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1940 Democratic National Convention
1940 Presidential Election
FDR in 1933.jpg 33 Henry Wallace 3x4.jpg
Date(s) July 15 - July 18
City Chicago, Illinois
Venue Chicago Stadium
Presidential Nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt
of New York
Vice Presidential Nominee Henry Wallace of Iowa
1936  ·  1944

The 1940 Democratic National Convention was held at the Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois from July 15 - July 18, 1940. The convention resulted in the re-nomination of President Franklin Roosevelt as the Democratic Party candidate for an unprecedented third term. Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace was nominated for Vice-President.

Despite the unprecedented bid for a third term, Roosevelt was nominated on the first ballot. Roosevelt's most formidable challengers were his former campaign manager James Farley and his Vice President, John Nance Garner. Both had sought the nomination for the presidency and soundly lost to Roosevelt who would be "drafted" at the convention. Henry Wallace was Roosevelt's preferred choice for the Vice-Presidency. His candidacy was opposed vehemently by some delegates, particularly the conservative wing of the party which had been unenthusiastic about Wallace's liberal positions. Nonetheless, Wallace was ultimately nominated.[1]


Democratic candidates

Throughout the winter, spring, and summer of 1940 there was much speculation as to whether Roosevelt would break with long-standing tradition and run for an unprecedented third term. The "two-term" tradition, although not yet enshrined in the U.S. Constitution as the 22nd Amendment, had been established by President George Washington when he refused to run for a third term in 1796, and the tradition was further supported by Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Democratic Party.[1] Roosevelt, however, refused to give a definitive statement as to his willingness to be a candidate, even indicating to his old friend and political kingmaker James Farley[2] that he would not be a candidate again and that he could seek the nomination. However, as Nazi Germany swept through Western Europe and menaced Britain in the summer of 1940 Roosevelt decided that only he had the necessary experience and skills to see the nation safely through the Nazi threat. He was aided by the party's political bosses, who feared that no Democrat except Roosevelt could defeat the charismatic Willkie.

Voice from the sewers

Roosevelt's backers sealed the deal with an elaborate stunt during the convention itself. Chicago Superintendent of Sewers Thomas D. Garry waited in a basement room with a microphone hooked up to the Chicago Stadium loudspeakers. When Kentucky Senator Alben Barkley mentioned the president by name during a floor speech, Garry began to shout over the speakers, "We want Roosevelt! The world wants Roosevelt!" Chicago machine operatives planted around the stadium echoed and spread the chant, remembered as the "voice from the sewers." [3]

The balloting

Presidential Ballot Vice Presidential Ballot
Franklin D. Roosevelt 946 Henry A. Wallace 626
James A. Farley 72 William B. Bankhead 329
John Nance Garner 61 Paul V. McNutt 68
Millard E. Tydings 9 Alva B. Adams 11
Cordell Hull 5 James A. Farley 7
Jesse H. Jones 5
Joseph C. O'Mahoney 3
Alben W. Barkley 2
Prentiss M. Brown 1
Louis A. Johnson 1
Scott W. Lucas 1
Bascomb Timmons 1
David I. Walsh 0.5

Vice-presidential selection

John Nance Garner, Roosevelt's Vice President, was a Texas conservative who had turned against Roosevelt because of his liberal economic and social policies; Roosevelt therefore decided to pick another running mate. He chose Henry A. Wallace, his Secretary of Agriculture, to be the vice-presidential nominee. Wallace, an outspoken liberal, was strenuously opposed by many delegates at the convention, particularly the more conservative Southern Democrats.[1] When Roosevelt aide Harry Hopkins told Roosevelt by telephone that Wallace's nomination was meeting resistance, Roosevelt threatened not to run if Wallace was not nominated, even drafting a speech declining the nomination. Wallace was successfully nominated after Eleanor Roosevelt flew to Chicago to campaign on his behalf.[4] James Farley could not be on the ticket as Vice-President because both he and Roosevelt were from New York State.

See also


Preceded by
Democratic National Conventions Succeeded by


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