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  Douglas, Paul H.
NamePaul H. Douglas
Chicago, Illinois , United States
Born March 26, 1892
DiedSeptember 24, 1976 (84 years)
Last ModifedCraverguy
Nov 15, 2008 06:40am
Tags Caucasian - Liberal - Government Reform - Internationalist - Jobs/Industrial Growth - Pro-Labor - Divorced - Married - U.S. Marine Corps - ACLU - NAACP - Christian - Straight -
InfoPaul Douglas was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on March 26, 1892, but the contours of his character were formed in the backwoods of Maine, where he was raised by a kindly stepmother. Young Douglas was forced by circumstances of poverty to work his way through Bowdoin College, from which he graduated in 1913 with a Phi Beta Kappa key. After securing a master's degree at Columbia University in 1915, he did a year of postgraduate work at Harvard University and then earned the Ph.D. in economics at Columbia in 1921.

Meanwhile, he taught at the University of Illinois, Reed College, and the University of Washington before accepting an appointment at the University of Chicago. He soon gained a professional reputation as an excellent teacher, a productive scholar, a humanitarian, and a civic activist. In 1927 Douglas became intrigued with the communist experiment going on in the Soviet Union. But after visiting Russia on a trade union mission and observing the aftermath of Lenin's dictatorial powers, he rejected Marxist economic theory.

Douglas became a supporter of the New Deal as Roosevelt began to implement genuine social reforms.Through the influence of Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes, a fellow civic reformer from Chicago, and Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, who knew him as a professional economist, Douglas was appointed in 1933 to the Consumers' Advisory Board of the short-lived National Recovery Administration. All the while, he was generating ideas and agitating for enactment of such New Deal legislation as the Social Security Act, Wagner Act, and Fair Labor Standards Act. He published Wages and the Family (1925), Real Wages in the United States, 1890-1926 (1930), Standards of Unemployment Insurance (1933), Theory of Wages (1934), Controlling Depressions (1935), and Social Security in the United States Photo of Paul Douglas campaigning(1936). Long a friend of organized labor, he served from 1925 to 1942 as chairman of the board of arbitrators for the newspaper industry.

In Chicago he served as vice-chairman of the League for Independent Political Action, was a member of the national committee of the Farmer-Labor Political Federation, and was treasurer for the American Commonwealth Political Federation. In 1935 his friends urged him to run against Democratic Mayor Edward J. Kelly. When the Republicans refused to endorse him as their nominee, Douglas withdrew his candidacy. He ran in 1939 for the Chicago City Council as an Independent Democrat. He won, as it turned out, primarily due to Mayor Kelly's endorsement of him and served as an alderman until 1942.

In conscientious compliance with his Quaker faith, Douglas previously had opposed military preparation on the part of the United States. In 1935, however, after hearing Benito Mussolini announce Italy's invasion of hapless Ethiopia from the Piazza Venezia in Rome, Douglas was shocked into the conclusion that "isolationism was impossible and pacifism self-defeating against dictators." The Spanish Civil War and the sellout of Czechoslovakia at Munich fortified Douglas's belief that the Neutrality Acts only benefited aggressor nations and that the U.S. and other democracies must resist totalitarian aggression, with military force if necessary.

Douglas, who had once opposed the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, began to drill regularly with the volunteer Home Defense Unit at the University of Chicago. At the time, he was approaching his fiftieth birthday. He also became an active member of the Committee to Defend America by Aid to the Allies, known as the William Allen White Committee. In a debate with Norman Thomas-a pacifist, isolationist, and the perennial socialist candidate for president-Douglas criticized both pacifists and isolationists for trying to avoid an unpleasant happening by burying their heads in the sand. He concluded: "Personal pacifism is impossible for any nation to follow." He also acknowledged that aid to the Soviet Union was necessary to insure Hitler's defeat, but added, "It is no merit on Stalin's part that Hitler finally double-crossed his ally."Photo of Paul Douglas being awarded the Bronze Star

In 1942 Paul Douglas tried to win the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate but failed to gain the support of the Cook County Democratic machine. In the primary election he carried ninety-nine out of 102 counties but lost Cook County and the primary election to Congressman Raymond S. McKeough (who was subsequently defeated by Senator Brooks, an unrepentant Republican isolationist).

He insisted, "We cannot let the isolationist minority treat F.D.R. after this war as they treated Woodrow Wilson after the first World War." Douglas thereafter prevailed upon Navy Secretary Frank Knox (a former Chicago publisher) to permit him to enlist in the Marine Corps as a private. When discharged from service in 1946, Douglas was a wounded and decorated lieutenant colonel who had served heroically in the First Marine Division at Okinawa and Peleliu, where he was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He underwent five operations on his injured left arm, but its functional use was never restored.

In his first postwar speech, having resumed his professorship at the University of Chicago, Douglas assumed the stance of an anti-Communist activist. He strongly opposed the expansionism of the Soviet Union and its ironclad control over Eastern Europe: "If the experience of the thirties with fascism has taught us anything," he declared, "it was that it is a mistake to make great sacrifices of principle in order to appease aggression." He stoutly defended the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, and the formation of a strong military alliance with Western European nations.

By 1948 Colonel Jacob M. Arvey had succeeded Mayor Kelly as chairman of the Cook County Democratic organization and was willing to slate Professor Paul Douglas as the party's senatorial candidate. This time, he defeated Senator Brooks. Thus, he began his eighteen-year Senate. He spoke out forcefully for Truman's containment policy and fought for the Fair Deal as he had for the New Deal.

When the United States became involved in the Korean War in 1950, Douglas applauded America's military efforts on behalf of South Korea's right of self-determination against the communist invaders from the north.

During Douglas's three-term career-which spanned the presidential administrations of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson-he was a forceful champion of civil rights, social welfare programs, public housing, extension of Social Security (including Medicare), federal aid to education, concern for the environment, and legislation beneficial to labor unions. Known as an uncompromising idealist, Douglas marched to his own drumbeat.

His fellow senators often characterized Douglas as "the conscience of the U.S. Senate." Senator Douglas frequently noted that "a liberal need not be a wastrel." Some of his views on the standards he set for himself and expected of others are contained in his 1951 Godkin Lectures at Harvard, which were later published as a book, Ethics in Government.

Senator Douglas was especially proud of his work on tax reform and Medicare, his efforts against federal subsidies, and his campaign to save the Indiana dunes. He is remembered too for his work in the area of civil rights in the late fifties--in fact, his efforts during those years provided much of the language for the landmark 1964 civil rights legislation.

He married Emily Taft Douglas, daughter of the famous sculptor, Lorado Taft. Mrs. Douglas was Congresswoman-at-Large from Illinois from 1945 to 1947. They had one daughter, Jean. Mr. Douglas also had four children--Helen, Dorothea, John and Paul--from an earlier marriage. Paul H. Douglas died on September 24, 1976. Mrs. Douglas died on January 28, 1994.


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Wife Emily Taft Douglas 00, 1931-Sep 24, 1976

  11/08/1966 IL US Senate Lost 43.90% (-11.05%)
  11/08/1960 IL US Senate Won 54.63% (+9.43%)
  07/01/1956 US President - D Primaries Lost 0.00% (-50.70%)
  11/02/1954 IL US Senate Won 53.57% (+7.15%)
  07/26/1952 US President - D Convention Lost 0.18% (-37.21%)
  07/01/1952 US President - D Primaries Lost 0.00% (-64.55%)
  11/02/1948 IL US Senate Won 55.07% (+10.45%)
  04/13/1948 IL US Senate - D Primary Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
  04/14/1942 IL US Senate-D Primary Lost 31.41% (-32.49%)
  04/05/1939 Chicago Ward 05 Won 58.18% (+16.37%)
IL US President - D Primary - Apr 08, 1952 D C. Estes Kefauver
US President - D Primaries - Jul 01, 1952 D C. Estes Kefauver
IL US President - Nov 08, 1932 S Norman M. Thomas
US President National Vote - Nov 08, 1932 S Norman M. Thomas
IL US President - Nov 06, 1928 S Norman M. Thomas
IL US President - Nov 04, 1924 R Robert Marion La Follette