against Wendell Willkie, who enlisted the day of America’s entry into the World War in 1917 and fought Germany then, who volunteered his services to defend Negro soldiers before court martials in France, who fought the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, make a new low in efforts to conceal the menace of the Third Term “grab.”