Preferred Citation: Montgomery, Gayle B., and James W. Johnson One Step from the White House: The Rise and Fall of Senator William F. Knowland. Berkeley, Calif:  University of California Press,  c1998 1998.

13— Betrayed Loyalty

Betrayed Loyalty

At the same time Knowland was running his own 1952 re-election campaign, he was working to help Earl Warren's last-gasp bid for the presidency. Warren, the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1948, had won the party nomination for president in California in the primary. He knew he was in no position to go head to head with either Robert Taft or Dwight Eisenhower, who was widely regarded as a possible candidate even though he had not publicly announced his decision to run for the office. However, with the support of California's big delegation Warren hoped to be a compromise candidate if neither Eisenhower nor Taft could grab the nomination in early ballots. Warren's efforts set off one of the most intriguing stories of backroom politics, loyalties, and betrayed loyalties in election history. The political maneuvering turned Californian against Californian, thwarted Warren's own White House bid, and perhaps even kept Bill Knowland from becoming president the following year.

For Warren's plans to have any chance, he had to have help from Knowland, his fellow Californian. As head of the 1948 California delegation, Knowland had helped the governor become Thomas Dewey's GOP running mate, and he was Warren's choice to spearhead the 1952 attempt. Thus Knowland began working to set up the machinery for California Republicans to choose a delegation pledged to Earl Warren at the national convention in July. On November 7, 1951, he sent a telegram to prominent California Republicans, urging them to ask Warren to run and praising Warren for his vision and for his leadership:


"We know you to be exceptionally qualified to discharge the duties and to meet the obligations of the president of the United States. We know that you have to an exceptional degree won not only the respect and confidence of the people of your own state, but that you enjoy the respect and confidence of your fellow citizens throughout the nation."[1] The telegram concluded by calling on Warren to submit a slate of delegates in the California Republican primary the following June. Also signing the telegram were such powerful state Republicans as State Comptroller Tom Kuchel, who would later replace Richard Nixon as California's junior senator, and Nixon himself.

Although he signed the telegram, Nixon was never a Warren man. As one who long carried grudges, Nixon remembered well Warren's less-than-enthusiastic support of him when he ran for senator in 1950. Knowland talked the reluctant Nixon into backing Warren, pointing out that it would be a slap in the face to Warren if the junior senator from California declined to be a delegate. And though he pledged to support Warren, Nixon had let it be known to his close associates long before the primary that he favored Eisenhower. But he realized early that it would be in his best interests to be a delegate at the convention, even if he had to pledge fealty to Warren. He agreed to join the Warren delegation only if he could have a voice in selecting delegates.

Nixon told close associates that in early 1952 he had met with Taft, who asked for his support. Nixon's response was to make clear his respect for Taft's leadership in the Senate but to stress his belief that in the next few years foreign affairs would be crucial; he told Taft that he thought Eisenhower was better qualified for the job. He said that he was supporting Eisenhower and that he had informed Warren and Knowland of his support, a statement both later disputed. Indeed, Nixon never openly declared any such turn away from Warren. In a radio broadcast just before the June primary, Nixon insisted, "I have constantly stated that the Republican convention should select the very strongest possible nominee at Chicago." Warren was the best candidate, but "if the convention does not turn to Governor Warren, our delegation will be in a position to throw our vote to the candidate who will be selected."[2]

That Nixon's arm had to be twisted to induce him to join the delegation should have been a clear warning to Warren. One of Knowland and Warren's closest associates, Republican National Committeeman McIntyre Faries, said the governor trusted Nixon. "He [Warren] was a bit like Bill, a bit naive," Faries said. "He thought if a man gave his


word in writing he would stand by it."[3] Nixon knew if he could name some of the members of the California delegation, he would be in a position to broker support at the convention. One of those Nixon suggested as a delegate was his old friend Murray Chotiner. Warren disliked Chotiner intensely but finally agreed, to avoid a split with Nixon. "In an attempt to be fair, he gave his approval," said a Warren supporter. "We knew from [thatl . . . time we had to watch Nixon."[4] Knowland was given that assignment. Others named as delegates were Ray Arbuthnot, Pat Hillings, Frank Jorgensen, Roy Day, Jack Drown, and Roy Crocker, all longtime Nixon supporters who would do what he wanted. Knowland already was becoming suspicious of Nixon, but he wanted the junior senator where he could watch him. As Keith McCormac, chairman of the Kern County Republican Central Committee in California, remembered it, Knowland "didn't grasp the situation as to what Nixon was going to do to him. See, he believed that Nixon was an honorable man."[5]

Like all others who were on the primary ballot to serve as delegates, Nixon signed an oath that he would support Warren unless released by the governor. The pledge said, "I personally prefer Earl Warren as nominee of my political party for President of the United States, and hereby declare to the voters of my party in the State of California that if elected as delegate to their national party convention, I shall, to the best of my judgment and ability, support Earl Warren as nominee of my party for President of the United States."[6] To Knowland, that pledge was sacred. Nixon signed it, but he didn't mean it and he didn't follow it.

Friendship to Warren aside, Knowland would have preferred Taft as the party nominee. He had grown to admire Taft during their service together in the Senate, and his philosophy was closer to Taft's conservatism than to Warren's increasing liberalism. Knowland, too, wanted to stack the delegation with his people in case Warren faltered. He wanted some delegates who supported Taft as well, should Warren decide to release his delegation at the convention before the first ballot. But he would not make a move until Warren gave the word.

Both Eisenhower and Taft thought it wise to stay out of California in deference to Warren's power, and neither was on the state's primary ballot. Although Warren was still enormously popular in California, a great deal of that popularity came from across party lines. The Democrats held the edge in registration, and Republicans needed a strong crossover vote to gain election. Indeed, many Old Guard Republicans


in California were becoming disenchanted with Warren because he was promoting government-supported health care and favoring labor unions. "Creeping socialism," they called it.

Right-wingers decided to put up a slate of delegates pledged to "anyone except Warren." It was headed by U.S. Representative Tom Werdel of Bakersfield. Werdel believed that the governor had abandoned Republican tenets and had embraced Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal philosophy. Those who supported the anti-Warren slate said the governor was a Republican by registration only, arguing that he didn't really want to be president but was merely trying to work a deal for a place in a Republican administration. The theme of Werdel's supporters was "real Republicanism versus Warren's Trumanism." They also charged that Warren headed a "captive delegation." Knowland tried to ward off the attacks. In a December 15, 1951, speech in Werdel's backyard, Knowland told a Bakersfield audience that Warren "does not have an ounce of socialism in his makeup. He would make an excellent president."

Anti-Warren forces spent between $500,000 and $600,000; some estimates put the figure as high as $1 million. Warren backers spent no more than $150,000. In the June primary, the governor easily won the contest to represent California's seventy delegates to the Republican National Convention that July, winning twice as many votes as Werdel. Yet a half million California Republicans voted against the incumbent governor, a sign that his support at home was slipping among conservatives. And Warren fared poorly in other states' primaries. While he had a lot of scattered support from Republicans throughout the nation, he only had six other pledged delegates, elected from Wisconsin.

The governor had said during the delegate vote in California that he would not attempt to swing the delegation one way or another if he no longer had a chance to be nominated. Privately, he was telling acquaintances that he would support Eisenhower if he failed to get the nomination. Because he had so few delegates, there were rumors of a possible deal with either Taft or Eisenhower that would land Warren a Supreme Court seat or a cabinet post if he released his delegates to them. But he denied them: "There is nothing, I hope, that I have ever said or done that would indicate anything of the kind. There is no basis in fact for those assumptions." Warren claimed to be hopeful of lining up more delegates once the convention began. "I think I'll have a few more than 76," he said in late June.[7]

Werdel had drawn enough votes in the California primary to weaken Warren, and his chances as a compromise candidate were fading while


Knowland was becoming more powerful. The senator was even talked about as one of the top vice presidential contenders, though he dismissed such talk. He was going to the convention as chairman of the governor's delegation and he would not put his ambitions before Warren's. There is little doubt, however, that if Warren were to release the delegation early, Knowland would quickly jump to Taft. "I was very friendly with Bob Taft . . . I had a high regard for him, but I was [a] senator from California. I didn't feel I could or should participate in advancing the candidacy of someone else while Earl Warren's name was before the convention," Knowland would say later.[8]

Nevertheless, talk on the convention floor was that if Knowland threw his support to Taft he could have the vice presidential nomination. He would have been a perfect fit for Taft: he was conservative, young, a huge vote getter, a veteran, a Westerner. Knowland could not have foreseen that if he had accepted such an offer and Taft had won the presidency, Taft's sudden death would have made Knowland president within a year. But even if he had, the fiercely loyal Knowland would not have abandoned Warren without the governor's blessings.

Richard Nixon had no such qualms. Despite his pledge, he continued to work for Eisenhower and to undermine Warren, an effort that eventually would get him the vice presidential nomination. His maneuvering touched off a political storm that forever soured Warren's and Knowland's relationships with Nixon.

On July 1, six days before the convention began, Nixon told reporters it was anyone's guess who the presidential nominee would be.

Just before the eighteen-car Warren Special left the Western Pacific Station in Sacramento for Chicago on July 3, Knowland was chosen as the delegation's chairman. All delegates were aboard, except Nixon. As Warren remembered in his memoirs, Nixon "sent word that he had conflicting engagements in the East."[9] "The East" was New York, where Nixon was the principal speaker at the annual state GOP fund-raising dinner. After the speech, former New York governor Tom Dewey invited him to his hotel room for a drink. Eisenhower backers Lucius Clay and Herbert Brownell were there. When Dewey broached the subject of the vice presidential nomination, Nixon said he would be delighted to accept it. It wouldn't hurt his chances, he was told, if he helped swing the California delegation to Eisenhower.

After the New York meeting, Nixon traveled to Chicago, where he joined the committee that was writing platform resolutions; it was meeting before the start of the convention. Warren had appointed him


to it at Knowland's urging. "I told [Nixon] that you were desirous of him taking on this assignment," Knowland wrote Warren. "He said he will be glad to serve in that capacity."[10] Knowland and Warren might have thought the committee work would keep the junior senator out of trouble and away from the California delegation, but the ever-shrewd Nixon knew that the assignment would put him in an excellent position to look for disputed delegates when the fight over credentials began. He provided Eisenhower with inside information and maneuvered convention rules to help the general.

Knowland, meanwhile, was holding the California delegation together on the train ride to Chicago. It turned into one big mobile party. The governor's daughters danced in the aisles to the pounding beat of a piano while fireworks were shot out of the train's windows. The mood changed, however, at least for Knowland and Warren, when Nixon boarded the train in Denver. He wasted no time in trying to persuade delegates to switch to Eisenhower. On Nixon's instructions, his delegate Roy Day began going through the train, repeating, "Isn't it too bad that Taft is such a wonderful person, but he's just not electable. It's just a shame." He would tell that to anyone who would listen.[11] Rumors were flying throughout the train within minutes. Knowland moved quickly to counter Nixon, who was telling delegates that Warren could not win the nomination and that they should think about switching to Ike. To some, he even admitted his interest in the vice presidency. Nixon said that if California failed to swing to Eisenhower early, Ike might be unable to reward California as the state deserved—with the vice presidency. And he was the one who should be Ike's running mate.

As Warren remembered it,

Nixon paid his respects to me and said if any of his friends got out of line to let him know. He then visited throughout the train. I do not remember if I saw him again before he left us prior to our arriving in Chicago. Anyway, during the night, the Nixon delegates—but not the [junior] senator as far as I know—held caucuses and urged other delegates to vote for General Eisenhower on the first ballot.

Some of those who were importuned came to me and asked what the situation was. I told them what I had told the voters: that the delegation was not a front for anyone, and that no matter what happened it was obligated to vote for me on the first ballot at least.

During his meeting with Warren on the train, Nixon told the governor that he supported him 100 percent and that the rumors of his


interest in the vice presidency were ridiculous. Warren knew otherwise and called Nixon a traitor. "I wish you would tell General Eisenhower," he told an Eisenhower aide, "eat we resent his people infiltrating, through Nixon, into our delegation and ask him to have it stopped."[12]

Eisenhower denied any knowledge of Nixon's activities and told Warren that if the convention deadlocked he hoped Warren would win the nomination. "If anything happens to Warren's candidacy then the nomination might fall to [Gen. Douglas] MacArthur and that would be a calamity," Eisenhower told associates.[13] In his memoirs, Nixon denied working secretly for Eisenhower while pledged to Warren. "I had already informed Knowland and Warren as to my decision [to support Ike]."[14]

But Knowland flatly disputed Nixon's spin on the events. "There was no doubt about it, in my judgment, that Senator Nixon's secondary choice was clearly Eisenhower, and it's my personal belief that he had indicated that to the Eisenhower people." He said Nixon was, at the very least, letting the delegation know he was behind Eisenhower. "I remember the governor was particularly annoyed . . . when Nixon sent out some kind of a poll to see how the state stood, in the event that Warren was eliminated. I don't know just how the question was put, but the governor felt that this was undercutting him."[15]

After the primary election, Nixon had sent a June 11 letter to 23,000 California Republicans asking them who would be the strongest candidate the Republicans could nominate for president. It asked nothing about whom they preferred if Warren bowed out. When Warren found out about the letter, he asked Nixon supporter Bernie Brennan to intercede to block release of the results. "I was deeply troubled about the way Nixon and some of his closest associates were working for Eisenhower long before we left for Chicago," Brennan said later. "I warned Nixon that if this group did bolt, he would be finished as a man of honor."[16] Warren was especially upset because California Republican voters had just chosen him as their candidate for president, and the delegation was pledged to him. Nixon promised not to release the results, which favored Eisenhower; but they were leaked to the press within twenty-four hours of tabulation.

Thomas J. Mellon, a member of the California delegation, told a different story about Nixon's role. Mellon, who later went on to become the chief administrative officer for the city and county of San Francisco, said several delegates pledged to Warren were working on Nixon "to cut Warren up." Mellon said he had a bedroom on the train across the


aisle from a group of delegates who were meeting with Nixon. Among them were Jack Drown of Long Beach, a close friend of Nixon's, and Frank Jorgensen, a Los Angeles insurance man:

They sat up there that night. They didn't even know I was there, but I was right across the hall and the door happened to be open. . . . I was going to bed and about to close the door when I heard this big discussion going on. I just sat there for about two hours and let these guys talk.

They really put the heat on Nixon. I think he was making an effort to live up to his commitment to Warren, but they were really putting the heat on him. Every possible way. At one point, he said, "Well, after all, I am a United States Senator." And they said, "We don't give a damn what you are." So he was pressured actually by a lot of people in our own delegation. . . . He wasn't pressuring them that night. But where he really fell down, he didn't have quite the courage to meet the commitment he had made.[17]

Fifteen minutes before the train arrived in Chicago, Nixon slipped off at a suburban station. He was not in the photograph showing the "united" delegation arriving in Chicago.

Later that day the California delegation held a caucus at the Knickerbocker Hotel. Knowland opened the meeting by saying that he had reports there were scattered delegates across the country who would be voting for Warren when the convention began polling delegates. In an attempt to offset Nixon's efforts, he urged the California delegates to hold their ground and to "approach the job prayerfully and not take action on unfounded rumor" that Warren didn't have a chance for the nomination. The senator was shaking with anger. "I just want everyone in this room to know," he said, "that never in history has any delegate ever violated his pledge and been respected again." Nixon sat quietly on the platform, without expression. Knowland said that while he could not offer assurances Warren would win, "we have the opportunity to nominate Earl Warren as president of the United States." Even if Warren were to release the delegates, he said, "California will act solely in the interest of the Republican Party and the nation, and not engage in any type of deal whatsoever." He also told the delegation he was not interested in being a "bandwagon jumper."[18] When California's senior senator was through speaking, it was Warren's turn. He praised and thanked the delegation for sticking by him; then he turned to Knowland, saying that he wouldn't trade him "for any six chairmen of other delegations."[19]

Knowland refused to tell anyone who his fallback choice would be if


Warren released the delegation: "If I told somebody in the Taft camp or the Eisenhower camp that California might be for them, or I might be for them on the second ballot, they have to tell their immediate people. That's no longer a secret. Pretty soon it's appearing in a [newspaper] column. My own delegation would be upset, because nobody could have delivered that delegation en bloc, not even Governor Warren, to someone else."[20]

The pressure on Warren to release the delegates would prove to be enormous even before the Twenty-fifth Republican National Convention opened on July 7. A week before the convention, Eisenhower strategists, meeting over coffee and sweet rolls, had spent eight hours at San Francisco's Palace Hotel—the same hotel where President Warren G. Harding had died on August 2, 1923—designing a plan to lure Warren's delegates to Ike. But they underestimated Warren and his backers. They were not open to political approaches and held the line going into the convention. Taft's troops also were trying to buttonhole the Warren delegates, saying that their man had a good chance of winning and that the California delegates should throw in their support early. But Taft's supporters weren't any more successful than Eisenhower's: Knowland was keeping the delegation in line.

The Eisenhower camp was dangling the vice presidency in front of Nixon in the hope that he could get the delegation to switch to Ike or, at the very least, prevent its switch to Taft. "It was Nixon's role to keep California from going to Taft," said Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Eisenhower's preconvention campaign manager. "I approached him on the Senate floor well before the convention, and asked him if he would be interested in the vice presidency. 'Who wouldn't?' he said. Not very elegant, but that's what he said."[21]

As the convention opened, speculation centered on Knowland, Representative Walter Judd of Minnesota, Governor Dan Thornton of Colorado, and Nixon as possible running mates for Eisenhower. Nixon's reputation as an anticommunist crusader, particularly his work on the Alger Hiss case, gave him the edge, some observers said. "I knew that some of Eisenhower's more liberal advisers had preferred Earl Warren [for vice president] to me, and that some of his more conservative advisers had preferred Bill Knowland, or even Bob Taft if he would accept," Nixon wrote in his memoirs.[22] Nixon, too, credited the Hiss case with swinging the tide for him. Newspaper columnist Drew Pearson said that Knowland was clearly "peeved with Nixon and the rumors of his vice presidential nomination."[23]


All the while, Nixon was working behind the scenes to help Eisenhower get the nomination. At one point he confessed to Knowland that he was going to try to deliver the delegation to Eisenhower. Knowland was appalled. Helen Knowland said she found her husband in his hotel room looking stunned. She asked him, "Do you think Nixon double-crossed you?" "Yes, I think so," Knowland replied.[24]

While Nixon was lobbying the delegates for Eisenhower, Taft was trying to persuade Warren to turn the California delegates over to him, stressing that this was his last chance at the presidency. Warren said he held his own share of the delegates, but Taft insisted that only he and Eisenhower had a chance. That might be true, Warren told Taft, "but I had told the people of California how my delegation would vote, and that would be done." Taft asked if there was any position he would like in his administration in exchange for his delegation and mentioned the attorney general's job. Warren told him no, that he would be happy to return to California as governor. "Well," Taft said, "Bill Knowland can have anything he wants." But Warren again rebuffed Taft. "No, Senator, we will go ahead as we promised."[25] Despite the rumors that Taft and Eisenhower were trying to work a deal with Warren to give him a cabinet post or judgeship in their administration, political pundits were saying that Warren was the only man in the United States who could be offered a job no matter which party won the White House.

Taft's floor managers approached Knowland several times during the convention, promising him the vice presidency if he would deliver the California delegation to Taft. "Why no, I wouldn't do that," Knowland said. "As long as Earl Warren is in the picture, I will support Earl Warren." Afterward, an aide who overheard the conversation told Warren about it. "I knew Bill would be that way and that is it," Warren said.[26] Warren pointed out that Knowland "was perfectly loyal to me" and that "he held the delegation together as a solid unit throughout," though he often wondered if Taft had offered the vice presidency to Knowland. "Being senator from California, the only thing Knowland possibly could have been interested in was the vice presidency. Had he accepted such an offer and been elected, he would have become President of the United States, because within a year Senator Taft died. I mention this because thereafter my relations with Knowland, political and otherwise, cooled markedly—not to the breaking point, but noticeably."[27]

Knowland was upset with Warren for refusing to release the delegation despite the odds against his getting the nomination, but while Nixon openly shopped for the vice presidency, Knowland stood by his


pledge to support Warren in his increasingly futile quest for the presidency. Publicly, Knowland said he had told both the Eisenhower and Taft camps that he wasn't interested in the vice presidency. "I enjoyed the Senate, and I was not interested in discussing the vice presidency," Knowland said years later. "After the nomination was made, that would then be for whoever the nominee would be to make the decision."[28] Yet Knowland was also realistic. He owed Warren his loyalty for one ballot and no more. If Warren had released the delegation after the first ballot, there is little doubt that Knowland would have jumped to Taft.

Paul Manolis, Knowland's longtime aide and confidant, confirmed that Knowland would have accepted the second spot on the ticket with Taft. Knowland had spoken to him a number of times about how Hiram Johnson had turned down the chance to be Warren Harding's vice president and that he would have been president when Harding died. "So I don't think the senator ever lost sight of that lesson," Manolis said.[29] But as Knowland's older daughter, Emelyn, emphasized with some regret, her father "would have never made a deal to do something that went back on his word and his integrity in order to further his own career. He should have—I mean in my judgment, I think he should have done it because nobody else was watching out for his interest. Why shouldn't he have, because it was the thing he wanted in life. That man wanted to be president of the United States. He never admitted it publicly, but that's where his whole career was shooting for. That's where he wanted to be."[30]

In an issue published just before the convention, Time magazine suggested that the chances of Warren becoming a compromise candidate were poor. The shift in his fortunes forced politicians "to revise their thinking about California. . . . California's most promising figure now is Knowland, who has the bark and grain of vice presidential timber."[31] No mention was made of Nixon. Time publisher Henry Luce, who had been closely associated with Knowland on the China issue for several years, often used his magazine to further his political interests, and Nixon was not one of those interests. Theodore White, writing in Collier's magazine, observed that Knowland "could play the part of a Roman senator with no coaching at all. His enormous outer self-possesion may make visitors squirm and and fidget . . . but . . . [he is] a man of solid, obstinate honesty."[32]

Herbert Brownell, who would become attorney general in the Eisenhower administration, approached Murray Chotiner about which senator from California would make a better vice presidential candidate.


Chotiner recalled their conversation: "I had worked with both men and I gave him my opinion that Nixon had it over Knowland as a campaigner and also had a wider appeal. He wanted to know what Knowland's reaction would be. I told him that Dick was willing to stand down to Knowland, if the choice narrowed down to the two of them." When Brownell asked Chotiner how Warren would react to Nixon's nomination, Chotiner said he didn't know, but there "had not been any warmth between the two." He also told Brownell Helen Knowland's reaction to Nixon's possible nomination: "Helen said, 'You tell Dick not to think anything of it [about him being chosen over Knowland], to go right ahead and if it is awfully close not to think for a moment how Bill would feel about it.' I reported that to Brownell, and he said, 'Well, if Bill Knowland's wife feels that way about it, why that must be it.'"[33]

At home, the Los Angeles Times 's political editor Kyle Palmer was writing, "Some of the eager beavers who are so busily engaged in conjecturing how many ballots Warren will expect [the delegates] to stay hitched [for] might ponder the significance of Knowland's position and attitude. When Earl Warren's status has been determined one way or the other, Bill Knowland will regard himself as a free agent and not before. Why am I so sure? Do you know Bill Knowland? If not, I can let you in on an important fact: he is an honorable man. He didn't make the pledge to support Earl Warren for President with any shabby reservations. Honorable men don't stab their friends—or enemies—in the back."[34]

Warren later recalled that at the convention, Knowland's father was adamant that his son not accept the number two spot on the ticket, from either presidential contender. J. R. Knowland was heard muttering, "I hope Bill don't accept that vice presidency. I hope Bill don't accept that vice presidency." The elder Knowland apparently believed that Eisenhower would only serve one term and that his son would be ready for the presidency in 1956.[35] Longtime Republican Party worker Frank Jorgensen remembered riding to the convention with Senator Knowland, his wife, and his family. "I remember his father pleading with Bill not to let himself become a candidate for vice president," Jorgensen said. He believed that J.R. wanted his son to be closer to home to take care of family affairs.[36]

Even Bill Knowland sometimes wondered whether he wanted the second spot. He liked being a senator, and he served on the powerful Appropriations, Foreign Relations, and Atomic Energy Committees. He had more voice on the Senate floor than he would playing sec-


ond fiddle to either Taft or Eisenhower. The odds were, however, that mindful of how many presidents had died in office, Knowland would have accepted the vice presidential nomination.

Nixon also was seeking advice from his advisors about whether to accept the vice presidency. "Dick, you're a junior senator from California," Chotiner told him. "Knowland is young and he's healthy, and unless something should happen to him, you will always be second man in California. The junior senator from California doesn't amount to anything. There comes a time when you have to go up or out. Suppose you are the candidate and we lose. You're still the junior senator and you haven't lost anything. If you win and are elected vice president and out at the end of four years, you become all washed up, you could open a law office in Whittier and have all the business you want. Any man who quits political life as vice president as young as you are in years certainly hasn't lost a thing."[37]

If Earl Warren ever had even an outside chance for the presidential nomination, that was all but lost during a battle over seating contested delegates at the convention. Bill Knowland, of course, was right in the middle of it.

Even though Eisenhower enjoyed tremendous popularity after World War II, much of his support was from Democrats. Taft headed into the convention far ahead of Eisenhower in delegates, although he did not have the nomination sewn up. Among pro-Eisenhower southern delegates chosen at state and local party conventions were many independents and ex-Democrats who had entered Republican politics because they supported Eisenhower. The Democrat-dominated South was just beginning what would become a trend over the rest of the century—a move toward the Republican Party in name as well as in conservative vote. But the Taft-controlled state Republican organizations in the South began disqualifying Eisenhower's delegates, leading to charges by the Eisenhower forces that Taft was trying to steal the convention. Ike began attacking the old-line party hacks backing Taft, claiming they were guilty of "a betrayal of the whole Republican Party and its principles" when they "deliberately and ruthlessly disenfranchised" those who had voted for Eisenhower delegates. He said no party "can tolerate a rigged convention and hope to win."[38]

At the start of the convention, the delegate question was the first


major issue to be decided. Some of Taft's strength lay in the disputed delegations of Texas, Georgia, and Louisiana. The credentials committee approved 68 of the contested pro-Taft delegates, but Eisenhower asked for a convention vote on a "Fair Play Amendment" that would block them from voting on the remaining delegates in question. Those delegates would go to Ike if the convention voted for the amendment.

The vote was expected to be extremely close and California would be a key state in the voting. If all 70 California delegates voted for the amendment, Eisenhower would win the contested delegates and would be a shoo-in for the nomination. If the delegates were split, Ike's chances for a first-ballot victory would be considerably reduced. A deadlocked convention then might turn to Warren as a compromise candidate; at the least, such a vote would have aided Taft and boosted Knowland's stock in the Taft camp. In meetings throughout the night, Knowland argued that members of the California delegation should split their 70 evenly and thereby defeat the amendment. Just before the vote, Nixon rushed to the microphone, where he told the delegation, "I feel that any candidate who is nominated for President of the United States would have far greater difficulty in winning in November with those contested Taft delegates than otherwise."[39] Warren urged that the delegation vote in caucus to either support or defeat the amendment. The final vote, 61-9 for the Fair Play Amendment, meant that California would vote as a bloc to seat Eisenhower's delegates.

Knowland noted that when California's 70 votes went for the amendment during the roll call "there was a kind of rumble of 'Oh' through the convention floor. Many people assumed that the same vote would be cast for the presidential candidates as was cast on the rules," Knowland said. "But that was not the case." All 70 delegates stood by Warren on the first ballot.[40] Nevertheless, the Fair Play Amendment started Eisenhower on the road to victory and sealed Warren's fate.

When it appeared, then, that Taft would fall short of the nomination, some of his supporters urged him to switch to General Douglas MacArthur as the presidential candidate. But Taft refused, he said, because he felt he owed it to his friends to go through one ballot. That was a waste of time, Knowland concluded; Eisenhower could not be defeated. "Look," he said, "there won't be a second ballot; he'll win on the first ballot."

As the first ballot approached, Eisenhower was nine votes short of the nomination. Minnesota governor Harold Stassen sent his aide, Warren Burger (the future U.S. chief justice), to Knowland, urging him to


switch to Eisenhower "as a means of healing party wounds." Knowland replied, "We don't want any credit or any responsibility for that nomination." But then Knowland reconsidered. "I've got to go and phone Earl right away to get his [wishes] and see what I can do." But he soon returned, reporting, "I can't get Earl, can't find him, can't get hold of him." Finally Stassen turned his 12 delegates over to Ike, securing the nomination. Warren was to say later that even if Knowland had asked he wouldn't have released his delegation.[41]

Eisenhower supporters were confident of victory after New York cast 92 of its 96 votes for Eisenhower. But they were still worried about California's 70 delegates. They wanted Warren to stay in the race, more to deny the votes to Taft than to get them to switch to Eisenhower. If Warren refused to release his delegates on the first ballot, they believed, Eisenhower could win the nomination. They were right. After the vote Knowland was told that Nixon had said his second choice after Warren for the nomination was Eisenhower. In his typically gruff manner, Knowland replied, "I was for Governor Warren, period. I didn't have a second or third choice." But according to one estimate, had Warren released his delegation earlier, as many as 57 to 60 of the 70 delegates would have cast their votes for Eisenhower.

With Eisenhower chosen as the nominee, the convention then turned to the question of who would be the vice presidential nominee. The choice, of course, was Eisenhower's. It didn't take much to persuade him to go for Nixon, who had been at the head of Ike's short list. Nixon had also come through strongly for him at the convention.

At a meeting of staffers at the Conrad Hilton Hotel the afternoon after the nomination, the choice was fairly clear. It would be Dick Nixon, a man Tom Dewey famously called "a respectable McCarthy." The choice was acceptable to Eisenhower.

Publicly, Warren and Knowland supported the choice of Nixon as the nominee; Warren called it a great honor for California while Knowland called Nixon an excellent choice. But Nixon's actions during the convention had forever turned his two fellow Californians against him.

An ecstatic Nixon called Knowland right after he was told he would be the nominee. Knowland said he then got another call from someone on Nixon's staff asking if he would place Nixon's name in nomination. "I was told by someone whose name I don't recollect . . . that Dick would like to talk to me," Knowland said. "Dick came to the phone and asked whether I would be prepared to place his name in nomination. I had already at that time been informed that he was the choice


as the nominee for vice president. I forgot whether it was Brownell or someone else who informed me."[42] The California senator didn't know that he was Nixon's second choice to give the nominating speech. McIntyre Faries later said that at Nixon's request, they had gone together to ask Senator John Bricker of Ohio to give the speech in the interest of harmony. Bricker, Taft's top man, said he would have to get approval from his delegation. He returned to say that they did not approve.

Knowland didn't answer Nixon immediately. He returned to his hotel and ran into Faries and Tony DeLap, a California state senator from Richmond. "This is going to be awful rough on Bill," DeLap said. "Let's get him out of here, take him around town and take him to lunch." Taking Knowland by the arms, they said, "Let's go out and get a little air." According to Faries, they drove all over Chicago "and we talked about kings and cabbages, and so on." The purpose of the ride was not to persuade Knowland to nominate Nixon but "to give him a chance to react, a chance to think and take his mind off a lot of things." Faries said he was sure Knowland was disappointed that Taft had not won the nomination and that it cost him the vice presidency. "Bill's shirt was as wet as the sheet before you put it in the dryer. He goes back to the [hotel] apartment. He comes back in a clean shirt and makes the nomination of Dick for vice presidential candidate"[43]

Nixon remembered it this way: "I found Bill Knowland and asked him if he would do me the honor of placing my name in nomination. Knowland was not only a personal friend, but also the man whom Bob Taft probably would have chosen as his running mate. Knowland said he would be proud and happy to nominate me."[44]

Knowland proceeded to deliver a particularly lukewarm speech. "I could tell he would have rather had a beating than had to do that," said Keith McCormac, a close Knowland associate who was watching the speech on TV. "You could tell by looking at him. Knowing Knowland like I did, you could tell that he would rather have been anywhere but there, nominating Nixon. I remember the look on his face. He looked like a fellow with egg on his face, you know, when he was making the speech."[45] In his prepared 600-word address, Knowland praised Nixon's "bulldog determination" that enabled "the government to hunt down and unravel the Alger Hiss case." He also praised him as a campaigner "who puts forth more of his heart into a campaign . . . and a young man who gives to the Republican ticket an appeal to the young men and women of this nation."


Two months later, Nixon was in trouble. He had to scramble to rebut charges that he maintained an $18,000 "secret fund" supported by wealthy Republicans. On September 18, 1952, the liberal New York Post ran a story about Nixon's fund with the headline "Secret Rich Men's Trust Fund Keeps Nixon in Style Far Beyond His Salary." It totaled $18,235—a large amount of money in the days when a home could be bought for $10,000. Nixon went on national television to defend himself with the famous "Checkers" speech.

This scandal almost put Knowland back in the running for vice president. The indications were that a couple of Warren backers, still angry about the way Nixon had treated their candidate, had leaked the story to the press in an effort to destroy Nixon and deprive Eisenhower of the election. Many agreed that the fund was neither secret nor illegal, but it suggested that Nixon was in the pockets of the nation's most wealthy men. This image led several of Eisenhower's advisors to urge that Ike dump Nixon from the ticket. Newspaper editorials began to run heavily against him.

On September 20, Ike summoned Knowland from his vacation in Hawaii to stand by as a possible replacement for the beleaguered Nixon. As Eisenhower advisor Sherman Adams remembered it, Knowland was a "valuable liaison man" between Eisenhower and Nixon. "He was a great help in smoothing over this difficult misunderstanding because he knew Nixon privately much better than either Eisenhower or I did at the time," Adams said.[46] On leaving Hawaii, Knowland told reporters that the crisis "will be overcome," but he thought that the Democrats would take advantage of it. When he caught up with the Eisenhower campaign train—the "Look Ahead, Neighbor," special—he immediately went to see Eisenhower. Nixon fund-raiser Earl C. Adams gave a second-hand report of their conversation: "I know from what Bill Knowland told me that Knowland . . . stood up for Nixon and said 'It's no go. You leave him alone and he stays on the ticket.'"[47] Knowland was motivated more by worries about the effect of Nixon's removal from the ticket on Republican chances in November than by any sort of loyalty to Nixon. Eisenhower looked to be the Republicans' first real chance in twenty years to return to the White House.

Three days later Knowland met with several Eisenhower aides at the Statler Hotel in St. Louis. There they developed plans for a coast-to-coast radio hookup for Nixon's rebuttal speech, which was to be televised as well. Harold Stassen was urging Nixon to drop out and be replaced by Earl Warren. Eisenhower was leaving it up to Nixon to


decide what to do. Nixon told Ike, "General, a time comes in politics when you have to shit or get off the pot." To which Eisenhower replied, "Keep your chin up."[48]

In his speech, Nixon spoke about his humble upbringing, his wife's "Republican cloth coat," and the Texan who had given his family the cocker spaniel named Checkers. He described how important the dog was to his two young daughters, with a catch in his voice, and said, "We're going to keep it." The speech was widely derided as demeaning and corny, "one of the most sickening, disgusting, maudlin performances ever experienced."[49] Nevertheless, it worked; Nixon saved his spot on the ticket, and another chance for the vice presidency dissolved for Knowland.

Always the loyal Republican, Knowland stated publicly that he had "full confidence" in Nixon. The next day Nixon left to campaign in Montana, while Eisenhower, with Knowland aboard his train, headed for Wheeling, West Virginia. While there, Eisenhower decided to keep Nixon on the ticket, summoning him to Wheeling. When Nixon got off the plane, Eisenhower and Knowland were there to meet him. Ike said to Nixon, "You're my boy." Knowland told him, "That was a great speech, Dick." Nixon then buried his head on Knowland's shoulder and wept, a scene that was photographed and displayed in virtually every newspaper in the United States the next day. "It was quite a tense and emotional situation," Knowland recalled. "I said, 'Everything is going to be all right, Dick,' and he came over and said, 'Good old Bill.'"[50]

It was not surprising that Knowland was there for Nixon to lean on; he always put the party first. It was true that Knowland didn't trust Nixon, but as his daughter Emelyn Jewett said, "I think it's a fair statement that he never publicly washed that linen, but he watched very carefully what Nixon was up to. I think they had a good working relationship as far as the business activities . . . were concerned," she said. "Dad did some things that were contrary to this thing that I say was a lack of trust in Nixon. But again, you have to understand Dad and his sense of morality—that even if you don't like or trust someone, if they're getting a bad rap they're not responsible for, Dad doesn't feel they should be hung on that issue; hang them on the issues that they're really responsible for."

Jewett said Knowland comforted Nixon after the speech "because he didn't believe this was an issue upon which Nixon should be thrown out and that the man deserved support at this time on that issue. But


that did not mean that there was a lasting close friendship and alliance there. . . . Dad was straightforward and honest and candid, and when he made a statement it was based upon his true beliefs. Nixon was a political expedient. I think my dad saw through him and didn't admire him because of that, because Nixon would take sides on issues based upon what was going to help Nixon. Dad took an issue based on what he felt was right whether it would hurt him or not. That was the difference in the two men, and it wasn't easily reconcilable."[51]

The 1952 campaign was Earl Warren's last hurrah in elective politics. Although Knowland was his own man now, he had one piece of unfinished work to do. Despite the coolness that had settled in over their relationship, Knowland felt he had a debt to repay Warren. While traveling with Eisenhower on his campaign train, Knowland persuaded Eisenhower to promise that Warren would be named to fill the next vacancy on the Supreme Court. Knowland traveled to thirty-four states campaigning for Eisenhower. He was able to spend the time on the presidential campaign because he had locked up his Senate race at home by winning both the Democratic and Republican nominations.

GOP National Committeeman McIntyre Faries said that after Knowland's return to California, they discussed the Supreme Court deal, calling it "just a friendship deal that Bill put through."[52] Nevertheless, Knowland always would deny publicly that any deal was made to assure a seat on the Supreme Court for Warren. "I can personally knock down any story of a deal, because a deal could not have been made without me having knowledge of it," Knowland told an interviewer in 1967.[53]

Eisenhower kept his promise to Knowland, although he later would regret the day he made that appointment. Faries may have called it a friendship deal, but Knowland knew that he had to get Warren out of the picture in California: otherwise, he would continue to live in Warren's shadow. With Nixon on his way to the vice presidency and Warren soon to sit on the Supreme Court, Knowland was at the top of Republican politics in California.


13— Betrayed Loyalty

Preferred Citation: Montgomery, Gayle B., and James W. Johnson One Step from the White House: The Rise and Fall of Senator William F. Knowland. Berkeley, Calif:  University of California Press,  c1998 1998.