Where Are they Now? Nixon Opponent Jerry Voorhis Part 1

About the California congressman Jerry Voorhis who was victim of Richard Nixon's dirty campaigning, history and biography then and now.


Headline--1946: JERRY VOORHIS

At the Peak: Jerry Voorhis was "the best congressman west of the Mississippi" according to a vote taken by Washington's hard-nosed press corps in 1945. But at the same time, back home in California's 12th Congressional District, located in Whittier and environs, Republican foes were conspiring to feed him to the wolves.

Whittier had been Republican country until Democrat Horace Jeremiah "Jerry" Voorhis was elected to Congress in 1936. Now, after serving five productive terms, respected by friend and foe alike on Capitol Hill, Voorhis was about to become Richard M. Nixon's first political victim.

Voorhis is one of that rare breed of wealthy men who dedicate their life to helping the poor. After graduating from Yale in 1923, he worked on a succession of jobs as a factory worker, railroad freight handler, and laborer on a Ford assembly line. Then he married and, with his father's financial help, opened a home and school for orphan boys in Wyoming.

A professed socialist until FDR's initial election in 1932, when he joined the Democratic party, Voorhis explained: "That was the only way I could vote my protest against the reactionary leadership of both major parties... now Mr. Roosevelt has made it possible for me to be a Democrat with a clear conscience."

After his election, Voorhis became an enthusiastic New Dealer, fighting against relief cuts, urging a return to full employment, and advocating dismantling the Federal Reserve System--all of which labeled him a foe of big business. He was also a member of the Dies Committee and authored the Voorhis Act of 1940, requiring the registration of all foreign affiliated agencies, which placed him at top of the Communists' blacklist.

Although his record became increasingly conservative during his last two terms, district Republican leaders were not appeased. To them he was not only another rich turncoat who supported FDR's despised liberal policies, but one who formulated crackpot ideas of his own.

The Republicans formed a "Committee of One Hundred" to find and support an opposition candidate, but no Moses came forth from the rushes. Even newspaper ads produced only a few unacceptable applicants. Then Walter Dexter, a past president of Whittier College, suggested a former pet student, Richard M. Nixon. He was found sojourning in Baltimore while awaiting discharge from active naval service.

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