Epilogue to the Old Right: The Andrews-Werdel Campaign of 1956
The first head of the IRS, who wanted to abolish the income tax, waged an unlikely campaign on behalf of the Taftite remnant.
“The great watershed, the single event that most marked the passing of the old isolationist Right, was the defeat of Senator Taft by Eisenhower in the Wall Street capture of the 1952 presidential nomination.” That was the epitaph economist and libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard gave to the Old Right in his semi-autobiography The Betrayal of the American Right. He was correct. After the 1952 Republican National Convention, the collection of politicians, journalists, and businessmen who opposed both the domestic and foreign policies of Franklin Roosevelt would never again have a conceivable chance at obtaining national political power.
While this defeat marked the closing chapter of the Old Right, the story does have an epilogue. The last, surviving vestiges of a movement that, alienated by the direction of both major parties, attempted a third-party candidacy to present a conservative alternative to “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.” That was the states’ rights campaign of T. Coleman Andrews and Thomas H. Werdel.
Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 1938, Robert Taft had become the personification of middle-class, conservative republicanism. With his “blue suits, white shirts, bare scalp, rimless glasses, vest and gold watch chain… he looked like ‘a composite picture of sixteen million Republicans,’” relates newscaster David Brinkley.
His voting record reflected his nickname, “Mr. Republican.” Taft opposed Lend-Lease in 1941 and said after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, “If the course urged by these non-interventionists could have been successful, it would have been better because the terrible cost in the lives of our young men, the breaking up of families, in the life plans of millions, would have been avoided.” He authored the Taft-Hartley Act, creating right-to-work and curtailing the power of labor unions. He voted against U.S. entry into NATO and persistently criticized American participation in the Korean War. He argued against excessive spending and executive usurpation of congressional prerogative.
Robert Taft acted as the standard-bearer of the conservative opposition in three presidential campaigns: 1940, 1948, and 1952. And in each one he was defeated, often narrowly, by candidates supported by the liberal, East Coast–based party establishment. “Every Republican candidate for president since 1936 has been nominated by the Chase National Bank,” Taft groused after losing to General Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Taft loyally supported Eisenhower during the general election campaign and was elevated to the position of Senate Majority Leader in the new congressional term.)
The death of the senator’s presidential prospects was followed swiftly by his physical death on July 31, 1953, at the age of only 63. Although sometimes criticized as peculiarly moderate on some parts of domestic policy—Rothbard briefly complains of Taft’s “repeated compromises and ‘sellouts’” on things like public housing—his loss left the Old Right leaderless on the national level.
There was no obvious successor. Senator Kenneth S. Wherry of Nebraska had died in 1951; Rep. Howard Buffett of Nebraska, who had helped manage Taft’s 1952 campaign, retired from active politics in 1952; former Taft acolytes like Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois and George Bender of Ohio moderated their politics as they grew closer to the victorious Eisenhower White House. Others like Rep. H.R. Gross of Iowa were more content as congressional gadflies than movement leaders.
Repeatedly stymied in their attempts to wield authentic political power and lacking a capable slate of Republican leaders, some frustrated conservatives began to look for solutions outside of the two-party system. “A new party has to come because there are too many of our people not now represented by either the Republican or Democratic nominees. They have no place to go,” said a distraught Robert R. McCormick in a radio address after the 1952 convention.
“Colonel” McCormick, as he was popularly titled following his service in the artillery in World War I, was the publisher and editor of the Chicago Tribune, a position he’d held since 1925. As president of the Tribune Company, McCormick also oversaw the New York Daily News and for a few years owned the Washington Times-Herald, but the Tribune was his child.
Located in Tribune Tower, an architectural landmark of downtown Chicago, the paper was one of the most prosperous daily publications in the world with 900,000 subscribers every weekday and 1.4 million on Sundays. An almost self-sufficient operation, the company owned hundreds of thousands of acres of Canadian timberland where it processed its newsprint, transporting the product over the Great Lakes in company-owned boats to be delivered at the Tribune’s own warehouse docks. It was estimated that the Tribune alone brought in $100 million in gross income.
“It was true he [McCormick] considered himself an aristocrat, and his imposing stature—6 feet 4 inches tall, with a muscular body weighing more than 200 pounds, his erect soldierly bearing, his reserved manner and his distinguished appearance—made it easy for him to play that role,” wrote the New York Times.
Always combative and often truculent, McCormick wielded the Tribune as the principal journalistic opponent of Prohibition, government corruption, the New Deal, foreign war, and any other cause that raised his ire. “In fighting his battles, and he was usually engaged in one or more furious contests, he never resorted to the rapier. The broadaxe was his favorite weapon,” wrote the Billings Gazette.
Seeking a way to promote his style of Old Right conservatism outside of a Republican Party led by Dwight Eisenhower (to whom he gave tepid consent a week before the 1952 election), on May 7, 1954, McCormick hosted a luncheon at the Chicago Club with a baker’s dozen of local civic and business leaders. It was there he officially announced the formation of a new organization, For America.
In its declaration of principles, For America promised to be “dedicated to God and country; to save America regardless of party; to promote peace; to restore and uphold our Constitution as our basic law; to safeguard our freedoms from our enemies within and without; to provide adequate armed forces to protect our sovereignty and the rights of our citizens throughout the world.”
Additional declarations of intent related mostly to foreign policy. A partial list included:
To oppose so-called preventive wars or ‘police actions’ without the consent of Congress.
To combat super-internationalism and interventionism, one-worldism, and communism.
To demand the return to Americanism, enlightened nationalism, and keeping our own interests uppermost instead of our costly, dangerous, imperialistic foreign policy of tragic super-interventionism and policing the world, single-handed, with American blood and treasure.
Although the progenitor of For America, Colonel McCormick did not accept any formal title in the organization due to his already full work schedule and increasingly unsteady health. Instead he assembled old allies to lend their names and credibility to the project and staffed it with capable, like-minded arch-conservatives.
The organization would be co-chaired by Robert E. Wood and Clarence Manion. Brigadier General Wood, after serving as Acting Quartermaster of the U.S. Army in World War I, presided over the massive expansion of Sears, Roebuck and Co. first as president and then as chairman from 1928 to 1954. He also served as chairman and titular leader of the America First Committee, the 800,000 member antiwar organization which opposed U.S. involvement in World War II. Attorney and former president of the Chicago Board of Education Orville J. Taylor was placed in charge of executive machinery, while Chicago broker Daniel F. Rice was named treasurer.
For America’s organizing committee was a who’s who of America First Committee luminaries and professional Roosevelt-haters. They included former Rep. Hamilton Fish III, the Republican who for 25 years represented FDR’s Hyde Park home in Congress and whom Time magazine labeled “the nation’s No. 1 isolationist”; former Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana, one-time vice presidential nominee of the Progressive Party whose antiwar and civil liberties record nestled him comfortably among the Old Right ranks; journalist John T. Flynn, whose weekly column in the New Republic during the 1930s and later books in the 1940s excoriated the Roosevelt myth; and former Rep. Howard Buffett. A week after the initial announcement, the award-winning black dermatologist Dr. Theodore K. Lawless was added to the executive committee.
While the Chicago Tribune was quick to relate the many telegrams and letters of support received by For America, public reception was not universally warm. “This new group looks like the same old hat with a touch of new trimming,” commented the Boston Traveler.
The Atlanta Journal was even more scathing in its editorial. “It is sad to see the discredited take up the torch of isolation once again. If ever a movement wound up in disrepute, it was that one called America First. It started with big names, men who lent their wealth and prestige. The dates have changed but the times are not altogether different. What will it take to disband this group? Another Pearl Harbor? World War III?”
Co-founder Hamilton Fish, even more stubborn and cantankerous than McCormick, was nonetheless merry at For America’s potential. “We will be organized in all of the states on a basis of states’ rights, regardless of race, color, and creed,” he proclaimed. “We can have 5 million members in no time and sweep the country like a prairie fire.”
His enthusiasm was short-lived. To avoid taxes and encourage fundraising, Colonel McCormick had incorporated For America as a strictly educational organization, forbidden from active participation in politics. An unsatisfied Fish resigned from the organization that September, calling it “an utterly useless and futile effort and of no consequence politically whatsoever.”
“As a newspaper editor and publisher, McCormick believed strongly in media’s power to shape electoral politics,” writes historian Nicole Hemmer, and in the Colonel’s formulation that no longer required the Grand Old Party. In 1955 he even requested that W. Ayer & Son’s Directory of Newspapers and Periodicals change the listed party affiliation of the Chicago Tribune from Republican, which it had been from time immemorial, to “Independent.”
It was one of his last decisions. Robert McCormick died on April 1, 1955, with newspaper obituaries around the country eulogizing him as the “greatest mind of the fourteenth century.” Soon after, the IRS denied For America’s tax-exempt status and the organization transformed overnight into a political action committee. During the reshuffle, General Wood departed and was replaced by Dan Smoot, former FBI agent turned ultraconservative radio broadcaster.
Clarence Manion was now in the driver’s seat. Starting his ideological life as an Al Smith Democrat, Manion was an active defender of New Deal experimenting in the 1930s and even served as head of the National Recovery Administration in Indiana.
After more than a decade of teaching, Manion was appointed dean of Notre Dame Law School in 1941 at the age of 45. Later that year he agreed to join the America First Committee as a national director, but the organization disbanded following the attack on Pearl Harbor and before he could actively participate.
It was during World War II and the postwar debates about the international order that Manion began to shed his New Dealism and embrace a brand of conservative Americanism and constitutionalism. “I didn’t wake up as early as Taft did, but I was up and out of bed before the sweet Conservative dreams of many of my good friends had begun to be disturbed,” he later wrote.
Still a nominal Democrat, in 1952 he supported Robert Taft and then Dwight Eisenhower for president. That same year he departed Notre Dame to join the national lecture circuit full-time.
Manion’s endorsement and campaign work earned him an appointment in the Eisenhower administration as chair of the Commission on Intergovernmental Affairs, a committee tasked with investigating waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs. He immediately used his new perch to boost his own profile, commenting on issues far outside his job description. “Scarcely a week passed without a television appearance, a radio interview, or a mention in the papers of record,” Nicole Hemmer writes in her book, Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics.
The spectacle became too much. In February 1954, after less than six months on the job, Manion was dismissed by chief of staff Sherman Adams at the personal request of President Eisenhower. It was in the aftermath of his firing that McCormick scooped up Manion to co-chair For America. Later that fall he would premier his radio show, the Manion Forum.
Disgruntled at the Eisenhower administration both politically and personally, and heading a still fresh organizational structure, Manion sought to use For America the way Hamilton Fish and many other conservatives had intended: as an active political tool against the half-hearted socialism and full-socialism of the Republican and Democratic parties. As the year 1956 began, so did prepwork for the upcoming presidential election.
During this era, a number of states, particularly in the South, allowed for the selection of unpledged electors to the Electoral College. Under this system, voters could choose to send an individual to the Electoral College to cast a vote for whomever they chose; they weren’t restricted to select the nominee of the major parties, or even someone who had announced for the presidency. As long as the person met the constitutional qualifications, unpledged electors could provide him electoral votes.
Unpledged electors formed the blueprint of the nascent conservative presidential campaign. “The decision was a matter of strategy: no party had formally registered in time to appear on state ballots. Fourteen states, though, had ‘independent electors’ up for grabs—electors For America’s candidates could nab if they forwent a formal party affiliation,” explains Hemmer.
“It is unfortunate that the term ‘third party’ has been applied to my efforts to secure a slate of unpledged presidential electors. It is not now, nor has it ever been, my intention of forming a third party movement,” said Micah Jenkins, head of the independent elector movement in South Carolina, in the spring of 1956. “We are merely trying to provide a means whereby the people could express their sentiment for a President should the National Democratic Party fail to provide them with all acceptable presidential candidates and platform.”
In mid-September 1956, 317 delegates from a dozen minor splinter parties in twenty-five states gathered in Memphis, Tennessee, to nominate a presidential ticket—but not form a political party. When a delegate attempted to bring forth such a proposition, he was verbally beat down. “If we form a third party, the Republicans and Democrats will kill us,” said John U. Barr, the convention’s program chairman. “We’d be dead. We couldn’t win. If you believe in states’ rights, practice states’ rights.”
Speeches at the Memphis convention focused overwhelmingly on the issue of school integration. On May 17, 1954—just ten days after the formation of For America—the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Earl Warren that racial segregation in public schools was inherently unequal due to the psychological effect on black students, and thus a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
Brown v. Board of Education roiled the political and social power structure of the southern United States. The decision was disparaged by conservatives in the south (and north) as based on flawed psychological studies and an example of the judiciary stepping beyond its boundaries to interfere in an area, education, which had always been a state issue. Local Citizens’ Councils were formed by whites to resist, usually civilly but sometimes violently, their children being compelled to attend school with blacks.
Stepping to the platform in Memphis, former lieutenant governor of Texas John Lee Smith called the Brown ruling an “illegal decree by an arrogant, judicial oligarchy in Washington.” Tennessee Governor Frank G. Clement supported compliance, and earlier that month had called in the National Guard to racially integrate a formerly all-white high school in the nearby town of Clinton. Smith, excoriating Clement as a “two-bit, tin-horn governor,” called this action “worse than anything handed down in Moscow.”
Retired Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, a protege of Douglas MacArthur and a Taft supporter in 1952, told the delegates that he wanted to see a new political party representing the “kindred groups anchored in the Deep South.”
Clarence Manion gave the keynote address at the convention, and was much less inflammatory. “We are now living timorously in the shadow of a towering unconstitutional federal giant that defies limitation through the processes of law that were set up by the Founding Fathers for the perpetuation of our republican form of government,” Manion said. “The presidential candidates of both major parties are frantically bidding against each other for an opportunity to further inflate the already overinflated magnitude of federal power.”
Resolved to nominate a ticket for the presidential election in November, the oxymoronically named “National States’ Rights Conference” settled on the logical person to lead a popular, dissident movement against the unprecedented accumulation of corrupt power: an accountant.
Thomas Coleman Andrews was born on February 19, 1899, in Richmond, Virginia. After graduating high school he studied accounting privately, and with no college education became the United States’ youngest certified public accountant in 1920. The year before, he married Rae Wilson Reams.
After managing his own firm for a decade, Andrews served as Virginia’s state auditor. He revamped the Commonwealth’s accounting system and found 42 county treasurers delinquent in their calculations, leading to multiple jail sentences. In 1938, Andrews became financial director of his hometown of Richmond. Employing hard-nosed tactics to collect back taxes, he ordered the water cut off from the home of a city councilman who refused to pay.
During World War II, after his two sons enlisted in the military, Andrews fulfilled multiple staffing roles to contribute to the war effort. These included director of the Fiscal Division in the Office of the Under Secretary of War in 1941, and as a member of Contract Renegotiation Division in the Office of the Under Secretary of Navy in 1942. The following year he joined the U.S. Marine Corps, where he worked as chief accountant for the North African Economic Board and a member of the General Staff of Fourth Marine Aircraft Wing. Andrews was discharged from the Corps in 1945 with the rank of major.
During the whole of his career, he was involved with the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA), including serving as its treasurer, vice president, and finally president from 1950 to 1951. In addition, he served on the boards of the American Institute of Accountants and the Virginia Society of CPAs.
“His career has been one scrap after another, and, when the dust settles, Andrews has a habit of moving on to a bigger job,” concluded the Charlotte Observer about his record of accomplishment.
Politically, T. Coleman Andrews had always been a self-identified “conservative Democrat.” In the words of the Los Angeles Times, he “comes close to worshiping Sen. Byrd as a political leader.” For over 25 years Harry F. Byrd had been the undisputed leader of the Virginia Democratic Party, first as governor in the 1920s and as its senior U.S. Senator since 1933.
In 1952, alienated by the Truman White House’s positions on welfare, foreign policy, and civil rights, Senator Byrd announced, “I will not, and cannot, in good conscience, endorse the Democratic platform or the Stevenson-Sparkman ticket. Endorsement means to recommend, and this I cannot do.” The Byrd machine’s declaration of neutrality allowed Dwight D. Eisenhower to sweep the Old Dominion by 13 points.
In exchange for his facilitation, Eisenhower agreed to make Byrd loyalist T. Coleman Andrews head of the Bureau for Internal Revenue. Andrews initially turned down the appointment but reconsidered at the request of Senator Byrd and Treasury Secretary George Humphrey.
His selection was well received. The New York Daily News, part of the McCormick empire, described him as a “collector-who-talks-like-a-payer,” who would do “a revolutionary thing” and “appeal to Congress to have pity on the taxpayer.” Andrews was the first CPA to become the nation’s tax chief, annoying the American Bar Association and tax lawyers who felt entitled to a monopoly playing field.
Under Harry Truman, the Bureau for Internal Revenue suffered from continuous corruption scandals, accusations of favoritism, and a significant loss of public confidence. It was hoped that Andrews, with his distinguished track record of capable and diligent administration, could correct this. “Sharp personnel cuts, including removal of most top officials, were carried out and the number of regional offices around the country was reduced from 17 to nine,” reported the Miami Herald. “Andrews also introduced numerous innovations to simplify the filing of income tax returns and helped advise Congress in the overhaul of the nation’s tax laws.”
The rate of successful prosecutions against “tax chiselers” also increased 27 percent between 1953 and 1954, which Secretary Humphrey called, along with other improvements in auditing proficiency, “a matter of great pride to me.” When Andrews complained about “soft judges” whose small fines and lack of jail time (“judicial taps on the wrist”) for egregious racketeers and corporate executives were “a travesty on justice,” he was rebuked further by the American Bar Association.
The most significant modification Andrews oversaw was the official name change from Bureau for Internal Revenue to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that’s in place today. Andrews hated that letter abbreviation, believing it was beneath the “dignity and importance of this agency” and instructed all employees to cease referring to it as such.
In mid-October 1955, T. Coleman Andrews announced his resignation effective at the end of the month. “At the time of my appointment, I stated that as soon as I had done all within my power and ability to restore the prestige of the Internal Revenue Service, I would return to private business.”
“Appointed head of the nation’s tax collection agency at a time when the agency was in a frightful mess, he barged in and cleaned it up. In doing so, he broke a few heads, planted his heel on a number of pet corns, mussed up some stuffed shirts, and otherwise ‘stirred up the animals.’ The Internal Revenue Service is much the better for it,” wrote the Times-Dispatch.
Secretary Humphrey called his service “remarkable,” while President Eisenhower (sitting in a hospital bed in Colorado recovering from a heart attack) called it “outstanding.”
On November 1, 1955 T. Coleman Andrews became board chairman (and later president) of the American Fidelity and Casualty Insurance Company. The world’s largest insurer of trucks and buses, the company found itself under indictment on tax related misconduct and Andrews was brought in to weather the storm. He was lucratively salaried at $100,000 a year, with an additional $30,000 a year after retirement.
Almost as soon as he resigned from the IRS, there were rumors that his decision had been as much related to moral quandaries as anything else. “Coleman is honest,” Jack Wise assured his friend Leonard E. Read, economist and founder of the Foundation for Economic Education. As IRS commissioner, Andrews put in a good word for FEE and expedited their laborious tax issues after they purchased the Freeman in 1954. Later on, in November 1956, Andrews donated $100 to the libertarian think tank.
“Any tax law the average citizen can’t comply with, without having to go to the expense of employing professional assistance, is a bad law,” Andrews said in a speech in Roanoke, Virginia on December 9, 1955. “There are many people who think there are simpler and more effective ways to raise money to defray the cost of government than the method now being used.”
According to Andrews, the Eisenhower administration had attempted to fix the unnecessary complexities and inherent unfairness through the 1954 tax reforms but had failed. “And it will become more and more complicated until something really drastic is done about it,” he concluded, musing that the current income tax law “probably should be repealed.”“Mr. Andrews’ remarks inspire hearty agreement and very little cheer,” wrote the Progress-Index in Petersburg, Virginia. “The best encouragement he could offer would be to head up, if his time permits, a campaign to do something about it.”
With every public appearance T. Coleman Andrews became more comfortable airing his problems with the tax code and was willing to go farther in seeking solutions. In a January 21, 1956 radio address hosted by the National Association of Manufacturers, Andrews explained that the U.S. income tax was “conceived in vengeance rather than as a revenue measure.” He endorsed the association’s plan for a reduction in individual and corporate income taxes over the course of five years until the highest rate was 35 percent.
Finally, in a speech before the Cleveland City Club in mid-February, Andrews endorsed the full repeal of the income tax system, calling it “discriminatory, confiscatory, and politically unsound.” The man who had overseen the collection of over $70,000,000,000 in income taxes now condemned the system’s entire existence.
Some newspapers reacted with intrigue. “When a former Collector of Internal Revenue urges the junking of a tax which brings in about two-thirds of all the Government’s revenues, that is news,” read an editorial from the New York Daily News which promised further investigation of the proposal’s merits.
Others were bemused with Andrews’s announcement. “Ex-Tax Chief Opposes Tax (Now He Tells Us)” was the New York Times’ glib headline.
And some were even scornful. “Uncertain trumpets sounded from within and from those who were once key policy makers do incalculable harm to the cause of stability of the nation,” scorned the Chattanooga Daily Times. “T. Coleman Andrews will go on paying his taxes, in the undoubtedly firm belief that there just shouldn’t be any government at all.”Andrews fleshed out his new outlook on his old job in an essay for the American Weekly. Published on April 22, 1956, it reached the magazine’s 11 million subscribers and was entered into the congressional record by Rep. Frederic Rene Coudert Jr. (R-NY). The following is a partial excerpt of the article:
Up to $2,000 of taxable income the tax collector takes 20 percent. That’s a mighty big bite for a person at that level of income. But from there he really moves in fast. From $4,000 to $6,000 it’s 26 percent. Between $3,000 and $10,000 he takes a third. From $16,000 to $18,000 it’s a half. From $32,000 to $38,000 it’s two-thirds. From $50,000 to $60,000 it’s three-fourths. And so on, until the top rates of 91 percent (more than nine-tenths) is reached at $200,000. This is called progression, a fancy term which, realistically defined, means legalized confiscation. But if the term used to define this brigandage is fancy, the results certainly are anything but fancy; they are murderous.
While the top rate (91 percent) of our steeply graduated tax is not reached until taxable income amounts to $200,000, one-half of the graduation above the beginning rate of 20 percent takes place by the time the income level reaches one-tenth of $200,000, or $20,000. This is rank discrimination against the middle-income, white collar class.
The fact is that the first order of business of every dictatorship is to destroy the middle class. The two simply cannot live together. The masses are not regarded as a problem because dictators figure that the masses can be made to believe anything. The well-to-do don’t count because there never are enough of them to be a serious threat.
The observation is that I have never known an advocate of statism in any form who did not give me the impression of being either a dupe or, at heart, a dictator. In my book one is as dangerous as the other.
At least some of the Members of Congress must fear what many knowing outsiders firmly believe, namely, that if Congress ever allowed the Revenue Service to have enough money for all-out enforcement of the income tax the demand for repeal would become so great within a year that it would be irresistible.
Whether you believe it or not, everybody is being overtaxed and the middle class is being taxed out of existence and the Nation, thereby, is being robbed of its surest guaranty of continued sound economic development and growth and its staunchest bulwark against the ascendency of socialism.
We are concerned about the future because we don’t believe that we could stand another serious recession, what with the present ‘good times’ founded as largely as they are on defense production, deficit financing and other generators of thin ice and phony prosperity.
The radicalism of his diagnosis, unfortunately, only translated into moderate solutions.
“At heart, Andrews was something of a technocrat,” writes Joseph J. Thorndike, a historian of political economy and American taxation. Andrews favored a congressionally appointed, nonpartisan commission to study the tax system and determine the best proposal. He was confident the solution was the elimination (or at least severe curtailing) of the federal income tax implemented over a period of years.
Still, his abolitionist language and authority on the issue made him an instant cause celebre among conservatives and libertarians. He would continue to make anti-tax speeches throughout the summer of 1956, which is what brought him to the attention of Clarence Manion and other For America organizers. But who would join the renegade and repentant tax collector at the bottom of this States’ Rights presidential ticket?
Thomas Harold Werdel was born on September 13, 1905 in Emery, South Dakota but moved with his family to Kern County, California when he was a child. He attended Berkeley and in 1936 graduated from the University of California School of Law. Prior to his success as a lawyer, Werdel worked as a truck driver, a garage mechanic, and a handyman, including in the construction of the Hoover Dam.
Following two terms in the California State Assembly in the early 1940s, Werdel was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1948 and reelected in 1950 in a district that was majority Democratic.
The Hanford Sentinel summarized his conservative voting record:
He didn’t go along on the vote to abolish poll taxes. Every other Republican from the state did. He voted for an amendment to knock out all price curbs…. He was the only Californian to vote against a military service bill. He voted in favor of a $5 million hospital to segregate Negro war veterans from other veterans. He missed two vital votes on extending controls. He voted against social security extension. He voted against Korean aid through ECA. He voted against federal rent control.
During the 1952 Republican primaries, Werdel acted as a stalking horse for Robert Taft’s campaign and challenged then-Governor Earl Warren for control of California’s delegation. Attacking Warren’s “socialistic record,” Werdel suspected his “real goal is to trade California’s 70 convention votes for a seat on the supreme court.”
While Werdel’s accusation would prove enormously prescient, it didn’t benefit him at the ballot box. He won a third of the vote and was trounced by Warren 380,921 to 786,229. Basking in victory, Warren called Werdel’s challenge “a local one based on local hatreds because of the failure of a few dissident and wealthy politicians to dominate my administration as governor.”
Later that November, Werdel lost reelection to Congress by less than 3,000 votes to Democrat Harlan Hagen, his campaign hampered by both redistricting and animosity from party leaders for challenging Warren. He was the only California Republican in the U.S. House to lose that year.
The Tulare Advance Register, in its endorsement of Hagen, grouped Werdel in with “the ultra conservative isolationist wing of the Republican party” and concluded, “Werdel is no more an Eisenhower Republican than is General MacArthur or Colonel Bertie McCormick of Chicago Tribune fame.”
This backhanded endorsement made him a welcomed addition to For America, which included Werdel on its policy committee. And his home state opposition to Earl Warren, author of Brown v. Board of Education and new personified enemy of the South, made his inclusion on the States’ Rights ticket (which he called “a patriotic duty of simple citizenship”) prudent—despite their having no ballot access in California.
Clarence Manion would later claim that For America “was almost solely responsible” for the Andrews-Werdel campaign. Accordingly, the organization’s D.C. office doubled as the Andrews campaign headquarters. But they did make some alliances for the 1956 endeavor.
John U. Barr was an anti-union industrialist from New Orleans who served as chairman of the board of Industrial Maintenance Inc. and vice president of the Southern States Industrial Council for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
1956 would be the third election cycle Barr would break from his Democratic Party roots. He had been the Louisiana chairman of the State Rights’ Movement during Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrat campaign, and in 1952 he had supported Eisenhower. In a speech that spring, Barr described how economic central planning and a militarist foreign policy had led to the current crisis under Harry Truman:
I must reluctantly state that many of our leftists, both leaders and followers, are perfectly willing that hundreds of thousands of young Americans continue to be maimed and killed if such an emergency produces the rotten artificial economy now used as bait for further political activity and victory…. The destruction of free enterprise and the pauperizing of opportunity was no freak accident. It took 40 years of planning, two exhausting wars, and countless Korea-like police actions. Every step of that Fabian cunning is now a matter of public record.
Barr now worked under the mantle of the Federation for Constitutional Government (FCG), which he founded in October 1955. Despite his emphatic insistence that the FCG was “neither anti-Negro nor anti-labor,” it was colloquially known as both. In July 1956 the Evansville Courier & Press called the FCG “a coalition of the top leaders of the pro-segregation movement from Virginia to Texas…”
Together, Manion and Barr would co-chair the Andrews-Werdel campaign which launched in earnest after the two candidates accepted their nominations at an October 15 rally in Richmond, Virginia.
“Andrews spoke before some 2,500 Confederate flag waving states righters who only half filled a civic theater in this capitol of the confederacy,”' reported the Stockton Evening and Sunday Record. According to the New York Times, present in Richmond “were spokesmen for almost every degree of rightwing thought.” Both Andrews and Werdel’s acceptance speeches were broadcast over the radio, and as in Memphis, Manion gave the keynote.
“Although Manion and Werdel often inspired applause, it was Andrews, professionally an accountant, auditor and tax expert, who surprised by many the eloquence, personality and sense of humor with which he treated the usually dry subject of fiscal affairs in government,” reported the Shreveport Journal.
Andrews, whom the Fort Worth Star-Telegram described as “a big, friendly man with a quick smile,” said that both Republicans and Democrats were committed to “uncontrolled spending, oppressive taxation, reduction of the states to the status of political subdivisions of the union…and to war-breeding international entanglements.” He saw his purpose as a candidate “to found a new home for the orphaned members of both the old parties.”
The biggest applause came when Andrews made a veiled but obvious reference to the Brown decision. “No, my friends, we don’t need any federal aid for our schools. We know what kind of education to give our children. We know how much to give them. Above all, we know in what environment it should be given them,” he said to ovations.
The platform of the Andrews-Werdel campaign formed a three-legged stool: repeal of the federal income tax, opposition to school integration, and passage of the Bricker Amendment.
The unobtrusive term “States’ Rights” shared center-stage with “tax reform” in campaign materials, acting as a catch-all reference to racial segregation in public schools and the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. A brochure describes T. Coleman Andrews and Thomas H. Werdel’s position:
They hold undeviating respect for state and individual rights. Without this respect there can be neither union of sovereign states nor personal liberty. There can be only tyranny. On this question they stand squarely on Article 10 of the Bill of Rights…
It is a violation of this constitutional guarantee for the federal government to inject itself into matters that should be left to state and local governments. Moreover, to do so adds unnecessarily to the cost of government by spawning a vast bureaucracy, usually to the detriment, rather than the improvement, of good government.
For example: It should be left to state and local governments to decide how much and exactly what kind of education they are willing to support.
There is no popular demand for federal control or direction of education. As a matter of fact, this invasion of states’ rights is a pure political grab for power. Like a good many laws which lack popular support, the Supreme Court decision presuming to legalize such an invasion would doubtless be voided if submitted to the vote of the people.
The language is exceedingly clean and argues its position from a standpoint of decentralized governance and popular sovereignty, not explicit racialism. This decision, related at least in part to public relations, did not go unnoticed.
“While the movement’s national literature treads gently on the issue of school integration, state groups in the south are under no such inhibitions. This is the issue which, perhaps more than any other, is really supplying the fire in Virginia and other Southern states, according to movement leaders,” wrote the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
Nor did the softening of language mellow contemporaries. “Actually the independent group could be called the ‘segregation party’ for that is its main purpose,” observed Kenneth Beene in the Alabama Journal.
“Even without thunderous denunciations of integration, it was impossible to disaggregate the ticket from massive resistance. A thick-accented Virginian running on a states’ rights ticket in 1956 could not be understood outside that context,” concludes Nicole Hemmer.
Murray Rothbard, continuing his reflections in The Betrayal of the American Right, praised the Andrews-Werdel platform for its “absence of any call for a worldwide anti-Communist crusade. The Bricker Amendment, opposition to foreign aid, and withdrawal from the UN were the extent of their foreign affairs program.”
First introduced in 1951, the Bricker Amendment sought to clarify the treaty-making power of the presidency and stop the legal precedents of international organizations on domestic law. Its namesake was John W. Bricker, who from 1933 to 1959 served successively as Ohio’s attorney general, governor, and finally U.S. senator. In 1944 he was a major candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and selected as the party’s vice presidential nominee. A personal and political companion of his fellow Ohioan Robert Taft, Bricker distinguished himself from his mentor with his lively personality and fiery rhetoric.
“I do not want any of the international groups, and especially the group headed by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, which has drafted the Covenant of Human Rights, to betray the fundamental, inalienable, and God-given rights of American citizens enjoyed under the Constitution. That is really what I am driving at,” testified Bricker in early 1952.
Bricker, Frank S. Holman of the American Bar Association, and many others were concerned how the postwar international order would affect American law and domestic institutions. President Harry Truman had already invoked the United Nations charter to deploy American GIs to Korea without a congressional declaration of war, and in 1948 four Supreme Court justices cited the UN charter in the Oyama v. California decision. Conservatives feared that international agreements like the Genocide Convention and Universal Declaration of Human Rights would be used as a backdoor legal justification for domestic social reform, including on segregation.
Historian Thomas E. Woods explains the provisions of the best-known, 1953 version of the Bricker Amendment:
First, any provision of a treaty that conflicted with the letter of the Constitution would be rendered null and void. Second, a treaty would become effective as internal law only with the passage of appropriate legislation by Congress; that is, treaties would not be self-executing. Finally, the Amendment would rein in the executive with the requirement that all executive agreements between the President and any international organization or foreign power “be made only in the manner and to the extent to be prescribed by law.”
Delaying and defeating the Bricker Amendment was one of the first hurdles of the Eisenhower administration. When the former five-star was inaugurated, sixty-three senators (including all but three Republicans) had endorsed some version of what Ike called “stupid, a blind violation of the Constitution by stupid, blind isolationists.” Its passage would “cripple the Executive power to the point that we become helpless in world affairs.”
Strategizing with Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Lyndon Johnson, the White House was able to wear down the amendment’s support on Capitol Hill despite considerable action by the conservative grassroots. On February 25, 1954, the Bricker Amendment was defeated in a 50 to 42 vote in the U.S. Senate. A significantly watered down version, the George Amendment, failed to reach the required two-thirds threshold by a single vote.
“As I look back upon my service in the Senate I have very grave doubts that I was wrong in not supporting the Bricker Amendment,” regretted J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in 1971.
Clarence Manion’s outspoken support for the Bricker Amendment was the straw that broke the camel’s back in his position with the Eisenhower administration. By the time he was canned, Manion had spoken in favor of the amendment (contra the White House) in 48 states and on national radio. Its inclusion as the principal foreign policy plank of the Andrews-Werdel campaign represents one of its final insertions into the national conversation.
Earlier this year, in July 2023, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky put forth an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act amid rumors that Ukraine would soon ascend to NATO membership. Reminiscent of the Bricker Amendment, Paul sought to clarify that Article 5 of the military alliance does not supersede Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and Congress’s prerogative to declare war. Finding support only among conservative Republicans, the measure was defeated in the U.S. Senate 83 to 16.
Historian Sarah H. Brown called the supporters of T. Coleman Andrews “a veritable roll call of American right-wing extremists.” Thirty-nine people were named members of the campaign’s national committee, including former politicians, retired military officers, community business leaders, and state-level activists.
Charles Edison, son of the famous inventor, had served as secretary of the Navy under Franklin Roosevelt for the first year of World War II and was subsequently elected governor of New Jersey from 1941 to 1944. A conservative Democrat, he was part of the first small group to approach T. Coleman Andrews about running for president. Later on in the 1960s, Edison co-founded the Conservative Party of New York and The Fund for American Studies.
Spruille Braden had been the hatchet man of Franklin Roosevelt’s foreign policy in Latin America, rotating through ambassadorships to countries like Colombia, Cuba, and Argentina as he worked to undermine the influence of Nazi Germany. After the war, he served as Harry Truman’s assistant secretary of state for Latin America until 1947 and then as a consultant to American corporations in the region. A committed anti-communist, it’s alleged he was one of the architects of the 1954 coup d'état of President Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, acting in his capacity as a consultant for United Fruit.
Hugh Gladney Grant of Augusta, Georgia, had worked as a secretary to Senator Hugo Black from 1927 to 1933. Afterwards he went to the State Department where he served as the U.S. ambassador to Albania from 1935 to 1939 and ambassador to Thailand from 1940 to 1941. In the 1950s, Grant acted as vice chairman of the Constitution Party of Georgia and vice president of the States’ Rights Council of Georgia. While his former boss, now a sitting Supreme Court justice, may have voted to integrate public schools, Grant remained a dedicated segregationist and explicit racialist.
Retired Lieutenant General George E. Stratemeyer had held senior command posts in the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II and led the U.S. Air Force during the first year of the Korean War. Retired since 1952 and living in Florida, Stratemeyer promised to get Andrews on the state ballot “with my pen and pencil” if he had to. “Anybody who believes in states’ rights should get behind it. We’re losing our states’ rights more and more every month,” he said.
Vivien Kellems was a Connecticut industrialist and early tax resister. She made headlines during the 1940s when she refused to collect the payroll taxes of her employees, claiming she was being conscripted into unpaid labor by the government. A perennial candidate, in 1956 she was running an independent write-in campaign for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Prescott Bush, who dismissed her as an “isolationist.”
J. Evetts Haley of Canyon, Texas was a cattle rancher and prolific historian of the American southwest and pioneer past. In 1956, while a candidate for governor of Texas, Haley was charged with planting wheat on an Oklahoma farm (with the intention of feeding his cattle). Refusing to pay the $500 penalty, he challenged the legality of government agricultural controls and lost at the Supreme Court in 1959.
Robert M. Harriss of Forest Hills, New York, was a friend of Hamilton Fish and one of the men who sat down with Robert McCormick at the original 1954 founding of For America. He was a former governor of the New York Cotton Exchange and a partner in a major cotton brokerage firm. During the 1930s Harriss befriended Father Charles Coughlin, the controversial radio priest, and was an active supporter of the National Union for Social Justice.
Other members of the campaign’s national committee included bankers, insurance executives, Chamber of Commerce leaders, constitutional reform agitators, and heads of Citizens’ Councils in the south.
Asa Earl Carter, acting in his capacity as head of the North Alabama White Citizens’ Council, endorsed T. Coleman Andrews for president. Later in his career, Carter would work as a speechwriter for future Alabama Governor George Wallace, penning the infamous phrase “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” He also authored the western novel The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales.
William F. Buckley Jr., editor of the newly founded National Review, permitted his name to be used in an April 1956 telegram sent by For America to support the registration of independent electors. “Buckley continued to publicly oppose Eisenhower’s reelection,” writes Hemmer, but insistence from James Burnham and a preoccupation “with respectability” compelled National Review to resign itself to Eisenhower’s preferability. Buckley himself did not vote that year.
Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin had already been through the gamut. Censured at the end of 1954 for his sensational claims about communist infiltration of government and reviled in the media for his parade of congressional hearings into subversive influence, the senator was asked whether he had any well wishes for the former IRS chief; Andrews had hosted the senator in his Richmond home and was a public supporter during the hearings. While McCarthy said he knew Andrews and had “a high regard” for him personally, as a “root and center” Republican he would dutifully support Eisenhower’s reelection.
Murray Rothbard, writing in the September 1992 issue of the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, explained his championing of the Andrews-Werdel presidential ticket;
I was an ardent supporter of Andrews/Werdel (and of course the great Vivien Kellems for Senate of Connecticut), and would still be today. If the ticket had been on the ballot in New York, or if I had lived in Connecticut, I would have eagerly voted for and supported Andrews-Werdel-Kellems to the hilt. I would have done so for two reasons: first, because I agreed with the entire thrust of their politics; and second, because it was vitally important at the time to preserve and build upon this last gasp of the “isolationist” Old Right.
Rose Wilder Lane was a journalist and daughter of the beloved novelist Laura Ingalls Wilder. The publication of her book The Discovery of Freedom in 1943 has led to her classification as one of the mothers of the modern libertarian movement, along with Isabel Paterson and Ayn Rand. In correspondence with her friend Jasper Crane, who called the Andrews candidacy “amusing” but of little consequence in comparison to the Republicans whose “candidate and platform are markedly superior to the Democrats,” Rose Wilder Lane replied,
Dear Mr. Crane, it’s fantastic how well we agree in fundamentals and how frequently we diverge on surface matters. Now I am serious about the Coleman Andrews Party, and I shall change my plans in order to be here to vote for the splinter Republican candidate, Vivian Kellems, in Connecticut. I agree with you, of course, that these movements ‘won’t get very far,’ (at least, not soon) and I also agree completely with the statement of the Andrews Party’s Vice Presidential candidate on Fulton Lewis’s broadcast last Friday: Americans have had no vote since 1932, the choice has been between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, ‘and I’m against both of them,’ he said; and this new ticket on the ballot in twenty-eight states is, (1) an opportunity for Americans to register a choice, and (2) an experiment to find out what actual support there is in these States for American Constitutional Government.
That is the opportunity that I have been longing for, all these years; and I welcome with the greatest joy this offer of a way to register my own political philosophy—to ‘stand up and be counted,’ as one who believes what I believe.
What’s remarkable about Lane’s endorsement is her prior work, from 1942 to 1945, as a weekly columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier, whose 270,000 person circulation made it the most popular black newspaper of the era. “No libertarian has ever more creatively weaved together laissez-faire and antiracism than Lane,” writes historian David T. Beito.
It carries significant weight that an individual like Rose Wilder Lane with unimpeachable bonafides among both libertarians and antiracists enthusiastically endorsed T. Coleman Andrews, for whose candidacy she looked past any segregationist trimmings to see a coherent and principled Old Right platform.
With only three weeks between the campaign’s formal launch on October 15 and the general election on November 6, T. Coleman Andrews, Thomas H. Werdel, and surrogates like Clarence Manion began a barnstorming campaign across the states where the option of independent electors allowed them ballot access. These states were Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Eight of the fourteen states were located in the south.
Even with victory in every available state—a tall order, to put it mildly—the Andrews-Werdel campaign had a ceiling of 148 electoral votes, far below the required 266 minimum to reach the White House. The explicit goal became the same as most third-party movements: collect enough votes to throw the election into the U.S. House of Representatives, and use their share as bargaining power for policy concessions.
“We expect to create at least a sufficient show of conservative strength that our point of view will be respected,” Andrews told the New York Times. “There is going to be a very imposing protest vote. The least we will do is establish a beachhead on the Socialist front and insure the broadening of it into a forward movement, eventually in every state by 1960, probably by 1958.”
The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal labeled the States Righters a “party of protest” for “displaced conservatives” and left it at that.
The ceiling for success was lowered immediately when, days after the Richmond rally, the South Carolina team followed state tradition and seceded from the national organization. Micah Jenkins, chairman of the South Carolina Citizens’ Council, state director of John U. Barr’s Federation for Constitutional Government, and member of the National Committee of the Andrews-Werdel campaign, announced that South Carolina’s independent electors would instead cast their votes for Andrews’ former benefactor, Senator Harry Byrd.
Byrd, who had returned to the Democratic fold since his 1952 declaration of neutrality, denied having any contact with Jenkins or his South Carolina crew and resolutely rejected a presidential draft for himself. Jenkins maintained that Byrd, a Treasury “watchdog” and “Woodrow Wilson Democrat,” was the only candidate South Carolina’s independent electors planned to support.
Unfortunately for Andrews, South Carolina and its rich potential for protest votes was now out of his reach. He had been scheduled to speak in Columbia on October 19 but the event was quickly canceled. This was a disappointment to 85-year-old Mrs. Beulah Walker of Byron, Georgia, who had traveled 200 miles to attend the speech. “Why, I would rather choke a dog than vote for either Eisenhower, Stevenson, or Nixon,” she said.
Supporters in other states were more lucky. Before the election, T. Coleman Andrews visited and spoke in a string of southern cities, including Shreveport, New Orleans, Memphis, and Montgomery, where his crowd sizes typically numbered around 750 people. Thomas H. Werdel spoke on his own in Covington, Kentucky, and Clarence Manion made it all the way out to Davenport, Iowa.
An October 30 editorial by the Shreveport Journal welcomed Andrews to Louisiana as “the South’s own candidate for President of the United States,” a “man of character and courage who offers himself as a defender of the laws, customs, and traditions which mark our chosen way of life.” The newspaper insisted every resident of every political background attend his upcoming rallies “to stand up and be counted as a SOUTHERNER.”
Headlining an Andrews-Werdel rally in Alexandria, Louisiana, where neither nominee was present, Clarence Manion tossed out red meat by the bucketful. “I read about policing schools with national guard troops and learn that little white and colored children are being driven into this by the Supreme Court which is backed in its maneuvers by organizations which are allied with the Communist Party,” he told the crowd. “The American eagle cannot fly on two left wings, and if he’s going to straighten up and fly right, we’ve got to build a right wing for him.”
Manion was preceded at the rostrum by former Louisiana State Rep. Edward Dubuisson, co-chairman of the States’ Rights Party of Louisiana. “I talk to you, not about good government alone, but about the survival of the white race,” Dubuisson roared. “We hold no animosity toward other races. They may claim to be equal or even superior… I don’t begrudge the Negroes what they lack. I only want to be kind and rational.… But let us as a white people determine to remain white.”
Speaking for himself at a rally in New Orleans, Andrews’ words were less racially inflammatory and more focused on tax distribution but amounted to the same policy:
We maintain that the business of public education is not, and must not be permitted to be, a matter of federal concern or jurisdiction…In the first place if we let the federal government run the schools, where will they get the money? They’ve got to get it from us, the people of the states… And then what happens to it? They skim off about one third of it to maintain that bloated bureaucracy that has been established in the “District of Confusion” and infiltrated into every county, city and town in this country… We are being slowly but surely transferred from free people to political and economic slaves…If our money is going to be wasted, we are entitled to the privilege of wasting it ourselves.
“A big six-footer, 57-year-old Andrews has a face that can tighten fist-like or relax into an engaging grin,” described the Charlotte Observer.
Foreign policy was not excluded from the events. In Shreveport, Andrews said that $15 billion could be trimmed from the U.S. military appropriations. In 1956 the U.S. military budget, which had already been cut by Eisenhower, hovered between $36 and $40.5 billion and constituted over 60 percent of the federal budget. “Military people are trained for war and war is wasteful and extravagant so they don’t know anything about economy…everybody who was in the service in the last war knows what military waste is,” Andrews explained, referencing his own World War II record.
His Memphis speech focused almost entirely on overseas handouts. “This foreign aid racket will never be stopped until the American people unite to stop it and that is precisely what we State’s Righters have organized to do,” Andrews said, warning that if Democrats and Republicans continued to rule then the U.S. Constitution and “its recognition of authority of the states is just about on its last legs.”
“The Republican Party was no less radical in its tone in 1856 than the States’ Rights Party seems to be today,” said George Sokolsky, a nationally syndicated conservative columnist.
An Andrews-Werdel pamphlet encouraged supporters, “Make every effort to have your local radio and TV stations carry commentators who further our cause. Concentrate on Manion Forum, Dan Smoot and Fulton Lewis, Jr. who will keep you informed on this protest vote campaign. Commend stations which are already carrying these programs.”
Radio personality Fulton Lewis Jr., wearing the campaign’s stamp of approval, complained in his syndicated column, “This country’s mass information distribution media—newspapers, radio, television, press associations—very obviously are giving the silent treatment to the conservative coalition and its Andrews-Werdel presidential ticket.”
This silent treatment extended to polling firms. “Despite national publicity for the Andrews campaign, his candidacy was so marginal that only one national opinion poll bothered to ask about support for it, and supporters were so few that the Gallup organization did not bother to code their responses,” writes Professor Isaac William Martin, author of Rich People’s Movements: Grassroots Campaigns to Untax the One Percent.
While polling was nonexistent at the national level, a survey in Virginia was more constructive. According to a statewide poll taken by a Richmond newspaper in September, T. Coleman Andrews received 28 percent of the electorate in a three-way race with Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson.
“The States’ Righters plan to make a serious play for the Virginia vote… They have imported a professional publicity man to see that they get as much air time and news space as possible,” reported the Daily Review on October 9, 1956. “In a close race, each voter distracted might make the difference between victory and defeat, and when Andrews, according to the polls, might garner 150,000 votes, either party could stand or fall on the basis of which is hardest hit by the Andrews vote.”“The soundest information from polls, Virginia political editors and party leaders is that Andrews will get around 30 percent of the Virginia vote for his States’ Rights Party,” concurred the New York Daily News on October 29.
The Eisenhower camp was paranoid that Andrews would eat away at their margins below the Mason-Dixon. In 1952 Eisenhower had been only the second Republican of the twentieth century (after Herbert Hoover in 1928) to break the Democratic Party’s hold on the “Solid South.” Four years later, in a country even more polarized by race, those inroads seemed at risk.
A bombshell dropped in mid-October when Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, a black Democrat from Harlem, publicly endorsed Dwight Eisenhower for reelection and recounted a promise the commander in chief had made to him about school integration. According to Powell, Eisenhower told him that in school districts who refuse to desegregate their students, federal courts must “get federal marshals, swear in deputies if they need them, go out and arrest anyone who refuses to obey their order, bring them before the court, try them for contempt, and if they’re guilty, put them in prison.”
The White House disputed this version of events, and Powell had to issue a retraction. While Eisenhower supported increased powers for the Justice Department and the suspension of federal funds for disobedient school districts, he never claimed an interest in imprisoning people for contempt of Brown.
Up until this time, T. Coleman Andrews had assumed he was winning adherents from both sides equally. “But then the congressman from Harlem reported that the Republican candidate had promised vigorous action on civil rights and FEPC and special deputies to arrest and throw people into prison who insist that the states have a right to run the schools the way they think best,” Andrews said, the incident having become a cornerstone of his campaign speeches. “Since then people [from Eisenhower’s side] have been coming over to us in droves. Where else could these disillusioned people go? They were choosing between two evils in the first place and all of a sudden the second evil made itself as bad as the first. … If the Republican candidate wants to rub salt into the raw wounds inflicted upon us by his great Republican chief justice, that’s his privilege, I suppose, but his supporters shouldn’t blame us if his offensive behavior drives their prospects to us.”
On October 29, while en route to Florida, President Eisenhower gave an unplanned speech at Byrd Field on a rainy day in Richmond, Virginia. The paranoia about facing the city’s favorite son was real, but the threat was imagined.
T. Coleman Andrews won only 6.16 percent of his fellow Virginians, less than 43,000 votes. While Andrews did win Prince Edward County outright, Eisenhower surpassed his 1952 victory with a 17 point margin.
Meanwhile, the breakaway delegation in South Carolina supporting a non-compliant Harry Byrd won 88,500 votes, or 29.45 percent. Nowhere in the country was a slate of independent electors victorious. (A single faithless elector in Alabama cast a vote for Circuit Judge Walter Burgwyn Jones.)
Only in one state did the Andrews-Werdel campaign make a demonstrable difference on election day. “In Tennessee, Democrats insist that the unexpected strength shown by T. Coleman Andrews, the State’s Rights candidate for President…cost Adlai E. Stevenson the Volunteer State. Mr. Andrews polled about 25,000 votes in normally strong Democratic areas,” reported the Huntsville Mirror.
In totality, T. Coleman Andrews and Thomas H. Werdel received 108,956 votes, amounting to only 0.18% of the American electorate. Somehow, the ticket still came in third place. Dwight D. Eisenhower easily glided into a second term with a 457 electoral vote landslide and a beefy 57.4 percent majority. Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson was treated to a second, consecutive knock-out blow by Ike.
In early December a meeting of campaign associates assembled to discuss next moves. Attendees included Andrews, Clarence Manion, John U. Barr, Dan Smoots, Charles Edison, and Vivien Kellems (who received 6,219 write-in votes or 0.56 percent in her U.S. Senate race). The National Committee passed a resolution which said in part, “It is particularly obvious that today we face a greater measure of extravagance, deeper international involvement, and a more serious loss of sovereignty than ever before in our history.” They pledged “that the forces supporting the Constitution have just begun to fight.”
While for some of them that was true, it would not be together. And it would not be under the leadership of T. Coleman Andrews.
Andrews continued his work at American Fidelity and Casualty Insurance Company and gave speeches in opposition to the income tax. In 1958, he was one of only a dozen men present at the founding of the John Birch Society and accepted a position on the first JBS National Council.
JBS founder Robert Welch, a Massachusetts candy magnate, had been a speaker at the 1956 States’ Rights nominating convention in Memphis, Tennessee. During his speech Welch had mentioned that the Girl Scouts, the Parent-Teacher Association, and the League of Women Voters were ruining the country by becoming “dupes of the left.”
Andrews temporarily resigned from the JBS in 1962 over disagreement with Welch’s conspiracy-laced book The Politician before permanently terminating his membership in 1963, in part to care for his increasingly sick wife. In 1965, T. Coleman Andrews departed all of his businesses for a full-time retirement of gardening and golf. He died January 6, 1985, at the age of 85.
His son T. Coleman Andrews Jr. served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates in the 1960s and helped organize George Wallace’s 1968 independent campaign for president (which Andrews Sr. supported). His grandson, T. Coleman Andrews III, is a venture capitalist and was a founding partner of Bain Capital alongside former Republican presidential nominee and current Senator Mitt Romney.
After the 1956 election, Thomas H. Werdel returned to his law practice, and in 1960 and 1964 served as a California advisor to the Republican presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater. He died on September 30, 1966 at the age of 61.
For America petered out as an organization before the end of the decade with successor PACs like the Citizens Foreign Aid Committee (formed in opposition to the U.S. foreign aid program) or the Committee Against Summit Entanglements (formed in opposition to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s 1959 visit to the states) having almost identical rosters as their predecessor, but geared towards narrower policy goals than third-party politics.
After a brief dalliance with the presidential prospects of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus—instigator of the Little Rock school integration crisis in 1957—Clarence Manion became infatuated with Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Attempting to will a Goldwater challenge to Richard Nixon into reality, Manion was the driving force behind the publication of the senator’s manifesto The Conscience of a Conservative, going so far as to prod ghostwriter L. Brent Bozell when drafts were slow in arriving and personally arranging the book’s distribution.
Although an archconservative, Barry Goldwater was never part of the Old Right tradition. Decidedly warmer to Atlanticist institutions like NATO, Goldwater dismissed the efforts of the America First Committee with the smear of “isolationism” and viewed the Cold War as an existential struggle requiring continual confrontation against the Soviet Union.
By 1964, when Goldwater wrestled the Republican presidential nomination from the Eastern establishment of the party, remnants of the Andrews-Werdel campaign had either died, retired, or resigned themselves to the newer style of conservatism comfortable with domestic militarism and enthusiastic about overseas intervention.
“The Midwestern right was eventually surpassed by the South, West, and Southwest (collectively known as the Sunbelt) as the center of Republican conservatism. Unlike the rural Midwest, the Sunbelt (aka ‘the Gunbelt’) was firmly integrated into America’s Cold War economy,” explains historian Brandan P. Buck.
Precisely a decade earlier, Andrews-Werdel supporters like General Bonner Fellers were giving sober advice to not pursue “imperialism” in Asia. “Just as our intervention in Korea failed to discourage the Communist war in Indochina, likewise our intervention in Indochina will not prevent Communist activities nearby,” he warned, dismissing the popular Domino Theory. “Our mission then becomes not the salvation of America and our own souls, but rather our mission becomes one of saving the world—despite the fact that some of the world doesn’t want to be saved.”
Flash forward to 1966, and Fellers was making appearances on the Manion Forum describing why the United States had to fully commit itself to winning in Vietnam and “lift present restriction on air and sea power.” Clarence Manion agreed, instructing his audience to put political pressure on President Lyndon Johnson by forming “Viet Nam victory committees” in their towns.
The same people who had opposed Harry Truman’s war in Korea as an unconstitutional sellout to the forces of socialism were now all in for Vietnam.
Contemporary political scientist Samuel DuBois Cook cataloged the 1956 States’ Rights Party as one of multiple “token campaigns” waged by the “ghostly remains” of the 1948 Dixiecrats. To the extent this referred to their one hundred thousand voters, Cook was correct.
It’s unlikely many of the people who ended up casting a ballot for Andrews-Werdel ever consciously identified as part of the Old Right or participated in one of its organizational arms. The original America First Committee was based primarily in the Midwest, with two-thirds of its members living within a three-hundred mile radius of the Tribune Tower. While it had outside appeal in New England and the Great Plains, the southern United States was actually its weakest area of representation.
“The South, for America First, was distinctly hostile territory. The Committee’s sympathizers raised their voices in that region only at great risk of defeat and virtual certainty of much criticism,” wrote historian Wayne S. Cole. Furthermore, those sympathizers “were frequently southern Republicans, former or part-time Northerners, or Southerners with Northern experiences.”
Neither was the region naturally fertile for the Old Right’s laissez faire economics. Well into the 1960s, southerners reliably supported, in the words of historian Joseph Crespino, “policies that infuriated the Republican right wing: farm subsidies, social security, or any number of other federal programs that disproportionately aided southern interests. These were New Deal innovations—all of them part of what right-wingers saw as the pantheon of statist evils ushered in during the red decade of the 1930s.”
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Evidenced by its ideological commitment to limited government at home and abroad, the Andrews-Werdel campaign was not simply a footnote in between Strom Thurmond and George Wallace. Despite its southern trappings, and a platform that unfortunately became overshadowed by race relations, its origins were strictly Taftite.
As Murray Rothbard recognized, “The Andrews/Werdel forces were rooted in the Right-wing of the Republican party and were an attempt to form a new Old Right party, while putting pressure on the Republicans to take back that party from the Wall Street liberals that had conquered it in the Eisenhower Administration.”
Intellectually and organizationally, the presidential campaign of T. Coleman Andrews and Thomas H. Werdel were the parting words of a once popular and respected political movement. An epilogue to the Old Right.