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Clyde Wilson Dawley (June 3rd, 1918-October 14th, 2003) was the 35th President of the United States of America, holding office from January 20th, 1973 to January 20th, 1977. Prior to the Presidency, he served as the Governor of Texas from 1963-1971, being the only Governor of Texas to serve more than two terms consecutively and the first Governor to win more than three consecutive elections (prior to the four-year terms instituted in 1984). He was notable as his single term marked the first and last time that the National Party had ever held the White House for four consecutive Presidential terms, a feat the Democrats accomplished between 1885-1901.
Clyde Wilson Dawley was born on June 3rd, 1918 in the then-rural Texas town of Salt, approximately thirty miles southeast of Dallas. His father, Samuel Wilson Dawley, Sr. (1888-1938) was the head of the county's real estate office and ran the Dawley Rural Properties Company after going into private work. His mother, Ann Dawley (1895-1930) had married his father at the age of seventeen and ran the Dawley household. Dawley had a pair of elder twin brothers, Samuel Wilson Jr. (1913-1994) and Nicholas John (1913-2011) as well as a younger sister, Catherine (1920-).
When Dawley was only twelve years old, his mother died in a trolley car accident in Dallas. When Sam Dawley, Sr. fell ill in the mid-1930's, his two eldest sons took over his company while Clyde was still in high school.
Dawley was a standout baseball player at Salt Township High School and was offered a full scholarship to the University of Texas by legendary baseball coach Gus Bender. His father encouraged him to take the opportunity in order to bring university expertise to the realty company, which was struggling due to competition with larger firms establishing themselves in the Booming Thirties.
Dawley attended Texas between 1936 and 1940. When in the spring of 1937 he travelled to play a baseball game against the University of Arkansas, it was his first time ever leaving the state of Texas. He graduated with a degree in economics from Texas and hoped to earn a contract offer from a major league baseball team, but there were no offers.
Business and Early Political Career
Governor of Texas: 1961-1971
Civil Rights Legislation
Amongst Dawley's landmark achievements, he authorized those who lived in public housing projects to be able to buy their property if they had lived at that address for five years and had been registered with the Texas Public Housing Authority for the entirety of that time. The program made multiple African-American and Latino families, in particular in South Texas, home and property owners for the first time in an age when they were still widely discriminated against by realtors in Texas. Dawley later remarked that it was his proudest achievement as Governor.
1972 Presidential Election
Dawley's first goal after his inauguration was to make good on his campaign promise to slash stifling National Bank interest rates in half and pass a landmark small-business bill, which would afford small businesses protection guaranteed by the government. Dawley painted his economic tactics as part of his "friendly neighborhood government," a tagline that gained popularity throughout 1973.
Although the country had officially exited the most recent recession in early 1972, the years between 1973 and 1975 were some of the most wildly prosperous in the history of the United States. Comparisons were made to the Booming Thirties and Dawley received heaps of credit for the "Sunny Seventies." In 1974, Dawley referred to the decade as "America's Decade" due to the robust growth and recessions in France and Asia. Due to his personal likability and the robust economy, Dawley's National Party only suffered minor losses in the 1974 midterm elections.
Dawley's main foe as President was Senate Majority Leader Robert "Doc" Newton, a powerful Southern Democrat who headlined his party's conservative wing. While Newton had supported integration, he was highly critical of many of Dawley's more ambitious social plans, including a nationwide referendum on abortion and a proposal to establish an amendment to the Constitution to establish a permanent national debt. Dawley initially opposed a Democratic proposal to guarantee health care to retirees, but eventually caved under pressure from his own party's liberal wing and signed the Medicare Act of 1974. The Medicare Act resulted in a tax hike to compensate and Dawley became known as the "Texas Taxman" in some circles, despite his fervent insistence on his opposition to the measure. However, Democrats began to paint the measure as affordable in the current economic environment, despite a modest decline in growth in 1976 from the three previous years.
Dawley signed numerous minor civil rights bills and signed into law the United States Nuclear Power Act, an ambitious infrastructural plan to construct 40 new nuclear power plants nationwide to complement the 15 that existed at the time by 1985. He also approved the 3.7 billion dollar plan to build a hyperfast train from La Paz to Vancouver that would take ten years to build, a measure that while eventually successful was seen as an overreach of government power on Dawley's part and made him unpopular amongst many in his own party who were already upset that he had not vetoed the Medicare and Nuclear Power Acts.
Foreign Policy and Relationship with France
President Dawley's lasting contribution and legacy was in the foreign policy sphere, where a lifelong governor who had only left the country briefly to visit Mexico in the past became a shrewd diplomat. Thanks to the experience of Droughns, a former member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Dawley administration made its goal in foreign policy to repair some of the damage the Van Dyke administration had done with its more hawkish attitudes. While Dawley turned a blind eye to the CIA's ongoing allowance of Turkey to topple Balkan regimes to reabsorb lost territory in the early 1970's, he personally denounced direct United States involvement in foreign countries. Dawley personally asked for the resignation of longtime CIA Director Herb Schwartz in 1974 after the disastrous Peter Kovacs investigation which exposed the CIA's covert and illegal operations in the Middle East. The shadow of the tactics of the Van Dyke era hung over Dawley, who sought to regain the trust of many nations wary of the United States and their new bloc, NATO.
Dawley became amicable friends with the Colombian government during this time, and guaranteed the Colombians that he would help them protect themselves from the bellicose government of Hugo Savala that came to power in Brazil in 1974. He travelled to Alaska to meet with new Premier Pushkin and cut a major oil deal that only helped the United States' already-booming economy and cut a deal with Japan to lower tariffs in order to help the Japanese recover from their banking crisis in the early 1970's. Dawley's trip to Japan in 1975 a year after the original deal was made in Washington was one of the highlights of his Presidency, where Dawley affirmed Japan as an emerging global power and made overtures to bring Emperor Hirohito closer to the United States. While Hirohito politely decided to remain neutral, Dawley's trip - the first by an American President to Japan since Joseph Kennedy visited Hirohito in 1942 in an even more landmark visit - was hailed as a foreign policy success, showing France that they did not have the same staying power in Asia as the United States did.
As a Cold War President, Dawley was significant in that his less confrontational and manipulative attitude towards France and her allies coincided with the gradual transfer of power from Emperor Sebastien to his son, Albert II, between 1973 and Sebastien's death in 1975. Dawley visited the ailing Sebastien in France in 1973, and spoke with Albert at numerous summits overseas before finally inviting the newly-crowned Albert II to the United States for Thanksgiving at the White House in 1975. The move, coming so soon after French and American astronauts shook hands on the moon, was seen as a major part of the ongoing policy of detente. Albert did, however, refuse to sign an arms limitation treaty that Dawley had proposed, but the shift into the Second Era of the Cold War was evident.
Dawley was lauded by numerous Democrats and Nationalists for filling his Cabinet with extremely respected and competent bureaucrats and politicians, starting with his "hands-on" Vice President, Alexander Droughns. Droughns is often cited as the catalyst for the more active role of the Vice President in government affairs that became more prevalent during the tenure of Robert Redford, who essentially rode his own experience in government to the Presidency. Droughns was the chief spokesperson for the Jump-Start America energy renewal program and sought vigorously to remove some of the stain brought to the office by his predecessor, Tom Heaps.
Dawley, aware of the critical juncture in the Cold War he was approaching due to the declining health of Sebastien in France, appointed respected diplomat Arthur Rosenthal as his Secretary of State, the first Jewish man to hold the position. His appointment for Secretary of Defense, Timothy Harper, had served in the Pentagon when it was first built under Richard Russell and had served on the board of directors for a military manufacturing contractor.
The domestic Cabinet advisors were also praised for their work, including Rosslyn McCay, the first female Secretary of Transportation, and George Pryce, who had been a high-ranking legal attache at the Justice Department for many years and was appointed Attorney General. Dawley's chief of staff, Donald J. Burr, was the former mayor of Yorktown, HR.
Dawley's administration entered Washington with the explicit goal of erasing much of the bad taste left over from the final years of the Van Dyke era - the calculative, secretive nature of the administration was gone, with Cabinet members regularly accepting interviews and Droughns himself becoming a popular figure nationwide due to his charm and charisma on numerous talk shows.
Dawley was afforded the rare opportunity to appoint four Supreme Court Justices during his term, and responded by elevating Christopher Wood (1973), Bill O'Hara (1973), Stephen Busch (1974) and Janet Vastiaglia (1976), the first female and first Italian-American to serve on the Supreme Court.
Dawley was described as a "likable everyman," "a guy you'd have a beer or two with" and "Joe President" due to his charm and use of common vernacular even in his speeches, unlike the articulate and polished Van Dyke. Dawley himself coined the term "Friendly Neighborhood Government," which was meant to illustrate a feeling of trust in Washington as opposed to having it feel remote.
Opinion polls were typically high, but Dawley himself admitted that American frustrations with a bevy of Nationalist Senators and Governors in the early 1970's hurt the administration. Dawley often considered himself a bit of an outcast from his own party, which he felt by the end of his term was being filled with "slick, Wall Street types you usually see on the other side of aisle."
Dawley's 1974-75 divorce proceedings were highly publicized and are said to have contributed significantly to a damaging of his public image. In his biography of Dawley's time as Texas Governor and President, Divorcing America, Presidential biographer Howard Young mentioned that Susan Dawley was one of the major power brokers in Sutton and Washington during all of Dawley's political career, and that his wife was in fact one of his most powerful advisors. The 1986 novel Mrs. Macbeth, which is about a fictional Vice President's wife who secretly arranges for the assassination of the Commander in Chief so her weak husband can come to power, was said to be inspired by Susan Dawley's alleged control of the Dawley White House, and in the 1992 film adaptation of the novel, The First Lady, actress Jane Dancy based her portrayal of Collie Woodrow closely on that of Susan Dawley.
In the 1976 elections, the damage of the divorce proceedings, the breakdown of negotiations of a free trade agreement with Colombia, the near-meltdown of the Richmond nuclear site in Kahokia, and the national fatigue with the National Party helped contribute to Dawley being labelled, "a likable man and a dislikable leader" or "a nice guy in a mean town." Despite enjoying personal popularity, including being called the "cowboy President," Dawley was ejected in a narrow loss in favor of Adam Eisler. Dawley's popularity has grown enormously in subsequent years.
1976 Presidential Election
Legacy and Personal Life
Death and State Funeral
On January 15th, 2003, Dawley's family released a statement announcing that the former President, who had been out of the public eye for quite some time, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and had been given about four to six months to live without treatment, and possibly two years with it. President Romney flew Dawley out to Washington to honor him with a special banquet in February that was attended by leaders from around the world, including Crown Prince Maurice Napoleon of France and Czar Nikolai II of Alaska.
After several months of chemotherapy, Dawley reportedly refused further treatment sometime in September. On October 14th, his son Nick announced that his father had died that morning at a Dallas hospital after checking himself in two days before. Dawley's body was flown from Dallas to Washington lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda, and his state funeral was held on the 17th.
His sons Nick and John delivered two of the eulogies, as well as former Vice President Droughns and former President Van Dyke. He was flown back to Texas on the 18th for a smaller, private funeral for family and friends, and shortly thereafter buried in Salt, TX on the same plot of land as his parents and grandparents.