Last modified on July 22, 2021, at 10:49

George Bender

George Harrison Bender


In office
December 16, 1954 – January 3, 1957
Preceded by Thomas A. Burke (interim for Robert A. Taft)
Succeeded by Frank Lausche

U.S. Representative for Ohio
(at-large, later District 23,
since disbanded)
In office
January 3, 1939 – January 3, 1949
Preceded by John McSweeney
In office
January 3, 1951 – December 15, 1954
Preceded by Stephen M. Young
Succeeded by William Edwin Minshall, Jr.

Born September 29, 1896
Cleveland, Ohio
Died June 18, 1961 (aged 64)
Chagrin Falls, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Resting place Knollwood Cemetery in Mayfield Heights in Cuyahoga County
Nationality Czech-American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Clara Edna Eckhardt Bender (married 1920-1961, his death)
Children Barbara B. Stevenson

Virginia B. Bartlett

Alma mater West Commerce High School in Cleveland
Religion Methodist

George Harrison Bender (September 29, 1896 – June 18, 1961) was a Republican politician from his native Cleveland, Ohio. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1939 to 1949 and 1951 to 1954, the last term in the former District 23. He was a United States Senator from 1954 to 1957 but lost the 1956 general election to maverick Democrat Frank Lausche.[1][2]

Background

Of Czech descent, Bender was the son of Joseph Bender, an employee of General Electric, and the former Anna Šírová (1866-1933). He graduated in 1914 from West Commerce High School in Cleveland.[3]

As a fifteen-year-old, he developed political awareness and collected in 1912 ten thousand signatures on a petition urging former president Theodore Roosevelt to seek a third term as president; this was several decades prior to adoption of the Twenty-Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which bars a president for more than two elected terms but permits another two years of a nonelected term. Bender personally presented the petition to Roosevelt, who replied in kind with news that he would indeed challenge an Ohioan, incumbent William Howard Taft, who was seeking a second term. Taft won the nomination despite losing all six of the then presidential primaries. In the general election, Roosevelt and Taft both lost the general election to Woodrow Wilson, but had they been united, they would have defeated Wilson, then the Democratic governor of New Jersey. Though he was briefly a member of the Progressive Party, Bender began to campaign for Republicans thereafter.

In 1920, he wed the former Clara Edna Eckhardt; they had two daughters, Barbara B. Stevenson (1923-2005), the wife of Ernest B. Stevenson (1922-2004), and Virginia B. Bartlet, the widow of Brigadier General Dorsey Joseph "Joe" Bartlett.[4] Though his passion was politics, he worked at various jobs in the private sector, including a stint as the manager of the Cleveland Stadium.[1]

Political career

In 1920, as a Republican, he became the youngest person to win a seat in the Ohio State Senate up until that time. He held the seat for ten years. He pushed unsuccessfully for the introduction of teacher tenure. Initially a strong supporter of Prohibition, he quickly changed his mind after police based on an anonymous tip raided his Cleveland home in search of unfound illegal liquor. Bender advocated for the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, which ended national prohibition in 1933, but it permits individual states to decide the issue for themselves. In 1934, he founded and edited The National Republican and The Ohio Republican magazines, which he edited and published.[1]

On his fifth attempt, Bender was elected in 1938, a year somewhat favorable to Republicans, to the U.S. House. He was reelected until 1948, a Democrat electoral year coinciding with President Harry Truman's victory in Ohio. In 1950, he regained the seat in 1950 and held it for four more years. Representative Bender opposed President Franklin D. Roosevelt in both foreign and domestic policies but did support a few New Deal programs, such as the Works Progress Administration, a temporary humanitarian act from his perspective. In the early years of the Cold War, he opposed President Harry Truman's Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine. He also opposed direct American aid to Greece and Turkey, a plan designed to rescue both countries from potential communist takeover. In 1953, Representative Bender introduced the legislation to grant retroactively statehood for Ohio. Because of a legislative oversight, Ohio's admission in 1803 had not been properly completed.[5]}

Bender played a major role in the campaigns to nominate Senator Robert A. Taft,[6] the son of the man whom the youthful Bender had opposed for renomination in 1912. Taft, however, lost his intraparty campaigns in 1948 and 1952, respectively, to Moderate Republicans Thomas E. Dewey, the governor of [[New York], and General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bender was assigned to provide musical entertainment and flamboyant demonstrations on Taft's behalf. Some mocked him as the "Clown Prince." In a 1952 newsreel, Bender addressed more than ten thousand supporters in the Cleveland Auditorium after vice-presidential nominee, Senator Richard M. Nixon of California, delivered the long-remembered "Checkers speech," which disclaimed that Nixon had used campaign funds for private use. The speech was broadcast on the then new innovation of television.

After Taft's death in 1953, Bender narrowly won the special election for the vacant Senate seat and served the remaining two years left in the term. After Taft's loss of the nomination, Bender became an avowed supporter of President Eisenhower. He steered away from his earlier isolationist views and supported more direct American involvement abroad, including aid to countries of the former British Empire. In the first eighteen, he missed 13 percent of roll call votes, double the average senator.[2]

In 1956, he lost his Senate seat after only two years to Governor Lausche, a popular Cleveland Democrat who carried the backing of many ethnic groups. Bender then worked as a special assistant to the United States Secretary of the Interior, in which capacity he lobbied for the 1959 admission of Alaska as the 49th state.

In 1958, former Senator Bender was invited by Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa to chair a commission investigating racketeering in the union. Bender reported that he had found no evidence of racketeering or "gangster" collusion. His two commission colleagues, however, disclaimed any responsibility for that finding. Bender was accused of blocking a 1956 investigation into the Teamsters, but the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management recommended no action against Bender.[1]

Bender subsequently lost his bid to be a delegate to the 1960 Republican National Convention, which met in Chicago to nominate the ticket of Vice President Nixon and former U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., of Massachusetts. In 1961, not long before his death at the age of fifty-four, Bender lost a bid for the position of Republican precinct committeeman. He died in Chagrin Falls, a Cleveland suburb. He is interred at Knollwood Cemetery in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.[1]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 George Harrison Bender (1896-1961) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed July 21, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 George Bender, former Senator for Ohio - GovTrack.us, accessed July 21, 2021.
  3. Encyclopedia of Bohemian and Czech-American Biography, Volume 1 by Miloslav Rechcigl Jr.
  4. Gen Dorsey Joseph “Joe” Bartlett (1926-2013) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed July 20, 2021.
  5. The Admission of Ohio as a State | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives, accessed July 21, 2021.
  6. GEORGE H. BENDER EX-SENATOR, DEAD; Ohio Republican Served 2 Years -- Supporter of Taft - The New York Times (nytimes.com), accessed July 21, 2021.