William Knowland

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William Fife “Bill” Knowland


In office
August 26, 1945 – January 3, 1959
Preceded by Hiram Johnson
Succeeded by Clair Engle

State Senator from
California's 16th District
In office
January 7, 1935 – January 2, 1939
Preceded by Arthur Breed, Sr.
Succeeded by Arthur Breed, Jr.

State Assemblyman from
California's 14th District
In office
January 2, 1933 – January 7, 1935
Preceded by Frank Israel
Succeeded by Charles Wagner

Born June 26, 1908
Alameda, California
Died February 23, 1974
Guerneville, California
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Helen Davis Herrick
(m. 1926, div. 1972)

(2) Ruth Ann Dickson
(m. 1972)

Children Three (with Helen):

• Emelyn Knowland Jewett (1928–1988)[1]
• Joseph William "Joe" Knowland (died 2019)[2][3]
• Estelle Knowland Johnson[4]

Two stepchildren
(with Ruth Ann)

Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Religion Methodist[4][5]

Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1942–1945
Rank Major
Unit Forward Echelon
Communications Zone
Fifteenth United States Army
Battles/wars World War II
Awards • American Campaign Medal
• European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
• World War II Victory Medal
• Army of Occupation Medal

William Fife Knowland (June 26, 1908 – February 23, 1974), known as William F. Knowland and Bill Knowland,[6] was a California Republican who served as the state's U.S. senator from the mid-1940s to the late 50s, previously being a member of the state legislature. He was known as an ardent anti-Communist throughout his tenure.

Background

Knowland was born in Alaeda, California (located in Alameda County) to Elinor Fife and Joseph Russell Knowland, a congressman. Following the death of his mother shortly after his birth, Knowland's father Joseph married the former Emelyn West.

Setting sights on a political career before reaching adulthood. Knowland gave speeches advocating for the election of Warren G. Harding during the 1920 presidential race when he was only twelve.[4] After completing public schools, he attended the University of California at Berkeley, then proceeding to join the newspaper publishing business.

At the age of nineteen while being a sophomore in the University of California, Knowland married the former Helen Davis Herrick, a childhood sweetheart who he met in sixth grade.[4] They had three children: Emelyn, Joseph, and Estelle.

Political career

At the age of twenty-five, Knowland became a state assemblyman in the lower California legislature, notably being the youngest member of the body.[4] Two years later, he became the youngest state senator in California.

From 1940 to 1942, Knowland was the executive committee chair of the Republican National Committee.[4]

U.S. Senate

After the death of incumbent RINO senator Hiram Warren Johnson, then-governor of California Earl Warren appointed Knowland as an interim to the seat.[7] During this time, he was serving in World War II as an enlisted officer and military historian for the U.S. in Europe, learning of his appointment from a newspaper.[4] Knowland was discharged from the military in 1945.

In 1946, Knowland and Homer Ferguson of Michigan pushed through an amendment which halted rent controls on the federal level in states that already have established such controls.[8] The motion easily passed on July 11 by a 59–20 vote.[9]

Sen. Knowland decried the takeover of China by the Chinese Communists in 1949 and strongly supported Chiang Kai-Shek,[7] who led the Chinese Nationalist Party. Following the downfall of Kai-Shek, Knowland opposed the entry of the China into the United Nations.[10] During the same congressional session (81st Congress), Knowland voted with the conservative side three-quarters of the time.[11] In addition, he backed cloture for Robert A. Taft's "voluntary Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC)" bill against a Southern filibuster[12] as well as the Lucas Amendment supporting President Harry Truman's desegregation of the army.[13]

In 1955, Knowland interestingly came out against sending arms to Israel due to concerns of an escalating proxy war where communists would respond by sending additional arms to Arabs, stating:[14]

It is not up to the United States to make the decision in this troubled area but it is the job, and the duty, of The United Nations to act.

The UN Security Council or the General Assembly, if necessary, could call an embargo on arms to the Middle East or an embargo on either Israel or the Arabs, whichever de is the aggressor, or they could blockade one or both sides.

A supporter of right-to-work laws, Knowland opposed closed shops.[4]

Knowland, who backed Joseph McCarthy, was one of twenty-two mostly conservative senators voting against the censure of Wisconsin Republican who had investigated and exposed communist infiltration of the U.S. government.[15][16] The censure was backed by both moderate/liberal Republicans and the large majority of Democrats, including the Southern segregationists.

TIME Magazine featured Knowland on a cover for their January 14, 1947 entry.[17]

Civil Rights Act of 1957

William F. Knowland bioguide picture.jpg

Largely a civil rights advocate despite initial opposition towards such major legislative action,[18] Knowland gave strong support to the Civil Rights Act of 1957,[19] which he was the floor manager of,[10] ensured final Senate passage,[20] and voted for along with over 90% of Senate Republicans.[21] He opposed efforts supported by the majority of Senate Democrats (both Northern and Southern) at the direction of future president Lyndon B. Johnson (who was the Senate Majority Leader at the time) which watered down the bill, voting against the removal of Title III (which allowed the United States Attorney General to seek preventative relief in civil rights cases)[22] and the instituting of a jury trial amendment.[23] The amendments passed with the support of the majority of Senate Democrats, both Northern and Southern (contrary to the naive narrative promoted by advocates of the party switch myth narrative that Northern liberal Democrats were simply "pro-civil rights").

Based on accounts documented by authors and historians, Knowland was heavily frustrated by the weakening of the legislation.[24] According to Johnson biographer Robert A. Caro following the passage of the O'Mahoney[25] jury trial amendment:[26]

In the wake of the vote, emotions spilled over. Richard Nixon could not contain his frustration and rage. When, as he was leaving the Chamber, reporters asked his reaction, the Vice President said, “This is one of the saddest days in the history of the Senate. It was a vote against the right to vote.” Clarence Mitchell went to Knowland's office to discuss what to do now, and could hardly believe what he saw there. “That big, strong, brusque Knowland actually broke down and cried,” Mitchell was to recall.

The 1957 civil rights debate was not the only time Knowland proved to be outmaneuvered by the deceitful and shrewd Johnson.[10][27] Due to his overall inability to outsmart the Texas Democrat, he was replaced as the GOP leader after leaving the Senate by fellow Illinois conservative Everett Dirksen, who defeated Kentucky Moderate Republican John Sherman Cooper for the post by a 20–14 vote.[28]

Moderate Republican?

The New York Times states in its obituary on Knowland:[4]

Despite the label of “right‐winger” he was given primarily through his positions on the China issue, Mr. Knowland's voting record was considered more liberal than those of many nominal liberals who opposed him.

While Knowland may not have taken the conservative side on all issues,[29] he consistently stood as a member of the Old Right, ranging from his aggressive anti-communism to opposing excessive labor union power. Knowland furthermore always supported conservative Republican candidates for party presidential nominations.

1958 gubernatorial bid

In the 1958 Midterm Elections, Knowland retired from the Senate to run for Governor of California. He lost the general election by nearly twenty percentage points to Democrat Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, Sr., the father of Jerry Brown.[30] This was largely attributed to Knowland's support for right-to-work laws.[4]

Later political involvement

Knowland supported the candidacy of conservative Barry Goldwater for president in the 1964 election and served on the Arizona senator's campaign committee.[4] Although Goldwater lost the election to incumbent Democrat president Lyndon Johnson by a landslide, he sparked a revival of the conservative movement which eventually propelled Ronald Reagan to the presidency.

During the 1968 presidential election, Knowland was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, where he supported the more conservative Ronald Reagan over incumbent Moderate Republican president Gerald R. Ford.[4] He was also an opponent of the radical Black Panthers and successfully opposed their efforts to boycott a grocery store in Oakland.

Personal life

During his time in the Senate, Knowland's wife Helen carried an extramarital affair with his Michigan senatorial colleague Arthur Edson Blair Moody, known as Blair Moody.[31] Unaware of his wife's infidelity, Knowland coincidentally carried an affair with Moody's wife Ruth.

Suicide

Following continued and perpetuating turmoil ever since his divorce from Helen,[31] Knowland was found dead in late February 1974 in what appeared to be a suicide by gunshot,[4] which was soon confirmed by an autopsy.[6] Then-Vice President Gerald Ford stated:

I am deeply grieved by the death of Bill Knowland. Bill was a close personal friend of mine. He was an, outstanding American who served his country well in a time of great need.

Governor Ronald Reagan asserted:[4]

California has lost one of its leading citizens. He was a great gentleman, and I shall miss his counsel and friendship.

Newspaper business

After leaving political office, Knowland worked as the publisher of The Oakland Tribune, which his father had operated.[6] Following his death, Knowland's son Joseph took over as the editor-in-chief and publisher of the Oakland Tribune.[2] Known as Joe Knowland and described by his son as "a vaudevillian at heart,"[3] he died in 2019 at the age of eighty-eight.

See also

References

  1. Emelyn Knowland Jewett. Find a Grave. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Baldassari, Erin; Harris, Harry; Sciacca, Annie (March 16, 2019). ‘Mighty Joe Knowland,’ former Oakland Tribune publisher, dies at 88. The Mercury News. Archived version available here. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Fagan, Kevin (March 21, 2019). Joseph W. Knowland, former Oakland Tribune publisher who also acted, dies. San Francisco Chronicle. Archived version available here. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 William E Knowland Is Apparent Suicide; Ex‐Senator Was 65. The New York Times. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  5. Knighten to Knowland. The Political Graveyard. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 February 25, 1974. KNOWLAND DEATH IS CALLED SUICIDE. The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  7. FascinatingPolitics (December 20, 2020). Wartime Price Controls: Economic Restrictions in a State of Emergency. Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  8. H J RES 371. KNOWLAND AMEND. TO INSERT PROVISION TERMINAT- ING RENT CONTROLS IN STATES WHERE STATE HAS ESTABLISHED CON- TROL AND REGULATION OF THE RENT HOUSING ACCOMMODATIONS.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  9. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Knowland, William Fife, 1908-1974. Social Networks and Archival Context. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  10. FascinatingPolitics (January 6, 2019). Ideology and Civil Rights, 1950 Edition. Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  11. S 1728. PROHIBIT DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT BECAUSE OF RACE, COLOR, RELIGION OR NATIONAL ORIGIN. MOTION FOR CLOTURE.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  12. HR 6826. EXTENSION OF SELECTIVE SERVICE MANPOWER REGISTRA- TION ACT. AMEND. TO ELIMINATE A COMMITTEE AMEND. WHICH WOULD GIVE OPTION TO ENLISTEE TO SERVE IN A UNIT, THE PER- SONNEL OF WHICH ARE OF HIS OWN RACE.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  13. November 9, 1955. Senator Knowland Opposes Sending of American Arms to Israel. Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  14. S. RES. 301. PASSAGE.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  15. 1954McCarthyCensure.pdf. United States Senate. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  16. Sen. William Knowland - Jan. 14, 1957 - Congress - Senators - California - Politics. TIME Magazine. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  17. Montgomery, Gayle B.; Johnson, James W.; Manolis, Paul G. (1998). One Step from the White House: The Rise and Fall of Senator William F. Knowland (p. 213). University of California.
  18. Civil Rights Act of 1957. encyclopedia.com. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  19. Knight, Martin (March 1, 2020). The Republican Party, Race and the South - Correcting The Record. RedState. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  20. HR. 6127. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1957.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  21. HR. 6127. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1957. AMENDMENT TO DELETE AUTHORITY FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL TO SEEK PREVENTIVE RELIEF IN CIVIL RIGHTS CASES UNDER THE 14TH AMENDMENT.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  22. HR. 6127. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1957. AMENDMENT TO GUARANTEE JURY TRIALS IN ALL CASES OF CRIMINAL CONTEMPT AND PROVIDE UNIFORM METHODS FOR SELECTING FEDERAL COURT JURIES.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  23. One Step from the White House, p. 218.
  24. Caro, Robert Allan (2003). Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (pp. 945–53). Knopf, A. A.
  25. Master of the Senate, p. 988.
  26. FascinatingPolitics (August 30, 2021). The Wizard of Ooze: Everett Dirksen of Illinois. Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  27. Minority Leader Race - Jan 07, 1959. Our Campaigns. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  28. William Fife Knowland. Britannica. Retrieved August 24, 2021.
  29. CA Governor Race - Nov 04, 1958. Our Campaigns. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  30. 31.0 31.1 FascinatingPolitics (February 24, 2019). The Strange Personal Nature of Political Leadership of the 1950s. Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History. Retrieved August 22, 2021.

External links

  • Profile at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Profile at Find a Grave