CRA History
The Louise Leigh / Fred Davis Work

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Gearing Up Again

At the 18th Annual Convention March 2-4, 1951 in Long Beach, the main topic was the 1952 Presidential campaign. Arthur Strehlow was named to chair a 36-member Candidates' Committee.

At the November, 1951 Board of Directors meeting in Palm Springs, the committee urged Governor Warren to again allow himself to be endorsed for President.

This move followed a similar action by 17 Republican leaders, including Nixon and Knowland.

The Warren resolution sparked considerable discussion. Ed Shattuck said he favored General Dwight Eisenhower, but still felt that the California delegation should be pledged to Warren. Modesto's Horace Dryden was critical of Warren (the nature of his criticism is not available), and said folks in his neck of the woods favored Senator Taft of Ohio. Shattuck said a combination of either Eisenhower-Warren or Warren-Taft would be unbeatable."

President Markell Baer presided over the 29th Annual Convention of CRA in San Francisco on Jan. 13, 1952. The convention endorsed Senator Knowland for re-election, and endorsed Warren for President.

Joe Russell of Ventura challenged Warren's "Republicanism." Russell said either General Douglas MacArthur or Senator Bob Taft should carry the GOP banner in November.

Gordon Richmond, too, was skeptical of the Warren movement, but for a different reason: "Until the... party gets back to the people and adopts some of Warren's forward-looking ideas, we will be defeated by the Democrats as we have been in the past," said Richmond. It is unclear what he meant by Warren's "forward-looking ideas."

Warren, vacationing in Hawaii, wired his regrets that he was missing the convention, and noted that it was only the second convention he had missed since CRA was formed 20 years before.

David Ingalls spoke on behalf of Senator Taft's presidential candidacy. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge spoke for Eisenhower. Harold Stassen spoke for himself. Senator Knowland delivered the main address.

In the June 3 primary of 1952, the Warren presidential slate was opposed by a slate headed by Congressman Werdell. The Werdell slate was for "candidates other than Warren." The Warren slate won, although the Werdell "anybody else" slate carried Orange County.

In those days of cross-filing, Senator Knowland won the nomination of both parties, making his November run a mere formality.

Historic Convention

The CRA, which had helped spawn the political career of Richard Nixon, and which made him a narrow choice for its senatorial endorsement in 1950, played another key role in his becoming the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 1952.

Excerpts from a letter written by past CRA president Markell Baer to fellow past-president Dick Krugh in 1975, recall the intrigue of the 1952 National Convention in Chicago:

"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.

"On the way to Chicago, Dick Nixon left the train and flew into Chicago and on returning to the train, informed the delegates that Earl had no chance; that Eisenhower or Taft would win out. Earl never forgot this, and never since trusted Nixon and thought Nixon had betrayed him. Anyway, Warren did lose the nomination.

"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. Days later, Eisenhower's office in Washington phoned me as to my ideas as Earl being Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. As years before I had been a special secretary ofthe Supreme Court of California I was interested and did approve Earl's appointment. As it turned out, a vacancy occurred in the Chief Justiceship, and in time I regretted Earl being appointed to such a post. But that is another story.

"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 knew Nixon was running around with Chotiner. So l 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.

Markell Baer
Past President, 1949-1950"

Where would history have led us if Markell Baer had not been able to locate Dick Nixon that fateful day at the Stockyard Inn?

Murray Chotiner, who served as CRA president in 1944-45, was one of Nixon's top confidantes, and would later serve as a key White House aide. He died from the effects of an auto crash in 1974. He had served Nixon for three decades.

Earl Warren's quest for the presidency was at an end. The curious period during which he was the darling of the CRA was also drawing to a close. The first time (1942) that CRA held a pre-primary endorsing convention, they endorsed Warren for governor. At every convention since then, they pushed his candidacy for whatever office he sought, up to and including 1952. That year, CRA's romance with Warren ended, but the romance with Dick Nixon, which had begun in Pasadena in 1946, began to reach full blossom.

By 1962, CRA members were circulating petitions calling for the impeachment of Chief Justice Earl Warren.

But in November 1952, CRA members were beside themselves with joy. Dwight David Eisenhower and Richard Milhouse Nixon had carried the Republican Party to national victory. Twenty California Republicans were elected to Congress. Ike-Nixon carried California by almost 700,000 votes.

For the first time since the New Deal began in 1932, the Grand Old Party had captured the White House.

And CRA enjoyed tremendous power and importance in California politics.

A Gathering of Winners

It is easy to visualize the euphoric atmosphere of the 2Oth Annual CRA Convention in Los Angeles, which opened March 6, 1953. Present-day CRA members who went to the 1981 meeting, following the victory of President Reagan, can easily understand the feeling.

Speakers at the 1953 convention included Robert Kirkwood, newly elected Controller of California, James Silliman, the new Speaker of the State Assembly, and at the Saturday night banquet, new U.S. Senator Thomas Kuchel. Kuchel was another California Republican who enjoyed a period of support by CRA, but who, like Earl Warren, would later fall into disfavor with the organization over what were considered to be "liberal" attitudes.

When Governor Warren addressed a luncheon meeting of the '53 convention, he was introduced as "the friend of the California Republican Assembly."

Vice-President Richard Nixon, who had enjoyed CRA support when he ran for the House and Senate, had this to say about the organization in 1953: "Volunteer organizations are the lifeblood of a political party. That is why all Republicans in California should give their wholehearted support to the CRA, which is the outstanding Republican organization in the state.

Hal Ramser, who served as CRA President in 1954-55, once wrote that he could recall nothing terribly exciting about his year as president, except for an undefined "hassle" with some San Diego Republicans. The Period was certainly one of relative happiness for CRA members, because Republicans controlled state politics, and California Republican Nixon was part of the White House team.

The 22nd CRA Convention was held March 11, 1955 in Pasadena, and wasted no time in pledging its support to the re-election of the Ike-Nixon team in 1956. That convention also adopted a resolution calling for a lifting of secrecy which shrouded the infamous Yalta agreements. It was at Yalta, near World War II's end, that Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill and their advisors had met to carve up Europe and sign away the freedom of the peoples of Eastern Europe to Communism.

Robert H. Power was CRA President in 1955-56. During that year, the group did what Power calls "research in depth" on UNESCO, the controversial United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

According to Power, the national American Legion convention that year had condemned UNESCO in what Power regarded as a "scurrilous" report. After CRA did a study and report praising UNESCO, its findings were published by the United States Commission for UNESCO, which labeled the CRA work as "one of the three best reports" on the scope and activities of UNESCO written in the U.S.

Principal researchers of the UNESCO study were identified as John Phillips (later a CRA President) and Betty Merritt.

A CRA News headline in July 1955 proclaimed that a gentleman named Howard Jarvis was chairman of the "We Want Ike" rally scheduled for the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles later that year. The rally was sponsored by the National Republican Finance Committee. Jarvis became president of the Los Angeles County Republican Assembly in 1960. Later, of course, he would author Proposition 13 and other important tax control legislation, and would become a personal symbol of conservative opposition to Democrat tax-and-spend policies.

Pre-Primary Endorsement Once Illegal

An April, 1955 edition of CRA News revealed that the State Republican Central Committee wanted to endorse certain party candidates in the 1956 primary election, and CRA was invited to participate in the preprimary endorsement process. CRA refused, pointing out that it opposed any pre-primary endorsing by any official state party organization, and would have no part of it. Such a policy was, after all, illegal, CRA correctly pointed out.

Vice-President Nixon spoke to the banquet meeting of a CRA Board gathering in Palm Springs in 1956.

As the 1956 national election campaign heated up, Senator Knowland was cheered by an audience of more than 500 as he spoke to a Los Angeles County R.A. meeting on Sept. 25, 1956, and lambasted the Democrat national ticket headed by Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. A few weeks later, on Oct. 23, former GOP national standard bearer Thomas Dewey came to Pasadena to address an Ike-Nixon rally at the Civic Auditorium.

During that presidential campaign year, CRA boasted of more than 11,000 members.

When the 1956 Republican National Convention was held in San Francisco, CRA was one of the first grassroots groups in America to make its support of Ike and Nixon known to all. More than 100 prominent Republicans, including the President and Vice- President, were given special CRA plaques at the convention.

In November of that year, the Ike-Nixon ticket swept to an even more impressive win than in 1952. California belonged to them as completely as if it were a large ranch carrying the "Ike-Dick" brand.

In 1957, George Milias replaced Robert Fenton Craig as CRA President. At a Board meeting that year, Craig praised Senator Knowland (who spoke at the meeting) as one of the founders of CRA Craig noted that the organization had grown to 116 units. That Board meeting in Long Beach was attended, incidentally by 1,100 members.

Knowland made it clear that he favored a statewide water project.

At the 1958 CRA Convention, delegates endorsed Senator Knowland for governor, Goodwin Knight for the U.S. Senate and Assemblyman Caspar Weinberger of San Francisco for Attorney General.

The Democrat Brown Era

Weinberger, incidentally, was picked by the Capitol Press group as the most able member of the legislature.

The CRA choices won their primaries, but all were defeated in the Democrat sweep later that year. The sweep included the election of Attorney General Edmund (Pat) Brown, Sr. as governor.

During 1958, a series of columns by political observer Jack McDowell in the San Francisco Call-Bulletin detailed how CRA members (including state vice-president Bill Nelligan) were actively trying to overcome the "old guard" Republican leadership in San Francisco. Caspar Weinberger was considered a part of the Nelligan group, according to McDowell. Later that year (Dec. 12), an editorial cartoon in the San Francisco Chronicle showed a bandaged, sadsack elephant labeled "Old Guard GOP" being pushed by a younger Republican through the doors into a glue factory.

Nelligan, who was also a labor official, chaired a committee of San Francisco Republicans who called upon the party to include labor and other minority factions in the party organization. A report to that effect was drawn up by Nelligan and his vice- chairman, Leon Markel. They conferred with San Francisco Mayor George Christopher on the matter. Nelligan would later serve as CRA President in 1963-64. President in 1958 was John Phillips. He was succeeded in 1959 by Gardiner Johnson, a man who would play a key role in CRA's move toward a more conservative viewpoint.

Johnson made no bones about his support of Richard Nixon for the Presidency, after Eisenhower had completed the legal two-term limit. In fact, Johnson is reported to have told the 1959 CRA Fact-Finding Committee to not waste its time on the matter of Nixon.

"Richard Nixon (is) an outstanding and unusually-qualified candidate for the Presidency," wrote Johnson, "and the Resolutions Committee should so report." At the CRA Convention in Coronado in February, 1959, the Resolutions Committee did just that.

Also in early 1959, the intra-party struggles in San Francisco were still going on. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a CRA paper on the matter attacked the local Central Committee as being an "in-bred" group run by "small cliques." The CRA is said to have called for a reorganization of the party in San Francisco to give it a grassroots flavor. The CRA committee making the report was headed by Bill Nelligan, and included Leon Markel, Eleanor Rossi Reno and Allen Vejar. Listed as an "advisor" to the study was Assemblyman Caspar Weinberger. The report charged that the Central Committee had used GOP funds and literature to support its own members in their campaigns for re-election to the Central Committee.

(Editor's note: The internecine fight in San Francisco may or may not have been typical of similar battles around the state as CRA tried to organize a more responsive state party apparatus. We have been able to chronicle the Frisco fight here to a certain degree because of good coverage of the subject by San Francisco newspapers, and the availability of clippings from those newspapers in the CRA archives.)

In 1960, Harvey Mydiand succeeded Gardiner Johnson as president of CRA Nixon got strong CRA backing for President. The record of other endorsements is not available.

Kennedy Wins - By A Hair

The great TV debates of 1960 between Nixon and the handsome young John F. Kennedy ushered in the showbiz age of electronic politics. Makeup became more important than issues. Kennedy rode the TV waves to a narrow victory. Uncertainty about the accuracy of the vote count in Illinois (what else is new?) clouded the result, because the vote there was extremely close, and there were widespread charges that the Democrat machine in Chicago had manipulated the vote count. The Illinois electoral votes were critical to the outcome of the presidential race. Kennedy recognized the Illinois problem in a message to Nixon. But Nixon said he did not want to cause a Constitutional crisis by disputing a presidential election. Kennedy got the tainted victory.

(Your editor was in Chicago at the time, and can attest to the scandalous state of political life there. Votes of dead men were recorded, for example, and their address was listed at a certain hotel - said to be a common Chicago Democrat trick - but the hotel had long since burned, and the address was a vacant lot.)

In 1961, CRA helped the Republican Party pick up the pieces and start again. Kennedy was in the White House and Pat Brown sat in the governor's seat.

The gubernatorial election of 1962 became a major focus of CRA concern. Possible candidates included Goodwin Knight, Lieutenant Governor Harold Powers, Assemblyman Joe Shell... and Nixon.

At a December 1961 Board meeting in Santa Maria, 500 CRA members heard Nixon make his pitch for the governor's race.

It was also in 1961 that Earl Warren fell forever out of favor with CRA During the year, his liberal interpretations of the Constitution as Chief Justice had embittered old friends. On Jan. 30, 1961, conservative writer broadcaster Dan Smoot issued a Smoot Report calling for Warren's impeachment. By the end of the year, many CRA members who had supported Warren's political rise were circulating petitions calling for his impeachment as Chief Justice. Had CRA become more conservative?

Had Warren simply become more liberal?

Was it a combination of both?

Introduction | Page I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Home