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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, October 24, 1976. Interview A-0321-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Crump Machine crumbles and Tennessee begins to change party loyalties

In Tennessee, many political changes took place after the end of World War II as the state swung from Democratic to Republican and the Crump Machine crumbled. Gore explains why Tennesseans changed parties and how that sped the disintegration of Crump's political apparatus.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, October 24, 1976. Interview A-0321-2. 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

As you will recall in that election Mr. Strom Thurmond, former governor of South Carolina (maybe he was then governor of South Carolina) . . .
I think he was.
. . . ran as an independent on, I believe he called it, the States' Rights ticket. Whatever the name of the ticket and whatever the status of Mr. Thurmond at the time-of course he later became United States Senator, but I don't recall his exact status at the time; I think that he was either governor of South Carolina or had been governor-it was an anti-civil rights ticket. It was a racist ticket; it was a racist campaign, ultrarightist in other respects too (on economic issues). It had a very important bearing in Tennessee. Now you will also recall that at that time Edward H. Crump was the undisputed political boss of Shelby County, Tennessee, which is our largest county (in fact, almost 20 percent of the population of Tennessee then and now lives in Shelby County). Crump supported the Strom Thurmond ticket, thus taking his organization and the many, many people who had long been affiliated with the Democratic party but who, because of political persuasion of the Crump machine or because of political affinity with Crump and with the things that Strom Thurmond was saying, likewise left the Democratic party. Those people have not yet returned, in the main, to the Democratic party. They supported the George C. Wallace independent campaign; otherwise they have for the most part supported Republican candidates. For a long while they did not support Republican candidates for state offices (I'm referring to the presidential campaign). But come 1960, 1964, they began to support the candidates for governor and the candidates for the United States Senate bearing the Republican label. Then in 1970 they went overwhelmingly in this particular group for the Republican candidate for governor and the Republican candidate for the United States Senate. So far as Tennessee was concerned this breakaway of Crump and his machine from the Democratic party in 1948 was a very significant milestone in the breakup of the preponderancy of the Democratic party in Tennessee political affairs. Another significant thing, later on of course, was the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., and the strife and the riots and the racial and economic polarization in the Memphis area. So '48 was a watershed; it had great importance and great bearing. Also in 1948 I believe Estes Kefauver was elected to the United States Senate here in Tennessee, and Gordon Browning (then very anti-Crump) was elected as governor of the state. So Edward Crump had suffered severe defeats in the Democratic primary, and I had a significant part in that. Other than Kefauver and Browning themselves I made far more speeches than anyone else in that campaign. As I recall I supported Browning very strongly and opposed the Crump machine by name, etc. I made forty-some speeches in the last three weeks of that campaign, so I recall it vividly. It was a turning point in the politics of Tennessee, not only in presidential politics (as I have already outlined) but also it ended the domination of the whole state by Crump. I should like to point out that neither Browning nor Kefauver carried Shelby County in 1948, but I did carry it four years later in 1952.