It was announced Tuesday that Cleveland would host the 2016 Republican National Convention. There hasn’t been a national party convention in the state of Ohio since 1936, when it was also in Cleveland and also held by the Republicans. That year the GOP nominated Alf Landon and Frank Knox as their presidential and vice-presidential candidates. Who!?!?
Yes, the Republicans did run candidates for president between 1932 and 1952, but many of us would be hard-pressed to name any, excepting of course when “Dewey defeat[ed] Truman.” And let’s be honest, the only reason we know Thomas Dewey was the Republican nominee in 1948 is because of Truman’s iconic mocking of the Chicago Tribune. At any rate, this post is dedicated to the “also ran,” Alf Landon.
Landon was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in Marietta, Ohio, and moved with his family to Kansas as a teenager. Graduating from the University of Kansas in 1908, Landon became a banker and later entered the oil business where he made his mark. He was seen as a liberal Republican and was an ardent supporter of Teddy’ Roosevelt’s Progressive party. He was elected Governor of the State of Kansas in 1932 and again in 1934. He was a fiscal conservative who believed however that the Federal government should play a large role in addressing social disparities.
It was in Cleveland, in June of 1936, that he became the Republican challenger to Roosevelt. In the election, Landon was defeated in a landslide. He was seen by many as having run a terrible campaign. When for two months after the convention Landon was seemingly incommunicado, famous columnist, Westbrook Pegler, in his August 22 syndicated column, humorously noted: “Considerable mystery surrounds the disappearance of Alfred M. Landon of Topeka, Kansas…. The Missing Persons Bureau has sent out an alarm bulletin bearing Mr. Landon’s photograph and other particulars, and anyone having information of his whereabouts is asked to communicate direct with the Republican National Committee.”
After his defeat, Landon finished his term as Kansas governor and never ran for public office again. He was 100 years old when he died in 1987 and his 100th birthday was celebrated with President Ronald Reagan. Below are images from a “whistle stop” Landon made in Dayton in October 10, 1936. Also included are a few images from the Cleveland convention that year.