We have to thank, once again, Jack Hilliard for today’s post. . . . “Thanks again, Jack!”
What is one thing the following cities have in common?:
- Chicago, Illinois,
- Los Angeles, California
- Atlantic City, New Jersey
- Miami Beach, Florida
How about a hint? Next year Charlotte, North Carolina can be added to the list.
The answer: each of the four cities listed above has hosted the Democratic National Convention—and Hugh Morton photographed all four.
Next September 3rd, when the 46th Democratic National Convention gavels to order in Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena, the party’s presidential nominee will most likely already be known. That wasn’t the case, however, back in 1956 when the Democrats gathered in Chicago. Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, who had been the party’s presidential candidate in 1952, was again selected on the first ballot getting about 66% of the votes, but the real fireworks came when he asked the delegates to selected the candidate for vice president. Thirteen names were offered, including Luther Hodges of North Carolina. But in the end, two candidates were seriously considered: Estes Kefauver of Tennessee and John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. It took two ballots for Kefauver to gain the nomination. As was the case in 1952, the Republicans swept the general election with Eisenhower and Nixon.
A few days before the 1960 convention opened in Los Angeles, John F. Kennedy, the leading candidate, received two new challengers when Lyndon B. Johnson, the powerful Senate majority leader from Texas, and Adlai Stevenson II, the party’s nominee in 1952 and 1956, announced their candidacies. But in the end, neither Johnson nor Stevenson could match the talented Kennedy team headed by Robert Kennedy. Giving one of John Kennedy’s nominating speeches was Duke University President and future North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford. JFK won on the first ballot gaining 53 percent of the voting delegates, and went on to defeat Richard Nixon in the close 1960 general election.
The 1964 convention, held in Atlantic City, was a little more cut and dried. The favorite going in was incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had been Kennedy’s vice president and became president in November of 1963 following Kennedy’s assassination. Johnson was selected by acclamation. The ’64 convention took place less than a year after John Kennedy’s assassination and on the final day of the gathering, Robert Kennedy introduced a film in honor of his brother’s memory. When Robert Kennedy appeared on the convention floor, the delegates erupted in twenty-two minutes of uninterrupted applause, causing him to break into tears. LBJ soundly defeated Barry Goldwater in the 1964 general election.
Eight years later, the Democrats gathered in Miami Beach for their 36th convention. The convention itself turned out to be one of the most unusual political events in recent history. A solid 57 percent of the delegates selected George McGovern of South Dakota as their presidential candidate, but the selection for vice president turned out to be somewhat of a joke. Seventy-seven people were nominated for the position. Some of the more famous names were Jimmy Carter, Shirley Chisholm, Ted Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy. There was a group of North Carolinians on the ballot including Skipper Bowles, Jim Hunt, Terry Sanford, and Nick Galifianakis. Then there was the list that included Dr. Benjamin Spock, CBS-TV anchor Roger Mudd, and “Joe Smith,” the fictitious character from the 1956 Republican convention. In the end, Thomas Eagleton of Missouri was selected as the vice presidential candidate. When it was disclosed that Eagleton had undergone mental health treatment (including electroshock therapy), he withdrew and was replaced on the ballot by Sargent Shriver.
The 1972 convention prime time sessions began in the early evenings and lasted until the wee hours, and the bizarre vice presidential balloting caused McGovern’s acceptance speech to begin at 3:00 a.m. (EDT). The unorthodox behavior of the Democratic National Convention delegates was “rewarded” by voters in the November, 1972 general election. The party’s nominees lost in the worst landslide in US history.
It is expected that the Queen City hosting the 2012 convention will generate more than 150 million dollars for Charlotte and surrounding metropolitan areas, and will bring in more than 35,000 delegates and special guests. It will be the kind of event that Hugh Morton would have attended and documented in his own special way.