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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Southern Democrats migrate to Eisenhower's Republican Party in the early 1950s

Many Alabama Democrats voted for Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, LeMaistre believes, because once the polarizing figure of Harry Truman receded, the choice became clear: a Republican war hero, or an erudite Democrat, Adlai Stevenson.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. 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

ALLEN J. GOING:
Now I also read that most of the State-Righters, once their target had been removed, really become supporters of Eisenhower, more than Stevenson. Do you think that was correct?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
I think that was right. I think the large vote that Eisenhower received was largely made up of crossovers. There was no strong Republican organization to deliver a vote for Eisenhower in Alabama.
ALLEN J. GOING:
But it is said that Winton Blount headed up the Citizens for Eisenhower.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
I think he did, but he was a comparative newcomer and not a very accomplished politician. In fact, you have to face the fact that Winton Blount, except for his money, is not an accomplished politician anyway. Look at what happened when he ran.
ALLEN J. GOING:
Was he always a Republican?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
As far as I know, he had been. Blount owes a great deal of his success to the Republicans. After all, he wasn't chosen to build the National Airport in Washington and to build all the bridges from there into town just because he had a good tractor and bulldozer and whatnot. It was because he supported Eisenhower that he got those "plums," I would guess. But at any rate that's the foundation of the Blount Company's success.
ALLEN J. GOING:
Well now lets move again, looking at the 1950s. It has been said that there was a kind of a lull in this internecine warfare between State-righters and Loyalists, and even on the racial question, between 1953 and 1954 (the Brown case) would you think . . . ?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
I think that's true. I think one reason for it is that everything that could be said had already been said. And you didn't have the situation that we had in 1980 when it became fashionable for well-to-do young people to be active in the Republican Party. What we had in those days was, more or less, a reaction of people voting for a war hero or voting against a man whose conversation they couldn't understand. Adlai Stevenson was a beautiful writer and a good speaker, not a compelling type speaker; he was not a rabble rouser, but the things he said were said in polished, complete sentences with proper number of subjects and predicates and objects and those things that ought to go into a grammatical expression of logic. And a lot of people just refused to listen to that. They said that we want somebody to call the roll, start talking about political events.