The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 74, July 1970 - April, 1971 Page: 37
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Defeat of the Roosevelt Court Bill in 1937
gress. When Garner heard the news of the court bill he was over-
The first time I ever heard of the bill, or that Joe Robinson or any
of the others heard of it was when the President and Attorney General
Homer Cummings read it to us in the President's Office. It was all
drawn to the last detail and ready for Congress. I loaded my automobile
with Senators and Representatives and took them back to the Capitol.
We were all so stunned we hardly spoke.'
Garner had been irritated by the sit-down strikes, but his excitement
over them was small compared to his reaction to this new issue, which
he felt threatened party harmony.'
A few days later, several party leaders led by Garner suggested a
compromise to the President. It did not have the desired effect for
"the President laughed . . . loudly. .. ." The vice-president was ir-
ritated that his counsel was not followed. Moreover, he loathed the
As a result, Garner, following his normal pattern, began covertly
to rally the opposition. Not one to make a public display of his feel-
ings, he deviated from this habit when the bill was read in the Senate
as he "left the rostrum holding his nose, making [a] thumbs down
gesture... ."" Garner's "squirearchal conservatism had proved strong-
er than the bonds of party or office."' His opposition boded no good
for administration forces." Garner's role in the struggle, however, was
secondary in importance to those of Sumners and Connally.
Sumners, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had heard
'Quoted in Bascom N. Timmons, Garner of Texas: A Personal History (New York,
5Stewart Alsop and Turner Catledge, "The 168 Days: The Story Behind the Story of the
Supreme Court Fight," Saturday Evening Post, CCX (September 25, 1937), 96; William
E. Leuchtenberg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (New York, 1965), 237.
Quotation is from Alsop and Catledge, "The 168 Days," 96.
"Allan Michie and Frank Rhylick, Dixie Demagogues (New York, 1939), 39; Harold L.
Ickes, The Secret Diary of Harold L. Ickes (3 vols.; New York, 1954), II, o18; Burns,
Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox, 294. Quotation is from James T. Patterson, Congres-
sional Conservatism and the New Deal: The Growth of the Conservative Coalition in
Congress, 933-z939 (Lexington, Ky., 1967), 92.
7Michie and Rhylick, Dixie Demagogues, 39.
sTimmons, Garner of Texas, 218. From the outset, the Republicans left the leadership
in the struggle to the Democrats "in order not to make it a partisan issue." Time, XXIX
(February 15, 1937), 19. They encouraged the Democratic opposition, remaining quiet
but interested. See also Samuel I. Rosenman, Working with Roosevelt (New York, 1952),
156-157; Burns, Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox, 3oi.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 74, July 1970 - April, 1971, periodical, 1971; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101200/m1/49/: accessed June 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.