Thursday, July 19, 2007

Parley Christensen


Parley P. Christensen was born on this day in 1869 in Weston, Idaho.

A Cornell law graduate, Christensen became the youngest ever county attorney for Salt Lake County, Utah, and was a prominent Republican organizer until 1912, when he defected to Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive or "Bull Moose" Party. In the aftermath of Roosevelt's defeat that year, Christensen found himself aligned with pro-labor independents, and as a founder of the Utah Labor Party became a staunch defender of members of the International Workers of the World (IWW, or Wobblies) against politically-motivated criminal charges brought against them during the period.

At the first convention of the Farmer-Labor Party in 1920, Christensen was nominated for president, and he campaigned largely on the platform of establishing the 8-hour work day, disarming the U.S. and nationalizing basic industries, but also prominently supported the release of political prisoners such as his rival, Socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs, who had been imprisoned for sedition after giving a speech criticizing U.S. government crackdowns against political dissenters. More leftists saw fit to vote for Debs himself as the "real deal" rather than for Christensen; Christensen polled 265,411 votes (mainly in Montana, South Dakota and Washington) to Debs' 919,799 as Warren Harding easily won the election.

After a tour of Europe which included a meeting with V.I. Lenin, Christensen settled briefly in Chicago, where he ran for U.S. Senate as the candidate of the Illinois Progressive Party in 1926. Shortly thereafter he moved to California where he became involved in Upton Sinclair's campaign for governor in 1934, and eventually served as the most liberal member of the Los Angeles City Council (1935-37 and 1939-49), until he was defeated from the left by Edward Roybal, the first hispanic to be elected to Council since the 1880s. Christensen died on February 10, 1954 in Los Angeles.


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