The Garner Vote Switch to Roosevelt:
1932 Democratic Convention
LIONEL V. PATENAUDE*
FOR YEARS MANY WRITERS, MOST OF WHOM WERE JOURNALISTS, SPEC-
ulated how John N. Garner's 90 votes were switched to Roosevelt at
the critical moment on the evening of July I, 1932, at the Democratic
Convention in Chicago. The accepted version is that Garner, a lukewarm
candidate at best, wanted to avoid a deadlock; therefore, out of loyalty to
the Democratic party he released his delegates on the crucial fourth ballot.
Sam Rayburn generally is given credit for persuading Garner to release
the Texas delegation.' The story, however, is more complex.
Because Garner did not openly encourage his candidacy, few organized
efforts had been made in his behalf except in California and Texas. When
the Chicago Convention opened, he had 90 delegates, some second choice
possibilities, and the chance of being a compromise candidate in the event
of a deadlock. Thus the stage was set for some complicated maneuvers, both
secret and overt, to obtain the Garner votes for Roosevelt.2
Knowing that William R. Hearst was behind Garner in California,
Roosevelt's campaign manager James A. Farley, through intermediaries,
kept in close touch with William Gibbs McAdoo, head of the California
delegation. Helping Farley's cause were scores of telegrams to McAdoo
urging him to support Franklin Roosevelt. Moreover, Roosevelt felt that
Garner's vote was "the key to his nomination," and that it "would cinch
the matter." Farley and other Roosevelt supporters had also been busy
lining up Texans for Roosevelt as a second choice.3
*Lionel V. Patenaude is a professor of history at St. Mary's University, San Antonio.
'Bascom N. Timmons, Garner of Texas: A Personal History (New York, 1948), 165-
i66; James A. Farley, Jim Farley's Story: The Roosevelt Years (New York, 1948), 25;
Washington Herald, July r, 1932, John N. Garner Scrapbooks (University of Texas
Archives, Austin, Texas), Book 6; Alla Clary [Secretary to Sam Rayburn] to H. A.
Kamp, August 12, I969, interview, North Texas State University Oral History Collection
(North Texas State University Library, Denton), O.H. 48, p. 48; Alexander Graham
Shanks, "Sam Rayburn and the Democratic Convention of 1932," Texana, III (Winter,
1965), 332; Raymond Moley, After Seven Years (New York, 1939), 31.
2Thomas L. Stokes, Chip Off My Shoulder (Princeton, i940), 319; Ronald E. Chinn,
"Democratic Party Politics in California, 1920-1956" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of
California, Berkeley, I958), 57.
3James A. Farley, Behind The Ballots: The Personal History of a Politician (New
York, 1938), i31; Frank Freidel, Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Triumph (3 vols.; Boston,
I956), III, 290o (first quotation); Carroll Kilpatrick (ed.), Roosevelt and Daniels: A
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101203/. Accessed April 18, 2014.