(b. Elwood, Indiana, 18 Feb. 1892; d. New York City, 8 Oct. 1944)
US; Republican presidential candidate Born to lawyer parents, Willkie also became a lawyer after graduating from Indiana University. In his early years he was a liberal Democrat. He made himself wealthy by a successful corporate legal practice and became head of the public utility Commonwealth and Southern Corporation (CSC). As a prominent businessman he broke with Roosevelt's New Deal over the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority which competed with his CSC.
Willkie's high media profile brought him to the attention of Republicans who were seeking a challenger to Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election. Although he only became a Republican in 1939 he gained the party's nomination after six ballots. In an election heavily influenced by the spectre of war, he lost by 55 per cent to 45 per cent of the popular vote. He campaigned for the USA to take a strong stand in support of Britain against Hitler, and for the maintenance of the two-term limit to the presidency. (Roosevelt was trying for a third term.)
He sought the Republican nomination again in 1944, but the party had moved to the right and his liberal progressive views gained little support. He argued for a social security programme, opposed states' rights, and in the 1944 presidential election he failed to support the Republican candidate, Thomas Dewey. Shortly before his death he received approaches from Roosevelt about realigning the liberal progressives in the Democratic and Republican parties into a new political force.
Subjects: Politics — Second World War.