Monday, July 18, 2011

A Senator, Secretary of the Treasury, and Patriot

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs
Division, LC-USZ62-33041
William Gibbs McAdoo (1863-1941) was my third great uncle.  His father's father was my 4th great-grandfather.  He was born in Marietta, Georgia, the son William Gibbs McAdoo (1820-1894) and Mary Faith Floyd (1832-1913).  He attended the University of Tennessee, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1885. He moved to New York City where he developed the system of rapid-transit tunnels under the Hudson River between New York City and New Jersey. He became president of the company which constructed them and operated them.

McAdoo's interests turned to politics where he campaigned for Woodrow Wilson. In 1912, he became the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee. In 1913 he was named the Secretary of the Treasury by President Wilson. He married Wilson's daughter Eleanor Randolph Wilson at the White House on May 7, 1914.

At the brink of World War I when the U.S. was facing a financial crisis, it was McAdoo who secured the U.S. loyalty to the gold standard.  Then in September 1917 he gave a passionate speech to a group of New York bankers where he detailed the broken promises by the German government which had led to the loss of American lives.  He also spoke of threats within the US when he said: "There are some noisy agitators and disloyal writers in this country who have persistently endeavored to confuse the issue and to carry on a seditious and subtle propaganda for the purpose of producing discontent among the people and of giving aid and encouragement to the enemies of the United States."

He then rallied citizens to meet the cause by buying Liberty bonds to fund the war. In the 1920s, he ran twice for the Democratic nomination for President. In the 1924 election, his nomination failed largely because of the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan.

President Wilson with his granddaughter,
Ellen Wilson McAdoo, Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division, photograph by
Harris & Ewing, LC-DIG-hec-18044
At the 1932 Democratic Convention in Chicago, after three ballots, Franklin D. Roosevelt had not secured the two-thirds majority necessary for the nomination. Leading Democrat, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., with the help of William Randolph Hearst, managed to pursuade Speaker of the House, John Garner, to drop out of the race to end a deadlock and throw support to Roosevelt. When McAdoo, who had supported Garner, learned of the decision, he threw California's delegates to Roosevelt, and the other states fell in line behind Roosevelt.

After moving to Los Angeles, California, he served as Senator of the state from 1933-1938. 

After an unsuccessful re-election, he served as  chairmen of the board of directors for a steamship line.  He died in Washington, D.C. in February, 1941 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington VA.

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