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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 >>

Gore and the 1956 vice presidential nomination procedure

In 1956, Gore joined a list of politicians vying for the Democratic vice presidential nomination. Though the leaders of the House and the Senate had backed Gore, when he did not win the nomination, he backed Kefauver instead.

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

I think that one thing that would be interesting to talk about in this interview is 1956 and your bid for the vice-presidential nomination. What was happening in Tennessee? All of a sudden there were three people that looked like they might have some chance for the vice-presidency. What was your position?
It wasn't all of a sudden. That situation existed, it came into being with Governor Frank G. Clement's prominence and with his courageous action on the civil rights issue with respect to Clinton, Tennessee. 2 2 The Clinton, Tennessee, racial integration dispute did not actually develop until September 1956 after the August Democratic National Convention in which Clement played such a prominent role. The Tennessee Governor's prominence and moderate image on civil rights were more clearly related to his rejection in January 1956 of demands by pro-segregationist groups that he call a special session of the state legislature to enact legislation to protect segregation. One of the bravest things that any leader in our state ever did: he sent the National Guard not to stand in the schoolhouse and beat them out, but to escort them in. This gave him very great prominence in the country, and justifiably so. He was an eloquent and handsome young governor who had taken a position with which the whole nation could associate and identify. So with the power of the office of the governor, which carried with it the power to select the delegation to the National Convention--and I recall he was keynoter--here was a man prominently mentioned as a choice for vice-president. Then there was Senator Kefauver, who had made the strong campaign for the presidential nomination in '52 and who was again a strong candidate for the presidential nomination. And he had repeatedly said that he was not a candidate and would not be a candidate for vice-president. Well, by then with the degree of prominence that I had achieved as a senator and with the stronger support that I had than either Kefauver or Clement among the congressmen and the senators of the Democratic persuasion, I too was prominently mentioned as a likely vice-presidential selection. Thus it hung when suddenly, after having achieved the nomination for president, Adlai Stevenson announced that he would make no recommendation but leave the selection entirely to the convention. This, as you will recall, was at an evening session, and the vice-presidential nomination was to be made the next day. So the ring was open, the choice was free: do you get in or do you not? So I decided to toss my hat in the ring. Later Senator Kefauver decided to seek the nomination himself, so did Kennedy, so did others: Hubert Humphrey, I've forgotten all of them. There were many of us who [laughter] said, "It's free for all; let's get in." So that was the spirit in which all of us got into the contest. It was one night you get in. I remember I went to see Sam Rayburn about midnight. He was for me; Mike Monroney was for me; many leaders of both House and Senate were for me. And it was very close; it was very close. In fact, with just a very minor turn, say of one man, on that second ballot I would have been nominated. But that's a long time ago. It was a lot of fun.
What went on in Tennessee, in the Tennessee delegation, that they decided to support you rather than Senator Kefauver? I know there was a resolution that they would support any Tennessean with a chance for nomination to national office. How did they decide? What swung the Tennessee delegation to support you rather than Senator Kefauver?
Well, just as I had the support of more congressmen and senators outside of Tennessee, not only in this matter but in other matters, than Senator Kefauver had, more of the politicians in the delegation were favorable to me than to Senator Kefauver. Now even more of them were favorable to Governor Clement, but by then he had backed away. He was a candidate for the vice-presidential nomination so long as it was to be chosen by the presidential nominee. Once it was thrown open to the convention he decided not to try for it. So then it was a choice for the delegation. And I had announced; then later Senator Kefauver had announced. But by then the people were [laughter] sleepy in the wee hours of the morning. And so come the next morning at convention time, why there were two Tennesseans who were candidates, not three. I was preferable to the majority of the delegation. But we worked out an agreement that if I could not be nominated then I would support Senator Kefauver. He was not involved in that decision; I was involved in it. And as a result of that commitment on my part the whole delegation voted for me. And when on the second ballot Texas left me and went to John F. Kennedy in order to keep Kefauver from getting it, I switched to Kefauver and gave it to him. It was a fast ball game [laughter] , I'll tell you. In any television show when they want to review past conventions there's no more dramatic incident they show than that. It was a very wild [laughter] thing, and I came very close to being nominated.