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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginius Dabney, June 10-13, 1975. Interview A-0311-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Byrd's ardent loyalty to the Democratic Party

Byrd and Herbert Hoover shared similar political ideologies; however, Byrd's loyalty to the Democratic Party disallowed him to endorse Hoover for president in 1928. Instead, Byrd campaigned vigorously for Al Smith, demonstrating his intense party loyalty.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginius Dabney, June 10-13, 1975. Interview A-0311-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Before we leave the governorship, I would like to make one reference to the Presidential election of 1928. We know, of course, that Cannon supported Hoover, the Republican candidate, and Byrd supported the Democratic nominee, Al Smith. My question is, did Byrd as governor, and at the very height of his prestige in a sense, go all out for Al Smith?
He did indeed. He went all out for Al Smith, he did his level best. He went over to the Valley where there were a lot of Dunkards and Mennonites, both of whom have deep anti-Catholic feelings because of events centuries ago in Europe. He went over there and made a very personal appeal and asked them to please vote for Smith as a personal favor to him. He made speeches all around and did everything that he could. He knew that if he lost, it would be a bad blow to him and he would maybe lose control of the state. When it went by 24,000 for Hoover, he was down in the dumps for quite awhile. He didn't know what was going to happen. He finally solved the problem by getting a good dry Baptist to run that Cannon couldn't assail effectively, John Garland Pollard.
Before we move into that election, it seems to me that it's very ironic in a way that Byrd went all out to defeat Hoover, because Hoover in many respects, it seems to me, is like Byrd. They probably shared ideologically a lot of positions. And yet, he probably worked as hard against Hoover as he did against any Presidential candidate. At a later time, he went in the opposite direction and, in effect, bolted to the Republican presidential nominee.
That's right. He seemed to feel very strongly obligated to support the party nominee, but later on, as you say, he certainly did not.
Do you think that that experience in '28 colored his views on his participation in Presidential elections? Did he get burned and learn something from it and sort of rethink that notion of commitment to national parties?
He certainly could have. He never told me that and I've never read that he said that, but I think that it is undoubtedly possible.