Thursday, April 12, 2007

Speaker Bankhead

William B. Bankhead, Democratic U.S. Congressman from Alabama (1917-40), speaker of the House (1936-40) and father of actress Tallulah Bankhead, was born on this day in 1874 in Moscow, Alabama.

In return for all of the assistance Bankhead had provided Franklin Roosevelt in getting his "New Deal" legislation through Congress, Roosevelt had allegedly promised Bankhead the vice presidency for the 1940 election, but instead threw the post to Henry Wallace. Bankhead complained privately, "The Convention was an ordeal that will not be soon forgotten. I venture to say that it was the most un-American and dictatorial meeting ever held by the great Democratic party . . . President Roosevelt has double-crossed me for the last time. I shall never forgive him for the way he acted."

Within two months of his complaint, on September 15, 1940, Bankhead died; good soldier Sam Rayburn succeeded him as speaker, and Roosevelt's "New Deal" lived to see another day.

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