|Name||Harold E. Stassen|
Bloomington, Minnesota , United States
|| April 13, 1907
|Died||March 04, 2001
|Contributor||The Oncoming Storm|
|Last Modifed||PA Historian|
Dec 04, 2021 01:05pm
Married - Navy - Freemason - Baptist -
|Info||Harold E. Stassen, 93, whose ideas and accomplishments as a lawyer, governor and university president provided him the credentials for so many runs for the presidency that he became known as a perennial candidate, died March 4 at a retirement community in Bloomington, Minn. |
A granddaughter, Rachel Stassen-Berger, told the Associated Press that Gov. Stassen died of natural causes at Friendship Village, where he had been living for the past few years.
Gov. Stassen, a Republican, had one of the most rapid rises to political prominence in the nation's electoral history. When Minnesota voters sent him to the executive mansion in 1938 at age 31, he became known as the "boy governor." Two years later, he gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention.
In 1948, after being reelected governor twice, making a mark as a Navy officer in World War II and serving as a delegate to the San Francisco conference that set up the United Nations, Gov. Stassen sought his party's nomination for the presidency.
Known as a member of the liberal, internationalist wing of his party, Gov. Stassen was regarded as an heir to the progressive Republicanism of Theodore Roosevelt, and his candidacy received substantial support from opinion makers.
Victories in the Wisconsin and Nebraska primaries fueled enthusiasm for his run. Ultimately, he lost the nomination to New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey, who was defeated that November by President Harry S. Truman.
That was the high-water mark for Gov. Stassen's political career. He remained active in public life and held other high-profile positions, but he would never come so close to the pinnacle of American politics.
However, that was not for lack of trying. In all, he campaigned for the Republican nomination at least nine times, the last in 1992. By then, despite his abilities and accomplishments, his service as president of the University of Pennsylvania, his government posts under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, his speeches and his writing, it was sometimes hard for him to avoid arousing amusement.
Newspapers had long before begun to term him a perennial candidate. Contributing to this usage were runs he had made for mayor of Philadelphia and for the nomination as governor of Pennsylvania,and later for Congress and for his old job as Minnesota governor. A toupee that he began to wear, in apparent deference to the power of television, did not help.
Nonetheless, interviewers who sought him out over the years found him the same thoughtful figure he had been, with the same commitment to advancing ideas in which he believed.
His causes over the years included global disarmament, national health care and full employment through public works projects.
"If you just speak out on a major issue and you're only a professor or a teacher or even an editor, it doesn't carry as . . . it would if you're in office or a candidate for office," he was quoted as saying in one news report.
"To be effective," he said on another occasion, "you have to lay it on the line. It's my life."
Each time he ran, he said, "there has been some solid result."
Harold Edward Stassen was born April 13, 1907, on a truck farm in Dakota County, Minn., about six miles from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. All four of his grandparents were immigrants. He attended a rural elementary school, where he completed six grades in four years.
He delivered newspapers while attending high school in St. Paul and finished school at 15. After a year's wait because of his youth, he entered the University of Minnesota in 1922, working as a Pullman car conductor to help pay his way.
At Minnesota, he was a champion orator, captained the university's championship rifle team and held every class office. After college, he entered the university's law school, graduating in 1929. That was the year he entered politics.
Elected county attorney for Dakota County in 1930, he held office until 1938, winning a reputation as a skillful settler of labor disputes.
Newspaper columnist Roscoe Drummond later described his subsequent tenure as governor as providing a "progressive, solvent and humane Republican administration which ultimately won even the support of labor leaders."
In April 1943, four months after he began his third two-year term as governor, he resigned to join the Navy and served in the Pacific as assistant chief of staff to Adm. William Halsey.
In his 1948 presidential bid, he called for federal funds for housing, limited regulation of labor, international cooperation, and adjustment of federal taxes and spending to prevent boom-or-bust swings in the economy.
Some political analysts thought that a turning point in his career came with a debate in which Dewey bested him.
Later in 1948, Gov. Stassen became president at Penn, where he was credited with improving academic standards. A move to boost income by scheduling well-known football powers backfired. As Penn's scholastic reputation rose, its football fortunes declined, and Gov. Stassen was blamed on sports pages long after he had left the campus.
He returned to the presidential race in 1952. He helped turn the convention to Eisenhower by releasing the Minnesota delegation to him at the end of the first ballot. Under Eisenhower, he became director of the Mutual Security Agency, head of the Foreign Operations Administration and a presidential assistant for disarmament. He took a two-month leave of absence to try to substitute another candidate for Richard M. Nixon in the second spot on the 1956 GOP ticket.
One of his books was "Eisenhower: Turning Toward World Peace."
Gov. Stassen also ran for president in 1964, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988 and 1992. In 1992, he won one delegate in the Minnesota primary. He later released the delegate to vote for his choice, and Gov. Stassen got no convention votes.
Stassen's wife of 70 years, Esther, died in October. She was his childhood sweetheart. They had a son and a daughter, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Son of late former West St. Paul Mayor William A. Stassen.
Uncle of late former State Sen. J. Robert Stassen, R-52nd District.