Adlai Stevenson

Adlai Stevenson was the Democratic candidate for President in 1952 and 1956. In Virginia the Byrd Organization Democrats greeted Stevenson's candidacy with lukewarm support. Although Virginia Governor John S. Battle endorsed Stevenson in 1952, the state Democratic Party convention did little to support Stevenson. In both 1952 and 1956 Byrd himself maintained his "golden silence" and clearly preferred the Republican Eisenhower to the New Dealer Stevenson. Eisenhower carried Virginia in both elections, securing 56 % of the vote. Stevenson's candidacy in Virginia perpetuated the growing divisions within the state's Democratic Party members over whether the national party had drifted away from what were often called "fundamental principles." These Democrats, William Tuck and Harry Byrd in particular, viewed the national party with distrust and considered it overrun with liberals who were taking the party away its roots in restrained government. They wanted state Democratic Party rules not to require them to vote for or support the national ticket. The division within the party had its origins in the New Deal, grew wider in the Truman 1948 campaign, and broke into the open in the 1950s. Byrd and conservative Democrats objected to "Trumanism" in the Stevenson campaign by which they meant Truman's support for black civil rights, the Taft-Hartley Act, and increased federal spending. Byrd stunned national Democrats in the heat of the 1952 campaign when he went on the radio to renounce the Stevenson ticket, saying "I will not, and cannot, in good conscience, endorse the national Democratic platform or the Stevenson-Sparkman ticket." In 1956, however, Byrd would maintain his "golden silence" and refuse to endorse or disavow the national ticket. His opinions were well-known, however, and Stevenson managed just 43.5 % of the vote in Virginia in 1952 and only 38.4 % in 1956.