- Willkie, Wendell Lewis
- (1892-1944)Born in Elwood, Indiana, Wendell Willkie graduated from Indiana University. After serving in the army during World War I, he established a law practice in Akron, Ohio. In 1929, he became legal counsel for the country’s largest utility company, the Commonwealth and Southern Corporation, and by 1933 he was company president. Initially a Democrat and supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt, he became increasingly critical of the New Deal following the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). He joined the Republican Party in 1939 after he was forced to sell Commonwealth and Southern to the TVA. A gifted public speaker, Willkie’s combination of criticism of public ownership and nonintervention in Europe won him considerable popular support, and in 1940, with the party convention divided between Robert A. Taft, Arthur H. Vandenberg, and Thomas E. Dewey, he won the Republican presidential nomination on the sixth ballot. Defeated by Roosevelt in the election, he increasingly threw his support behind the president because of the deteriorating situation in Europe. He backed aid to Great Britain and in 1941 and 1942 toured Great Britain, the Middle East, the Soviet Union, and China as Roosevelt’s personal representative. His account of his travels, One World (1943), was a best seller, and his appeal for international cooperation and the creation of an international organization of nation states helped win support for the United Nations. It did not necessarily win him friends within the Republican Party, and he failed to win the nomination in 1944 and died shortly afterward.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.