By Louise Leigh & Fred Davis
It was the year 1942. World War II raged on and President Roosevelt was in his third term. The Republican Party was groping to find new leadership in order to regain a foothold in national politics. In contrast to the National Republican Party, California politics flourished. The California Republican Assembly had become a formidable political force.
By their second decade of existence, they had indeed accomplished all their original goals. They controlled the Central Committee, Campaign Funds, the precinct organization, and without a CRA endorsement, no Republican candidate could hope to get elected.
At that time, the Governor of California was Earl Warren, a Republican, as was Lt. Governor Fred Houser.
William C. Troyer was the tenth CRA president and was elected in 1943, a non-election year. The most important event during that year was that CRA’s “Fact Finding Committee” recommended Governor Earl Warren head the California Delegation to the National Republican Convention in 1944. He went as a “Favorite Son” candidate, to avoid divisiveness.
In order to see the historic role members of CRA played at the Republican Convention of 1952, it is necessary to go back to the year 1946. Robert Fenton Craig (paid executive secretary of CRA) met with members of the Pasadena Republican Assembly to speak with a potential congressional candidate. That candidate was Richard Nixon, accompanied by his wife, Pat. The CRA subsequently endorsed Nixon, who was elected to Congress in 1946, and again in 1948. In 1950 the CRA endorsed Nixon for U.S. Senate, and he was elected.
At the Republican Convention of 1952, Earl Warren refused the vice presidential offer by Eisenhower because of his unpleasant experience four years previously. U.S. Senator Knowland, after much agonizing, also refused the offer.
The following excerpts from a letter written by CRA Past President Markell Baer (1951-52) to Past President Dick Krugh (1973-74) dated November 8, 1975, best explain the events which took place at the 1952 Republican Convention:
"Then, in 1952, Warren was again a potential candidate for the Presidency. I had the privilege of being on the train with him en route to the Chicago Convention. He reminded me of his experiences with Dewey and made it definite he would not again play second-figure as V.P. or with someone else.
“At that convention, I was appointed the Chief Page for California, which gave me the privilege of attending the many committee meetings, etc. Then, I was asked to serve as aide to Senator Knowland who was our floor leader...
“At the convention, I was finally assigned in charge of the special telephone from the Convention to Warren’s and Eisenhower’s headquarters. The night when Eisenhower was nominated, I first got a call for Earl Warren, and learned Earl had been offered the Vice Presidency nomination and had promptly refused...
“With Earl’s emphatic refusal to Eisenhower, I was told to get Senator Knowland. I did so, and he came to the office where I was and with his father walked up and down, arm in arm, discussing the matter. The father kept saying Bill would be pushed aside and wreck his career, and besides the father almost daily telephoned him regarding affairs at the Tribune (as I personally know) and would not be able to do so with Bill running around as vice president. Meanwhile, the father’s wife sat with me and cried over and over, that Bill should not give in, and I tried to console her. Well, Bill finally did refuse. And that was it.
“Being told to return to the said phone the next morning, I did so, and soon came a call to get Nixon. I called in the pages and was told he was at the Stockyard Inn and so reported. Then someone in Eisenhower’s headquarters phoned me that I had given misinformation, that history was at stake, and it was serious, and I must produce Nixon at once, or else!
“Well I left my post, and personally hurried to the said Inn. The clerk at first wouldn’t talk to me, said he did not know Nixon and he was not registered. However, I did learn that Murray Chotiner was in the hotel and I know Nixon was running around with Chotiner. So I managed to get up to Chotiner’s apartment and in it and found Dick lying on a bed, unshaven, still in his clothes (he had been up much of the night) and looking upset. I told him to get out, get dressed up and get to Eisenhower’s at once.
“Soon after returning to my telephone post, he appeared, in better shape, and again I explained all that had happened. We called a taxi and about an hour later, there he was on the platform with Eisenhower, waving to the crowd of delegates, and was nominated. Since then, he has at times talked to me of this affair and laughed about it.”
Past President, 1949-1950
One wonders how American history would read had Mr. Baer not been able to locate Nixon at that crucial time. The Murray Chotiner mentioned in the letter was CRA president in 1944-45. He was Richard Nixon’s Political Confidante and, later, White House Aide. Mr. Chotiner met with an auto accident and died a week later of an embolism on January 30, 1974. He had been with Nixon for three decades.
In retrospect, Earl Warren was the darling of CRA. In 1941 he was acting Attorney General of California, and CRA endorsed him for Governor. However, Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, with his controversial decisions over the years, turned the admiration of CRA members to consternation. By (circa) 1962, CRA members were circulating petitions urging the impeachment of Earl Warren.
In 1948 CRA revised its bylaws empowering Regional Directors to charter Assembly units who were too far away from county organizations – a great change in the CRA structure.
In 1950, the CRA Lobbying Committee recommended that Election Codes be amended to require reporting of campaign contributions by persons or organizations interested in influencing legislation.