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Briscoe-Garner Museum - Biography Page 3

Garner the Vice President (1933–1941)

As speaker, Garner became a nationally known figure. The press labeled him the "Texas Tiger," "Texas Jack," and "Chaparral Jack," and speculation grew that he would seek the Democratic presidential nomination. Although Garner Garner for president parade, 1932maintained that New York governor Franklin Roosevelt had the inside track to the nomination, many of the Speaker's friends and supporters pushed him for the Democratic nomination. Garner-for-President clubs formed in Texas in December 1931. Garner sewed up the Texas delegation and won the California Democratic primary, but he trailed Roosevelt when the Democrats convened in Chicago in June 1932. Roosevelt led after the first three ballots but could not secure the necessary two-thirds majority from the delegates to win the nomination. Garner, wishing to avoid a debacle that would deadlock the convention, instructed that his delegates be released. California and Texas then switched to Roosevelt, giving him the nomination on the fourth ballot.

Following FDR's nomination, Democratic delegates unanimously picked Garner for vice president. Roosevelt and Garner won a landslide victory in November 1932. Garner would alter the vice presidency in an unprecedented manner. Never the "spare tire" on Roosevelt's team, he attended and actively participated in Roosevelt's cabinet meetings on national policy and legislative strategy. He thus effectively transformed what had been a largely ceremonial office into an influential executive and legislative position.

Vice President John N. Garner and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, early 1930s

Garner quickly became, after the president, the single most important man in government and, arguably, the nation. Within days of the November election, Roosevelt began consulting Garner on the administration's legislative agenda. Garner's political knowledge along with his great persuasive powers and the respect in which he was held proved to be invaluable. He steered a number of important bills through Congress in the crisis atmosphere of FDR's first one hundred days. These New Deal programs included the Emergency Banking Relief Act, the Federal Emergency Relief Act, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporations (FDIC), the Federal Securities Act, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), and the Public Works Administration (PWA).

Democrats enthusiastically renominated Roosevelt and Garner at their 1936 convention in Philadelphia. The incumbents swept the election in the greatest presidential landslide in modern U.S. history. During Roosevelt's second term, however, Garner's philosophy came into conflict with the president's. As Garner's hopes of paring programs and balancing the budget faded, the Roosevelt-Garner relationship suffered. The president's "court-packing" plan of 1937 widened the rift. The final blow came when the president attempted to purge opposition Democratic members of Congress in the 1938 elections.

Garner challenged Roosevelt in a series of early primaries in 1940, but Roosevelt won several states handily before officially declaring his intent to run for an unprecedented third term. Roosevelt went on to win the nomination and the election. Garner made his last appearance in Washington at the 1941 inauguration of President Roosevelt and Vice President Henry Wallace. On January 21, 1941, Garner boarded the train for his Uvalde home. He never crossed the Potomac again.

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