Scope and Contents
This collection includes four letters written by Wendell Willkie (1936-1943); an early draft of a biography by Will Hays titled “Wendell L. Willkie: A Great Liberal” (May 1940); a typewritten copy of “Gentleman From Indiana,” an essay by Janet Flanner that was published in Harper’s Bazaar (September 15, 1940); other documents related to his 1940 presidential campaign; rough drafts of editorials following Willkie’s death (October 1944); carbon copies of letters written by John C. Rugenstein regarding “Willkiana”(1944-1945); and the funeral service book regarding Willkie’s October 17, 1944 service in Rushville, Indiana.
Conditions Governing Use
Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.
Biographical / Historical
Wendell Lewis Willkie was a lawyer, public utility executive, and a Republican nominee for President of the United States. He was born February 18, 1892 in Elwood, Indiana to Herman and Henrietta Willkie. He received his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University (IU) in 1913 and taught school in Kansas for a time before returning to IU and earning a law degree in 1916. He practiced law with his father until he enlisted in the Army when the United States entered World War I. On January 14, 1918 he married Edith Wilk of Rush Indiana and following the war, he moved to Akron, Ohio to work in the legal department of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company. Not long after moving to Ohio, he left Firestone and became a partner in the Akron law firm that became Mather, Nesbitt, and Willkie. In 1929, he moved to New York City to work in the legal department of the Commonwealth and Southern Corporation and became the company’s president in 1933. Active in Democratic politics, he turned against Roosevelt’s New Deal and gained national prominence over his fight for privately owned utility companies against the federal government’s Tennessee Valley Authority. He became a Republican in the late 1930s and was the party’s nominee for President of the United States in 1940. Though he received more than 22,000,000 votes - the largest popular vote ever received by a Republican presidential candidate up to that time - it only garnered him 82 electoral votes to Roosevelt’s 449. He again sought the Republican nomination in 1944, but withdrew from the race following his loss in the Wisconsin primary. He died on October 8, 1944 in New York City at the age of 52 and is buried in Rushville, Indiana.
Information found within collection.
Encyclopædia Britannica. "Wendell Willkie." Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Last modified October 4, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Wendell-Willkie.
“Life of Willkie, Home-Made Gentleman From Indiana, Ran Gamut, Rags to Riches.” Indianapolis Star (IN), October 9, 1944.