CRA History
The Louise Leigh / Fred Davis Work

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

Winds of Change

As the CRA began its third decade in 1962, the winds of philosophical change were blowing strongly through the organization. The young liberal Republicans who had founded the organization in the early Thirties were seeing their ideals slowly erode away as conservatives gained strength throughout the California Republican Party. To their credit, it must be said that the GOP liberals had helped keep the party alive and prospering in California throughout a period of Democrat domination of national politics. But the time had come for the party to return to its traditional values.

Fred Hall was elected president of CRA at the 1962 convention. It has been said that 1962 marked the beginning of the end of liberal control of CRA The ultra-liberal Democrat John F. Kennedy was President. In November of 1962, Richard Nixon, whose political career had peaked with CRA support, hit one of its lowest valleys as Nixon was defeated by Democrat Attorney General Edmund "Pat" Brown in the race for governor. Many, including Nixon himself (remember his "you won't have Nixon to kick around any more" speech?) thought the defeat marked the end of his political career. But he still had a strong residue of support in CRA.

The 1963 CRA Convention is remembered as one of the most bitterly-fought in the organization's history. Labor unionist William Nelligan, representing the liberal wing of the party, was elected president over conservative Harry Waddell, There were cries of foul play and claims that ballot boxes were stuffed. The Waddell group walked out of the convention and formed an ultra- conservative group called United Republicans of California (UROC).

In 1963, CRA claimed a membership of 14,000. The long struggle to establish the group as a true statewide organization, with a strong network of active local units, was paying off.

On Nov. 23, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated. Lyndon Johnson became President.

Barry vs. Rocky

As members prepared for the 1964 convention at the Hacienda Inn in Fresno, a presidential endorsement battle was shaping up between supporters of Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater. This classic, critical confrontation between the liberal and conservative forces of the California Republican Party was fought in a series of parlimentary moves, backroom arguments and passionate speeches at the Hacienda.

Gardiner Johnson, who had served as CRA president in 1959- 60, was a leader in the floor fight for the Goldwater forces. He sparred with presiding president Bill Nelligan and the Rockefeller forces, which included CRA founders Ed Shattuck, Ronald Button and Harvey Mydland. Arrayed with Johnson on the Goldwater side were such emerging CRA leaders as Nolan Frizzelle, Dick Darling and Charlie Lavis. A Fact-Finding Committee appointed by the reigning Board of Directors had voted to recommend that no presidential endorsement be given.

Gardiner Johnson and friends, fearful that the committee report would not even be brought up for discussion on the convention floor, elicited promises from the Board that the report would be presented. When it did come before the convention, the Goldwater forces pounced upon the committee recommendation, and insisted that the convention endorse a presidential candidate.

The Rockefeller forces were blamed for using stalling tactics which carried the debate late into the night, causing some delegates to miss airline connections. When the chairman tried to adjourn a meeting without hearing the Fact-Finding Committee report, the delegates over-ruled the chair.

"They voted to stay here tonight, they voted to stay here tomorrow or to stay here all week," Gardiner Johnson reminded the chairman. "...we are not going to leave this room, sir, no matter how many rulings you may make, until we have voted on the convention committees reports, which either says this convention goes on record against endorsing someone for President of the United States, or we are going to have courage enough to stand up and be counted, and I think this is what we will do. We will make a substitute motion and carry it by majority vote and, if the last is any indication, we will carry it by over 80 percent, and Barry Goldwater is going to be the endorsed candidate of this convention."

An official court reporter who had been hired to make a transcript of the proceedings, noted that, after Johnson's remarks, there was "loud and sustained standing applause."

Chairman Jack Owens took a one minute recess. When he gaveled the meeting back to order, he noted that a delegate had asked that "singing be permitted in order to relieve the tension." One of the delegates led the convention in song. It is not recorded what songs were sung.

Ed Shattuck made an appeal that the rights of the Rockefeller minority be respected. Ronald Button, another Rockefeller supporter, pleaded that no endorsement be made, because the party had gone through "enough bloodletting" during Richard Nixon's candidacy for governor.

Goldwater Named

William Ebert then formally placed the name of Senator Barry Goldwater before the convention for consideration for endorsement for President of the United States. Jack Schall seconded the motion. Darvin Paddock also spoke in support of the Goldwater endorsement. Gardiner Johnson, in support of Goldwater, reminded everyone that a grassroots movement for Goldwater was sweeping the state.

Ronald Button spoke against the motion. Ed Shattuck then yielded so Button could also use his time. As Button finished speaking, he suggested that "...those people in this convention hall... who feel that the party and the Assembly will be damaged by any endorsement, either walk out of this convention at this time, or do not vote, and then Mr. Gardiner Johnson and the Goldwater forces, if that is their desire on how they want to see our party operate in this state, take over and make any votes they desire."

"Let's go," screamed one delegate.

Sorehead!" yelled another.

"Order in the house," demanded chairman Jack Owens.

"Sit down," yelled another delegate.


The court reporter's next notation is that "Whereupon, some of the delegates began to leave."

Delegate John Schmitz of Tustin tried to speak and was ruled out of order.

Chairman Owens said he was ready to take the vote on the motion to endorse Goldwater.

Darvin Paddock asked that a count be taken of those voting. Owens said a roll call vote would consume several hours. "The vote shall be taken by standing vote," he ruled.

Cyril Stevenson demanded that a count be taken of those who would stand up for Goldwater. He was overruled by the Chair.

"Those in favor of the nomination of Senator Goldwater, please stand," ordered Owens.

There was a standing vote accompanied by loud, long applause.

"The ayes have it," ruled Owens.

Pandemonium reigned. The Rockefeller forces packed their bags and left.

The convention also endorsed George Murphy for U.S. Senate, but that was a fact almost lost in the Goldwater landslide.

We dwell upon the drama of the 1964 Goldwater endorsement because it is probably the historic moment at which CRA reached a philosophical watershed. From that moment forward, there has been no doubt that the California Republican Assembly represents the conservative Republican viewpoint in the state.

There were accusations by liberal Republicans that the John Birch Society was trying to take over the Republican Party. A historian reports that "it was said that five members of the CRA executive board at that time were members of the Birch Society."

Nolan Frizzelle, a leader in the Goldwater movement, was elected CRA president in 1964. Later that year, Barry Goldwater was nominated at the National Republican Party convention in San Francisco. He lost to Lyndon Johnson.

Frizzelle, in a report summing up his year as president, made these points:

- 33 new units were chartered.
- Nearly 5,000 new members were added.
- Almost 90 percent of delegates to the GOP National Convention were greeted by CRA volunteers at the airport and driven to their hotels.
- A CRA hospitality room at the Del Webb Townhouse in San Francisco was crowded by national delegates 16 hours a day.
- Delegates from North Dakota, Illinois, Nebraska and all of the Southern states credited CRA and its host committee with helping to develop and hold their majorities for Goldwater.
- Leaders from nine states asked for assistance in establishing Republican Assemblies in their states, based upon the performance of CRA in San Francisco.
- CRA members contributed 3 million work hours to the campaign during the 60 days prior to election day.

Frizzelle stated that "liberals, moderates and conservatives are all represented in the CRA and all are urged to participate."

The Year of Goldwater had been, despite the failure to elect him president, a year of growth and new direction for CRA It is a year that oldtimers look back upon with reverence and misty nostalgia.

A New Star Rises

On Jan. 16, 1965, a group calling itself Citizens for Constructive Action met at the International Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport. Included in the group were CRA leaders Frank Adams and Gardiner Johnson. Among the 50 founding members were Walter Knott of Orange County, former Senator William Knowland, Ivy Baker Priest and other prominent conservative California Republicans, and some Democrats. Also listed on that roster of founding members was the name of Ronald Reagan, an actor who had been a union leader and a former Democrat, and who was beginning to emerge as a charismatic advocate of conservative American principles.

Reprinted elsewhere in this publication is an article written by the late Frank Adams following that historic meeting. Many conservatives date the political career of Ronald Reagan from that meeting.

Cyril Stevenson of Sacramento was elected president of CRA in 1965. During his administration, the Reagan steamroller began to pick up speed and, at the 1966 CRA Convention, Ronald Reagan was enthusiastically endorsed for the Republican nomination for governor. It was the beginning of a long romance between CRA and Reagan.

Dick Darling was elected CRA president in 1966. He had the pleasure of leading a CRA campaign year which swept the entire Reagan team into every statewide office, except that of controller, which was won by Democrat Alan Cranston.

A side note on the September 1966 CRA Board meeting: The meeting held at the now-historic Hacienda Inn, was chaired by Mary Stanley. Gubernatorial nominee Reagan was there. According to the October 1966 edition of the CRA Newsletter, Mary had not been a Republican before she was married, but had agreed with her husband that she would reregister as a Republican. Her marriage vows included a vow to become a Republican.

Prophetic Words

In August 1966, Ronald Reagan issued the following statement on Social Security, which was reported in the CRA Newsletter.

"...Not only do I accept it as a fact of life, but as a good fact. It is here to stay... at least it ought to be, in its proper form. My principal concern about Social Security results from the mismanagement I have observed in the administration of this program. Social Security should be a genuine insurance program, run on a sound actuarial basis. Instead, Washington has allowed Social Security to fall into the welfare category... If Social Security is made secure once more, present and future generations need have no fear that, when it comes their turn to draw Social Security payments, the cupboard will be bare."

The prophetic words were uttered 16 years ahead of their time. In 1982, an emergency commission appointed by President Reagan, would finally come to grips - at least temporarily with the problems he had identified in 1966.

The national elections of 1966 saw an off-year gain by Republicans which sharply reduced the Democrat majorities in Congress. In a message to CRA members in March 1967, former vice- president Richard Nixon called the GOP sweep "a sharp rebuke to the President's lack of credibility and lack of direction abroad."

Governor Reagan addressed the CRA Convention April 1-2, 1967 at the Lafayette Hotel in Long Beach. Dr. Max Rafferty, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and a new darling of the CRA, was keynote speaker. Frank Adams was elected president.

Los Angeles District Attorney Evelle Younger, a member of the Los Angeles R.A., addressed a November meeting of the group.

Birth of the News

Bunster Creely, editor emeritus of CRA News, recalls that it was Frank Adams who firmly established the News as the statewide regular official publication of CRA "He paid for the first year of publication from his own pocket," recalls Creely, who was a boyhood friend of Adams, " and upon leaving office as president, he successfully pushed a by-laws amendment to guarantee a regular source of funds to keep the newspaper in publication." The newspaper, later reduced to bimonthly publication, is supported by a designated portion of membership dues. There had been earlier, sporadic statewide publications, some produced as frequently as every week, and the Los Angeles R.A. produced its own newsletter for many years. But the 1967 decision by Adams and his Board of Directors launched CRA News as a continuing, financially- supported voice of the Assembly. Mr. Creely was the paper's editor for almost all of the first decade of its existence. Fred Davis became editor in January 1979. The tabloid news format of the paper dates back to the issue of May 1968.

CRA began 1968 with a Jan. 19-21 Board Meeting in San Diego. Speakers included State Senator Jack Schrade, Congressman Bob Wilson and former Congressional candidate Shirley Temple Black, who had been upset in a special primary election earlier that year by Paul (Pete) McCloskey. The February issue of CRA News reported that Mrs. Black "stole the hearts of CRA" at the meeting's banquet.

In May 1968, the annual convention was held at the historic old Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. Tirso del Junco was elected state president. The convention endorsed Richard Nixon for President and Dr. Max Rafferty for U.S. Senate (to oppose incumbent Republican Tom Kuchel). Rafferty won in the primary, and was the target of an all-out CRA effort in the general election, but lost to Democrat Alan Cranston.

Nixon, of course, went on to be elected President in November.

Favorite Sons

Once again CRA could bask in the sunshine of major victory. Ronald Reagan was governor of California. Richard Nixon was President of the United States. Both could be claimed as "favorite sons" of CRA.

The CRA state convention for 1969 was held in San Diego March 21-23. James Kraemer of Piedmont was elected president. Assemblyman Pete Wilson (later mayor, then U.S. Senator) introduced luncheon speaker Congressman Bob Wilson. State Central Committee Chairman Dennis Carpenter introduced Lieut. Gov. Ed Reinecke. Navy Commander Lloyd Bucher, just released by the North Vietnamese, who captured him and his "Pueblo" spy ship crew, was a surprise attendee at the convention.

Riots and other disturbances on the campuses of California colleges and universities drew the ire of CRA during 1969 and was the subject of several speakers, writers and other leaders during the year.

Barry Goldwater, Jr. addressed a quarterly Board Meeting in Santa Maria on Sept. 27. A panel discussion tackled the problem of campus unrest. Panelists were State Senator John Harmer, Senator Bill Richardson, Assemblyman Bill Campbell, and Assemblyman John Stull. CRA circulated a statewide petition demanding a crackdown on campus troublemakers.

Also in 1969, CRA budgeted $8,000 to appoint John Bohn as official legislative counsel. His job was to act as liaison between CRA and the State Legislature and to keep legislators informed of CRA positions on various legislation.

Senator George Murphy addressed the January 1970 quarterly meeting in San Jose. Also on hand were the four GOP candidates for state attorney general: Evelle Younger, George Deukmejian, John Harmer and Spencer Williams.

At the 1970 convention, April 3-5 in Sacramento, David Gater of Orange County was elected president in a three-way race over Jerry Werner and Bill Bradley. Primary election endorsements went to Reagan for governor, Reinecke for lieutenant governor, Harmer for attorney general, Houston Fluornoy for controller, and George Murphy for U.S. Senate. Governor Reagan addressed the convention. But he arrived 45 minutes late because someone fired a .22 caliber shot from the parking lot into the hotel entrance just before he was scheduled to speak. Highway patrolmen sealed off the area and searched, unsuccessfully, for the gunman.

CRA member John Schmitz left the state senate to serve in Congress after winning a special election following the death of Congressman James Utt of Tustin.

A September quarterly meeting in San Francisco featured talks by Max Rafferty and James (Johnny) Johnson, a member of the Federal Civil Service Commission.

Treasury Looted

On October 23, 1971, the CRA leadership learned that the organization's treasury had been looted. Paul Casattas, who served as treasurer in 1969, and was re-elected to the post in 1970, was convicted of the theft after confessing to the crime.

President Gater learned of the crisis when he called Casattas to ask why a number of CRA bills had not been paid. Casattas told him there was no money to pay the bills because he, Casattas, had taken the money. Gater called CRA vice-president Hugh Koford, an attorney (later a judge) and asked Koford and congressional district director John Zobel, who was a C.P.A., to go immediately to the home of Casattas in San Jose and secure his resignation as treasurer and his signed admission of the crime. This was done. It was later determined that about $23,000 had been taken.

CRA was flat broke. An all-out effort was launched to get donations and loans from units and individuals to pay the organization's past-due bills. The drive was successful.

Another crisis developed in Los Angeles. The L.A. County R.A., which claimed more than 2,000 members, was torn by dissension and friction. The county unit had held the power to charter units within the county, and thus held considerable power within the state organization. When a power struggle broke out within the L.A. unit, the state CRA finally had to act as arbiter in the dispute. The struggle was won by leaders of the 43rd District, Griffith Park Hills, 41st District and Glendale assemblies. One result of the dissension was that the state CRA withdrew L.A. County's power to charter units. The power fight also led to legal action in which a judge displaced some L.A. County leaders. The Los Angeles County R.A. became a county coordinating council.

There are those in Los Angeles who still argue that the revocation of the county unit's chartering power weakened CRA in Los Angeles County to an extent from which it still has never recovered.

Hugh Koford was elected president at that interesting 1971 convention, which was held at the Los Angeles Hilton. Congressman Phil Crane of Illinois delivered the convention's keynote address. Governor Reagan also addressed the gathering.

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