(b. Rockford, Illinois, 15 Feb. 1922)
US; Illinois State Attorney 1956–60, member of the US House of Representatives 1961–81, Independent presidential candidate 1980 The son of Swedish immigrants, John Anderson grew up in Illinois and attended college in Rockford and at the University of Illinois, Urbana. His education was interrupted by war service in Europe from 1943 to 1945; but he continued his legal education after the war at Urbana and at Harvard and was admitted to the Illinois bar. Although he began legal practice in Rockford, he spent 1952–5 in West Berlin as adviser to the American Commissioner for Germany. In 1956 he ran successfully for the position of State Attorney of Winnebago County and in 1960 he was elected to the House of Representatives and held the seat until 1980, when he did not seek re-election.
Anderson started his political career on the conservative wing of the Republican Party; but, although he remained a fiscal conservative, he became more liberal on foreign policy issues and civil liberties.
In 1969 Anderson became chairman of the House Republican Conference. Increasingly, however, he found himself out of step with the mainstream Republican Party and its leadership. A strongly religious man, he deplored Richard Nixon's lack of ethics and was among the first in Congress to call for his resignation after the Watergate tapes were released. Yet he was also uncomfortable with the right-wing style of Ronald Reagan and in 1980 sought the Republican nomination, basing his campaign on a dispassionate appraisal of the issues and an unwillingness to pander either to party orthodoxy or popular opinion. (He was, for example, an advocate of a gasoline tax to cut dependency on Arab oil.)
Anderson's bid for the Republican nomination failed in a year in which the party was swept by the Reagan crusade. The response to Anderson's serious and principled approach persuaded him to mount an independent bid for the presidency by building a coalition of independent voters, moderate Republicans, and Democrats disenchanted with Jimmy Carter. Anderson's campaign generated much media interest and enthusiasm among activists. Although Anderson came third and failed to carry a single state, his 6.61 per cent of the vote underlined the depth of dissatisfaction with the two major parties in 1980.
After his failed presidential bid, Anderson held teaching positions at several American universities. He also wrote a number of books, including Between Two Worlds: A Congressman's Choice (1970) which highlighted the importance of born-again Christianity in Anderson's life.