John Nance "Cactus Jack" Garner, b. 1868 d. 1967. Professional politician and 32nd Vice President of the United States.
The first of thirteen children born to his parents John and Sarah, Nance was born in a log cabin outside of Detroit, Texas. At the age of 18 he attended Vanderbilt University for one semester. He returned from college suddenly, few seem to know exactly why, but once back in Texas he studied law on his own schedule and in 1890 passed the bar exam and began working as city attorney in Clarksville, Texas.
That didn't seem to work out too well for him, so he joined a law firm in Uvalde, Texas and soon was appointed as a county judge. When the county judge seat came up for election, his opposition was a woman named Mariette Rheiner, whom he defeated and then married two years later.
He was elected to the state legislature of Texas in 1898. During his term he helped to create a new congressional district, which he then was elected to the United States House of Representatives as the representative of. He served in Congress for fifteen consecutive terms, from 1903 until 1933. During that time he became Democratic party whip, chief liason to Woodrow Wilson's administration during World War I, and minority floor leader.
Garner became a candidate for the presidency in 1932, but he did not approach the campaign for office with any real enthusiam. He managed to acquire the votes of California and Texas going into the 1932 Democratic Party Convention and then offered California and Texas to Franklin Delano Roosevelt who in exchange offered the vice presidential nomination to Garner.
Garner became very powerful as vice president under Franklin Roosevelt. With thirty years of experience in Congress, including two years as Speaker of the House, he knew everyone, drank whiskey with everyone and played poker with everyone in government. Garner was known as a "mole" for his ability to make things happen behind the scenes of the political landscape.
Cactus Jack became crucial to the Roosevelt Administration in the early years. He pushed through much of the early New Deal legislation, convincing politicians over cards and bourbon to send the votes his way. As time went on, Garner began to find himself at odds with much of Roosevelt's New Deal ideas and the two slowly seperated from each other.
The "welfare state" concepts that began to arise in upcoming New Deal legislation caused Garner to announce in 1935 that many of Roosevelt's programs were "plain damn foolishness." As sit-down strikes occured towards the end of 1936, Garner called them violations of property rights while the feeling was that Roosevelt gave support to the unions. As an old line, Progressive Era Democrat, Garner turned on Roosevelt in 1937, angry that Roosevelt would take the opinions of new liberal Democrats over his own.
The final split occured later in 1937, when Roosevelt devised his Court-Packing Plan. The president, according to the plan, was to receive complete power in the appointment of Supreme Court justices with Congress rubber stamping their approval. By the end of 1937, Garner had become the second most powerful man in Washington, becoming the leader of conservative Democrats and Republicans who sought to stop, alter or slow various components of the New Deal. Nothing could make it through Congress without the support of Garner. In response, Roosevelt attempted to purge Congress of conservative Democrats in the 1938 elections. For the final two years of Roosevelt's second term, the two almost never spoke and were in constant battle. Many historians believe that Garner prevented the completion of the New Deal.
In the presidential elections of 1940, Garner made himself a candidate for the presidency. He did so mostly in an attempt to force the Democratic Convention of 1940 to oppose a third term for Roosevelt. Garner was overwhelmed in the primaries and dropped out of active politics forever.
Garner lived to be 98 years of age. During his retirement he was frequently visited by presidents, former presidents, and all forms of politicians for advice and consultation. Over five thousand people attended his 90th birthday on November 22, 1958. It was the first birthday party he ever had, and he enjoyed it so much he agreed to have birthday parties every year thereafter.
"The vice-presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm piss."
-- John Nance Garner
(later edited to "warm spit" to make the comment more less offensive to sensitive history teachers)
Part of TheDeadGuy's Vice Presidents project