Moment of Indiana History

Windell Willkie

Born in Elwood, Indiana in 1892, Wendell Willkie, attended Indiana University, became an attorney, a businessman and an unexpected presidential candidate.

While working in New York, Willkie switched from Democrat to Republican, and made headlines with his outspoken opposition to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Tennessee Valley Authority. Many Americans shared his views, and hundreds of Willkie Clubs sprang up in 1940, giving him a wide base of support.

Although he had never held a public office before, he won the Republican presidential nomination in 1940. Willkie waged a vigorous campaign, which he kicked off on a hot summer day in Elwood. He ultimately lost the election to FDR, but gained 45% of the popular vote in the process.

Willkie served as President Roosevelt’s personal emissary abroad following America’s entry into World War II. In a best-selling book, One World, he recounted his world tour of 1942 and made a case for international cooperation, peace and freedom.

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