The 1940 Democratic National Convention
The 1940 Democratic Convention posed a dilemma for sitting President Franklin Roosevelt--he had already served two terms, the precedent set by George Washington, but the country was on the brink of joining in World War II and needed a strong leader. The possibility of a third term was present, but many were opposed to it on principle. Chicago mayor Ed Kelly, friend and ally of Roosevelt, wanted the president to run for a third term, but Roosevelt remained noncommittal, irritating many party leaders. The convention lacked direction.
Roosevelt did not want to campaign actively for the nomination; he wanted to be nominated spontaneously and with unanimous support. He sent a memo to the convention stating that he did not desire to be nominated, that delegates could nominate whomever they pleased. As this memo was being read, an amplified voice broke in shouting "No! No! No! We want Roosevelt!" Mayor Kelly had wired an electrician's room in the stadium basement with a microphone tapped to the public address system. The voice belonged to Thomas D. Garry, Chicago's superintendent of sewers. The convention went into an uproar and Roosevelt won the nomination with 946 votes.
Roosevelt's choice for vice president was not very well supported, however. He picked Henry A. Wallace, a former Republican from Iowa who was considered aloof and idealistic by many. Roosevelt decided to resign if his choice wasn't honored and sent his wife, Eleanor, to rally the delegates. She spoke to the convention, urging Democrats to support their leader in trying times, and Wallace was voted in.
On November 5, 1940, Roosevelt defeated Republican Wendell Willkie and became America's first third-term president.
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