Crump Machine crumbles and Tennessee begins to change party loyalties
In Tennessee, many political changes took place after the end of World War II as the state swung from Democratic to Republican and the Crump Machine crumbled. Gore explains why Tennesseans changed parties and how that sped the disintegration of Crump's political apparatus.
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
- ALBERT GORE:
As you will recall in that election Mr. Strom Thurmond, former governor
of South Carolina (maybe he was then governor of South Carolina) . . .
- DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
I think he was.
- ALBERT GORE:
. . . ran as an independent on, I believe he called it, the States'
Rights ticket. Whatever the name of the ticket and whatever the status
of Mr. Thurmond at the time-of course he later became United
States Senator, but I don't recall his exact status at the time; I think
that he was either governor of South Carolina or had been
governor-it was an anti-civil rights ticket. It was a racist
ticket; it was a racist campaign, ultrarightist in other respects too
(on economic issues). It had a very important bearing in Tennessee. Now
you will also recall that at that time Edward H. Crump was the
undisputed political boss of Shelby County, Tennessee, which is our
largest county (in fact, almost 20 percent of the population of
Tennessee then and now lives in Shelby County). Crump supported the
Strom Thurmond ticket, thus taking his organization and the
many, many people who had long been affiliated with the
Democratic party but who, because of political persuasion of the Crump
machine or because of political affinity with Crump and with the things
that Strom Thurmond was saying, likewise left the Democratic party.
Those people have not yet returned, in the main, to the Democratic
party. They supported the George C. Wallace independent campaign;
otherwise they have for the most part supported Republican candidates.
For a long while they did not support Republican candidates for state
offices (I'm referring to the presidential campaign). But come 1960,
1964, they began to support the candidates for governor and the
candidates for the United States Senate bearing the Republican label.
Then in 1970 they went overwhelmingly in this particular group for the
Republican candidate for governor and the Republican candidate for the
United States Senate. So far as Tennessee was concerned this breakaway
of Crump and his machine from the Democratic party in 1948 was a very
significant milestone in the breakup of the preponderancy of the
Democratic party in Tennessee political affairs.
Another significant thing, later on of course, was the murder of Martin
Luther King Jr., and the strife and the riots and the racial and
economic polarization in the Memphis area. So '48 was a watershed; it
had great importance and great bearing. Also in 1948 I believe Estes
Kefauver was elected to the United States Senate here in Tennessee, and
Gordon Browning (then very anti-Crump) was elected as governor of the
state. So Edward Crump had suffered severe defeats in the Democratic
primary, and I had a significant part in that. Other than Kefauver and
Browning themselves I made far more speeches than anyone else in that
campaign. As I recall I supported Browning very strongly and opposed the
Crump machine by name, etc. I made forty-some
speeches in the last three weeks of that campaign, so I recall it
vividly. It was a turning point in the politics of Tennessee, not only
in presidential politics (as I have already outlined) but also it ended
the domination of the whole state by Crump. I should like to point out
that neither Browning nor Kefauver carried Shelby County in 1948, but I
did carry it four years later in 1952.