By Louise Leigh & Fred Davis
The CRA began its third decade in a state of exuberance. World War II hero General Dwight Eisenhower became the first Republican president in 20 years. Richard Nixon of California was elected Vice President of the United States.
When Nixon took his oath of office as Vice President, he resigned as U.S. Senator. Governor Earl Warren appointed State Controller Thomas Kuchel to the U.S. Senate. Governor Earl Warren was succeeded by Goodwin Knight as California Governor in 1954. Those were good Republican years.
The 20th CRA Convention, held in Los Angeles on March 6, 1953, was a most “enthusiastic victory” meeting. Though it was an off election year, the jubilation of the 1952 Republican victories (both national and state) persisted.
In 1953, then-Vice President Nixon stated, “Volunteer organizations are the life blood of a political party. That is why all Republicans in California should give their wholehearted support to the CRA, which is the outstanding Republican organization in the state.”
Further, a telegram dated December 18, 1953, addressed to Worth Brown (CRA President 1939-40) and signed by Hal Ramser (CRA President 1954-55) stated: “We are expected to be at the Governor’s office (Knight) Sacramento for lunch on Wednesday, February 3, to discuss better liaison between that office and CRA. Please confirm at once and make effort to be there. Hal Ramser.”
Such was the importance of CRA in 1953.
The 22nd CRA Convention in March of 1955 took place in Pasadena. CRA pledged to support the re-election of the “Ike & Dick” ticket becoming one of the first volunteer organizations to back their nomination at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco.
On July 8, 1955, the CRA News headline read:
Howard Jarvis was elected President of the Los Angeles County Republican Assembly in 1960 and later went on to author the historic property tax-cutting initiative, Prop. 13.
In 1956 the CRA had a membership of over 11,000.
At the Republican National Convention in San Francisco in 1956, the CRA presented 100 plaques to outstanding Republicans. Honored were President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, Republican governors, and others. CRA was a prestigious and powerful organization.
“Ike & Dick” were elected on November 6, 1956, by an even greater margin than in 1952.
In 1957, U.S. Senator William Knowland addressed a CRA Board meeting at the La Fayette Hotel in Long Beach, where he was cheered by 1,100 members. Robert Fenton Craig, then CRA President, announced that Senator Knowland would not run for Governor of California. He lauded Senator Knowland for his contribution to the formation of CRA in 1933. “Today the CRA has over 116 units in California,” he stated.
Despite President Craig’s announcement, the 1958 Fact Finding Committee at the CRA Convention in San Jose, endorsed Goodwin Knight for U.S. Senate; William Knowland for Governor; and, Hon. Assemblyman Casper Weinberger from San Francisco for Attorney General. All were defeated in the November election of 1958 and Pat Brown, Sr., was elected Governor of California.
In 1959, when Gardiner Johnson was CRA President, the Fact Finding Committee was instructed not to deliberate on the endorsement of Richard Nixon for President of the United States. President Johnson declared that Nixon was an “outstanding and unusually qualified candidate for the presidency,” and instructed the Resolutions Committee to report as such. It was done at the CRA Convention in Coronado in February 1959.
In 1960, the four Nixon-Kennedy TV debates were “a first” in presidential campaigning. Viewers’ complaints that Nixon looked haggard and drawn during the first debate made the use of make-up on television an issue in the campaign. Nixon’s consent to the debates gave John Kennedy the wider audience he needed. The debates were the biggest single factor in Nixon’s defeat, and Kennedy admitted he would not have won without them. JFK was elected by only 118,263 more votes than Nixon in November 1960.
In September of 1961, there were four possible Republican gubernatorial candidates: Goodwin Knight, Lt. Governor Harold J. Powers, Assemblyman Joe Shell, and Richard Nixon.
At the CRA Board meeting in Santa Maria on December 3, 1961, over 500 members came to hear Richard Nixon as California gubernatorial candidate.
In November of 1962, Nixon was defeated by Edmund G. Brown, who was re-elected to his second term as governor of California.
From 1952 to 1962 the CRA was still a political force with which California politicians had to deal, and unwise to ignore.