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Harold L. Ickes

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Harold LeClair Ickes
Harold L. Ickes

In office
March 4, 1933 – February 15, 1946
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Preceded by Ray Lyman Wilbur
Succeeded by Julius Albert Krug

Born March 15, 1874
near Altoona, Pennsylvania
Died February 3, 1952 (aged 77)
Washington D.C.
Political party Republican
Progressive
Democratic[1]
Spouse Anna Wilmarth Thompson (1911-1935, dec.)
Jane Dahlman (m. 1938)
Children Raymond Ickes
Harold M. Ickes (b. 1939)
Elizabeth Jane Ickes

Harold LeClair Ickes (March 15, 1874February 3, 1952) was a United States administrator and politician. He served as Secretary of the Interior for thirteen years, from 1933 to 1946, and was responsible for implementing much of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal". He is the father of Harold M. Ickes, who was deputy Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton and is an adviser to Senator Hillary Clinton.

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[edit] Early years

Ickes was born on a farm near Altoona, Pennsylvania. He moved to Chicago at the age of 16 and attended Englewood High School there. After graduating, he worked his way through the University of Chicago, finishing with an B.A. in 1897.

He first worked as a newspaper reporter for The Chicago Record and later for the Chicago Tribune. He obtained a law degree from the University of Chicago in 1907, but rarely practised. Instead, he became active in reform politics.

[edit] Politics

Initially a Republican in Chicago, Ickes was never part of the establishment. He was unsatisfied with Republican policies and joined Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose movement in 1912. After returning to the Republican fold, he campaigned for progressive Republicans Charles Evans Hughes (1916) and Hiram Johnson (1920 and 1924).

He fought lengthy and legendary battles first with Chicago figures Samuel Insull, the utilities magnate, William Hale Thompson, the mayor, and Robert R. McCormick, the owner of The Chicago Tribune. Later he had an ongoing battle with Thomas E. Dewey, the presidential candidate.

Although locally active in Chicago politics, he was unknown nationally until 1933. As part of this involvement, Ickes was very involved in Chicago's social and political affairs; among his many activities include his work for the City Club of Chicago. After Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, he began putting together his cabinet. His advisers thought the Democratic president needed a progressive Republican to attract middle of the road voters. He sought out Hiram Johnson, a Republican Senator at the time who had supported Roosevelt in the campaign, but Johnson was uninterested. Johnson did, however, recommend an old ally, Ickes.

Ickes was a strong supporter of both civil rights and civil liberties. He had been the president of the Chicago NAACP, and supported African American contralto Marian Anderson when the Daughters of the American Revolution prohibited her from performing in their DAR Constitution Hall. He also was an outspoken critic of the Japanese American internment during World War II.

[edit] Secretary of the Interior

Ickes served simultaneously in several major roles for President Roosevelt. Although he was the Secretary of the Interior, he was better known to the public for other roles in which he served simultaneously. He was the director of the Public Works Administration. Here he directed billions of dollars of projects designed to lure private investment and provide employment at the depth of the Great Depression. His management of the PWA budget and his opposition to corruption earned him the name "Honest Harold". He regularly presented projects to President Roosevelt for the President's personal approval. Ickes' support of PWA power plants put increased financial pressure on private power companies during the Great Depression, and some historians[who?] believe it did more harm than good. He tried to enforce the Raker Act against the city of San Francisco, an act of Congress which specified that because the dam at Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park was on public land, no private profit could be derived from the development. The city continues selling the power to PG&E which is then resold at a profit.

After the Hindenburg disaster, Nazi Germany sought to obtain helium to replace the flammable hydrogen in their fleet of dirigibles. Ickes opposed the sale, although practically every other member of the Cabinet supported it, along with the President himself. Ickes would not back down, fearing military use of the dirigible. Germany could not obtain the helium from other sources. Hence, Ickes virtually shut down the German dirigible program himself.

The Saudi Aramco oil corporation, through Secretary of the Interior Ickes, got Roosevelt to agree to Lend-Lease aid to Saudi Arabia, which would involve the U.S. government there and create a shield for the interests of ARAMCO.

Between June and October 1941, during a projected oil shortage, Ickes was successful in issuing orders to close gasoline stations in the Eastern United States between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.[2]

Ickes was a terrific orator and the only man in the Roosevelt administration who could rebut John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers. Lewis would often deliver radio addresses critical of the Roosevelt Administration. Since Lewis was such a great speaker himself, few in Roosevelt's administration, including the president himself, had the courage to rebut Lewis. FDR always left this task to Ickes who was able to put Lewis in his place with elegantly worded answers.[citation needed]

[edit] Jewish refugees in Alaska

Main article: Slattery Report

In a news conference on the eve of Thanksgiving, 1938, Ickes proposed offering Alaska as a "haven for Jewish refugees from Germany and other areas in Europe where the Jews are subjected to oppressive restrictions." This would bypass normal immigration quotas, because Alaska had not yet become a state. Ickes had, that summer, toured Alaska, meeting with local officials to discuss how to attract greater development to the region, both for economic reasons, and to bolster security in an area so close to Japan and Russia, and developed a plan to attract international professionals, including European Jews. In his press conference, he pointed out that 200 families had been relocated from the Dust Bowl to Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna Valley. The Department of the Interior prepared a report detailing the advantages of the plan, which was introduced as a bill by Utah's Senator William H. King and California's Democratic Representative Franck R. Havenner. The plan met with little support from American Jewry, however, with the exception of the Labor Zionists of America; most Jews agreed with Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise of the American Jewish Congress that the plan, if implemented, would deliver "a wrong and hurtful impression ... that Jews are taking over some part of the country for settlement". The final blow was dealt when President Roosevelt suggested a limit of only 10,000 immigrants a year for five years, with a maximum of only 10% Jews; he later reduced even that limit, and never publicly mentioned the plan.[3][4]

During World War II Ickes told the Congress of American-Soviet Friendship in November 1943, "In certain respects we could do well to learn from Russia; yes, even to imitate Russia."

Although he stayed on in President Harry S. Truman's cabinet after Roosevelt died in April 1945, he resigned from office within a year. In February 1946, Truman nominated Edwin W. Pauley to be Secretary of the Navy. Pauley was the former Democratic Party national treasurer. He once suggested to Ickes that $300,000 in campaign funds could be raised if Ickes would drop his fight for title to oil-rich offshore lands. Ickes wrote a 2,000-word resignation letter, reading in part: "I don't care to stay in an Administration where I am expected to commit perjury for the sake of the party. . . I do not have a reputation for dealing recklessly with the truth."[5][6][7]

[edit] Critiques and battles

Ickes was known for his acerbic wit and took joy in verbal battles. He often took verbal abuse too. For instance, Roosevelt selected Ickes to deliver a response following the nomination of Wendell Willkie. In response to Ickes' comments, Senator Styles Bridges called Ickes "a common scold puffed up by high office." Republican Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce once famously remarked that Ickes had "the mind of a commissar and the soul of a meataxe."

In September 1944, Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican nominee for president, promised to fire Ickes if elected. Ickes penned a letter of resignation to Dewey and it was widely printed in the press. Ickes wrote, in part:

Hence, I hereby resign as Secretary of the Interior effective, if, as and when the incredible comes to pass and you become the President of the United States. However, as a candidate for that office you should have known the primary school fact that the Cabinet of an outgoing President automatically retires with its chief.

[edit] Family

He married Anna Wilmarth Thompson in 1911. She died in an automobile accident on August 31, 1935. He married Jane Dahlman, who was 25 to his 64 at the time, on May 24, 1938. He had one son, Raymond, by his first wife and two children by his second wife: Harold McEwen Ickes and Elizabeth Jane. He also had a foster son, Robert Harold Ickes, born in 1913.

[edit] Pronunciation and spelling of name

Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest "I think you come as close as anybody when you suggest that it rhymes with sickness with the n omitted. The e is halfway between a short e and short u": hence, ick'iss, with second i as in habit. (Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.)

The correct spelling of Ickes' middle name is undetermined, sometimes spelled Le Clair, Le Claire or LeClare.[3]

[edit] In fiction

  • In the musical play Annie, Roosevelt demands that Ickes sing "Tomorrow" in the Oval Office, and orders him to get louder. Ickes was largely a comic figure in the play, despite acting rude, vulgar, and arrogant. Annie helps him to sing, and he gets somewhat carried away. He ends the song on his knees, much to the dismay of the Cabinet and the President.

[edit] Books

[edit] By Ickes

  • New Democracy (1934). W. W. Norton
  • with Arno B. Cammerer (coauthor), Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) (1937). U.S. Government Printing Office
  • The Third Term Bugaboo. A Cheerful Anthology (1940)
  • (editor). Freedom of the Press Today: A Clinical Examination By 28 Specialists (1941). Vanguard Press
  • Minerals Yearbook 1941 (1943). U.S. Government Printing Office
  • Fightin' Oil (1943). Alfred A. Knopf
  • The Autobiography of a Curmudgeon (1943). Greenwood Press 1985 reprint: ISBN 0313249881
  • The Secret Diary of Harold L. Ickes. Simon and Schuster
    • Volume I: The First Thousand Days 1933–1936 (1953)
    • Volume II: The Inside Struggle 1936–1939 (1954)
    • Volume III: The Lowering Clouds 1939–1941 (1954)

[edit] About Ickes

  • Jeanne Nienaber Clarke. Roosevelt's Warrior: Harold L. Ickes and the New Deal (1996). The Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 0801850940
  • Linda J. Lear. Harold L. Ickes: The Aggressive Progressive, 1874-1933 (1982). Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0824048601
  • T. H. Watkins. Righteous Pilgrim: The Life and Times of Harold L. Ickes, 1874-1952 (1990). Henry Holt & Co., ISBN 0805009175; 1992 reprint: ISBN 0805021124
  • Graham White and John Maze. Harold Ickes of the New Deal: His Private Life and Public Career (1985). Harvard University Press, ISBN 0674372859

[edit] References

  1. ^ Harold Ickes
  2. ^ Current Biography 1941, p 426
  3. ^ a b "Old Veteran", Time, April 26, 1943
  4. ^ A Thanksgiving plan to save Europe’s Jews, Raphael Medoff, The Jewish Standard, November 16, 2007
  5. ^ [1] 1946, February 13. Resignation speech. United States National Archives and Records Administration, The Crucial Decade: Voices of the Postwar Era, 1945-1954, Select Audiovisual Records
  6. ^ [2]Ickes Resigns Post, Berating Truman in Acid Farewell; Mr. Ickes says Good-by, The New York Times, February 14, 1946, Thomas J. Hamilton
  7. ^ [3]Text of Secretary Ickes' Letter of Resignation to the President Ending 13 Years in Office, The New York Times, February 14, 1946
  • [4]Obituary: Harold L. Ickes Dead at 77; Colorful Figure in New Deal; Self-Styled 'Curmudgeon' Was Secretary of Interior in Long, Stormy Career, The New York Times, February 4, 1952

[edit] External links

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Preceded by
Ray Lyman Wilbur
United States Secretary of the Interior
19331946
Succeeded by
Julius Krug
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