Alton B. Parker (1904, Democratic)
- Opponent: Theodore Roosevelt
- State: New York
- Running Mate: Henry G. Davis
Background and Education: Alton Brooks Parker was born on the 14th May 1852 in Cortland, New York. His parents were Brooks Parker and Harriet Stratton. Despite a farming background, the Parkers were well-educated and encouraged their son to become academic. He went to school, worked as a teacher, went back to school and then attended law school.
Personal Life: Parker’s first wife was Mary Schoonmaker, who he met when he was young. They married in 1972 and had two children; Bertha and John. John died young. Mary died in 1917 and is buried at the same place as her husband. Parker remarried six years later to Amelia Campbell.
Pre-Election Career: After graduating from Albany Law School, Parker briefly worked at a law firm before creating one with one of his law school classmates. It was at a young age that Parker became involved with the Democrats, becoming a supporter of Grover Cleveland. In 1885, he managed the successful gubernatorial campaign of David B. Hill. That same year, Parker was appointed to the New York Supreme Court. He served in the role until 1904. Parker was pro-labour. As a judge, Parker kept quiet on the hot button political issues of the day as to be impartial. This would help him later.
Election: In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt was seeking to be elected on his own right after ascending the presidency following McKinley’s death. Roosevelt was rather popular, so Democrats needed someone to match him. As Parker had kept silent on major political issues and had a distinguished career, he was seen as a good choice. David B. Hall helped push for Parker to gain the nomination.
For most of history, it was seen as unbecoming for candidates to campaign openly. McKinley had run the traditional front porch campaign in 1896 and 1900, whilst rival Bryan was an energetic campaigner. Roosevelt was a vigorous campaigner who loved travelling and making speeches. By contrast, Parker ran a low-key and almost dull campaign. The Democrats failed to attack Roosevelt’s character and policies.
Roosevelt won by over two and half million votes.
Later Years: Parker continued to be known as pro-labour during his later legal career. He would support unions and labour leadership like Samuel Gompers. Parker would continue in politics, albeit behind the scenes.
Alton B. Parker died on the 10th May 1926 aged 73 after suffering a heart attack. He is buried in Wiltwyck Rural Cemetery, Kingston, New York.
Appearance and Character: Parker was a portly man with a prominent mustache and spectacles. He was a well-regarded man known for his devotion to the legal profession and integrity. Whilst Parker was not a strong campaigner in 1904, he was seen as a strong candidate who could have been a decent President. He conceded with grace.
Charles Evan Hughes (1916, Republican)
- Opponent: Woodrow Wilson
- State: New York
- Running Mate: Charles W. Fairbanks
Background and Education: Charles Evans Hughes was born on the 11th April 1862 in Glens Falls, New York. His parents were David Hughes and Mary Connelly. He was their only child. They moved to the city the same year he was born. He was not educated formally until he was thirteen. After transferring from Colgate University after spending two years there from the age of fourteen, he went to Brown and graduated third in his class aged nineteen. Hughes then taught for a year before attending Columbia Law. He graduated with the highest bar score in New York.
Personal Life: Hughes married Antoinette Carter, daughter of one of his bosses, in 1888. Antoinette died in 1945, three years before her husband. They had four children over eighteen years. His eldest son, Charles Evan Hughes Jr, was a celebrated lawyer and politician in his own right. He was Solicitor-General for several months in 1929 and 1930. Hughes Jr died one and a half years after his father.
One daughter, Helen, died aged 27. Another, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with diabetes aged 11. This was usually a swift death sentence, but Elizabeth was given revolutionary treatment. She was one of the first people to be treated with insulin. This allowed Elizabeth to live to the good age of 73 and have three healthy children.
The family is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
Pre-Election Career: Hughes spent his early career as a lawyer, before taking a short sabbatical. He became a professor during this time, as he was stressed by legal work, but soon returned to law. He gained a reputation for anti-corruption after exposing insurance and utility companies. In 1906, he was chosen by Theodore Roosevelt to be the Republican candidate for Governor of New York. Hughes succeeded and won the election. He ruled as a progressive Governor.
After the death of one of the sitting Supreme Court Justices, Hughes was offered the vacancy. He accepted and became an Associate Justice in 1910. Hughes supported progressive movements at the time, as well as civil liberties and rights.
Election: 1912 saw a split in the Republican Party that led Roosevelt to run as a Progressive, fracturing the GOP and handing the presidency to Woodrow Wilson. This meant that the Republicans needed a strong candidate to get behind in 1916. The conservative and progressive wings compromised and chose Evans as their candidate.
Much of the world was involved in WWI and many Americans wanted them to stay out. Hughes supported American entry into the war whilst Wilson wanted to stay out of it. He also made a huge mistake by choosing to work with California conservatives over the California progressives. This cost him the state, as many California Republicans chose not to stump for him.
It was a narrow election and it took a day for the result to become clear. Some announced it for Hughes, to the point where he apparently believed he’d won. It all hinged on Wilson winning either California or Minnesota. He knew he’d won on Thursday evening after California was called. Hughes conceded.
Later Years: Hughes went back into private life for a brief period after the election. He encouraged American entry into the war. In 1920, he was the favourite to be the Republican candidate, but refused after the death of his daughter. Winner Warren G. Harding invited him to become Secretary of State, and Hughes accepted. He proved to be a very influential and powerful cabinet member, working well with Harding and becoming involved in many international events. Hughes left the role in 1925 to return to a lucrative private practice.
In 1930, William H. Taft was dying. Hughes was put forward to return to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice. He accepted. Hughes spent eleven years as Chief Justice on top of the five years he spent as an Associate Justice before. He was a moderate and often a swing vote. As his health declined, Hughes decided to retire in 1941.
Hughes spent the next few years living quietly with his family. His wife died in late 1945. Hughes died on the 27th August 1948 aged 86. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx.
Appearance and Character: Evans had a thick, bushy white beard and eyebrows. He was a happy, genial man in private and a serious, academic one at work. Contemporaries and historians praised him for his outstanding work as Secretary of State. It is believed he would have been a good President.
James M. Cox (1920, Democratic)
- Opponent: Warren G. Harding
- State: Ohio
- Running Mate: FDR
Background and Education: James Monroe Cox was born on the 31st May 1870 in Jacksonburg, Ohio. His parents were Gilbert Cox and Eliza Andrew. Cox’s formal schooling consisted of a one-room schoolhouse. At the age of sixteen, Cox started as an apprentice journalist.
Personal Life: Cox married his first wife, Mayme Simpson Harding, in 1893. They had three children: two sons and a daughter. They divorced in 1912. He married again five years later, this time to Margaretta Parker Blair. They had a son and two daughters. Margaretta survived her husband by three years and is buried with him.
Cox’s media legacy left his children extremely wealthy. His daughters were billionaires at the time of their deaths. The company, Cox Enterprises, is currently run by his grandson James Cox Kennedy, son of Cox’s daughter Barbara. It is worth several billion dollars.
Pre-Election Career: Cox initially started as a journalism apprentice before working as a political assistant for three years in DC. He would then turn his hand at business, buying a struggling local newspaper and turning it into a huge success. This would be the start of his multi-billion dollar media enterprise.
After serving two terms in Congress, Cox was elected to the governorship of Ohio. He served one term before losing re-election, but won two more terms on top of that. Cox was an ally of Woodrow Wilson and supported his war effort. He was generally progressive, but was opposed to the teaching of German in schools, seeing it as a threat to America.
Election: In 1920, Cox was chosen as the Democratic candidate for the election, though it took until the forty-fourth ballot. He was up against fellow Ohioan Warren G. Harding. Harding pledged ‘a return to normalcy.’ Many citizens wanted a fresh start and Harding promised them a life away from the war. Cox went all out when it came to campaigning, rushing around the states and doing whistle stop tours. Harding did the opposite, preferring the traditional front porch campaign. Meanwhile, Cox’s running mate, a young FDR, ran a vigorous campaign.
Many German and Irish-Americans felt shafted by Wilson after he ignored their pleas for help during Versailles. They felt both their homelands had been done dirty. The Irish-Americans were usually a huge voting bloc for the Democrats, but they abandoned them in this election. All women could also vote for the first time federally thanks to the 19th Amendment.
Harding won by over seven million votes, aka in a landslide. He won pretty much every minority group.
Later Years: Cox stayed out of frontline politics after his loss. Instead, he created his media empire through a series of acquisitions. He would support his former running mate, FDR, in all four of his elections. Cox would outlive FDR by twelve years.
James M. Cox died on the 15th July 1957 aged 87, having suffered a series of strokes. He is buried in the Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio.
Appearance and Character: Cox was a slightly plump, round faced man. He wore glasses. Cox was a shrewd political operator who managed to work his way into getting the 1920 nomination. His acumen for business is clear, considering how well his company is doing. Cox was popular in his party due to his work as Governor of Ohio. Unfortunately, Cox did not have the charisma that was seen in his ticket mate, FDR.
John W. Davis (1924, Democratic)
- Opponent: Calvin Coolidge
- State: West Virginia
- Running Mate: Charles W. Bryan
Background and Education: John William Davis was born on the 13th April 1873 in Clarksburg, West Virginia. His parents were John James Davis and Anna Kennedy. Davis Senior helped found West Virginia and was a Congressman from the state. The younger Davis was a very bright boy with a love for learning. He was educated at home by his mother until the age of ten. Davis then started at Washington and Lee University aged sixteen, graduating in 1892. He worked as a teacher and an apprentice to save up for law school. Davis attended Washington and Lee Law School, graduating in 1895.
Personal Life: Davis was married twice. His first wife was Julia McDonald, who died only a year into their marriage, weeks after the birth of their only child. Davis remarried in 1912 to Ellen G. Bassel. He survived Ellen by twelve years. His daughter Julia was a well-known writer and journalist in her own right.
Davis was the adopted father of his cousin, Cyrus Vance Senior. Vance’s biological father died when he was five, so Davis took over his education and looked after him. Vance would have a storied career in his own right.
Pre-Election Career: Davis initially worked as a lawyer and an assistant legal professor until he became a Congressman in 1911. He was a staunch conservative Southern Democrat and an advocate of states’ rights. In 1913, Davis was appointed as Solicitor-General and would argue seventy-three cases against the Supreme Court. He would later become Ambassador to Great Britain, where he was influenced by his positive views towards the nation.
Election: Davis would become the Democratic candidate for 1924 after the one hundred and third ballot, a compromise candidate. Unfortunately for him, he had a lot to go up against. Firstly, he’d denounced the KKK and spoken in favour of black voting rights, which angered the South- though they still voted for him. He also argued against prohibition, which was in force at the time.
Secondly, the times were good for most people and they believed Coolidge was the reason for this. America was enjoying a great economy. That alone made Coolidge popular.
In the end, Coolidge won by seven million votes and over half the total. Davis won the old Confederacy and Oklahoma. Voter turnout was low at 48.9%.
Later Years: Davis returned to legal practice, though he’d stump for the Democrats from time to time. He opposed the New Deal on grounds that it was too much government overreach. Davis spoke at the Supreme Court many times as a private citizen and was one of the most prominent legal minds of his day. One of Davis’ most notable ventures was against Truman’s seizure of steel mills. He spoke against Truman’s overreach and for private property. The Supreme Court evidently agreed, as they voted 6-3 against Truman.
His final Supreme Court appearance was in 1954’s Brown v Board decision. Davis argued passionately for the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine. The Supreme Court famously struck the doctrine down in a unanimous 9-0 decision.
John W. Davis died at the age of 81 on the 21st March 1955. He is buried at Locus Valley Cemetery in Nassau County, New York.
Appearance and Character: Davis was a stern-looking man with a sharp face that widened as he got older. He was described as extremely intelligent from a young age, with almost perfect marks at school. An early teacher called him well-mannered. He was a talented lawyer and leader in the Progressive vein.