The 1952 Democratic National Convention was held at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois from July 21 to July 26, 1952, the same coliseum the Republicans had gathered in a few weeks earlier. Four major candidates stood for the nomination: Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois , Senator Richard Russell of Georgia and Averell Harriman of New York.
The last true presidential draft
Governor Stevenson - who protested that he was not a presidential candidate - was asked to give the welcoming address to the delegates. He proceeded to give a witty and stirring address that led his supporters to begin a renewed round of efforts to nominate him, despite his protests. After meeting with Jack Arvey, the "boss" of the Illinois delegation, Stevenson finally agreed to enter his name as a candidate for the nomination. The party bosses from other large Northern and Midwestern states quickly joined in support. Kefauver led on the first ballot, but had far fewer votes than necessary to win. Stevenson gradually gained strength until he was nominated on the third ballot. The convention then chose Senator John Sparkman
, a conservative and segregationist
, as Stevenson's running mate. Stevenson then delivered an eloquent acceptance speech in which he famously pledged to "talk sense to the American people."
The Presidential balloting
The following table from Richard C. Bain and Judith H. Parris, Convention Decisions and Voting Records
(Washington DC: Brookings Instutition, 1973), pp. 286-292 documents the balloting. Candidates are organized according to their highest total on any single ballot, and they are listed only if they received over 20 votes on a single ballot. The 1952 Democratic convention was the last one for either major party that needed more than one ballot to select a Presidential nominee.
Kefauver had the most delegates after the first round, but then President Truman weighed into the battle in favor of Stevenson. He persuaded Harriman to drop out and endorse the Illinois governor, thereby pre-empting support for Kefauver and Russell, whom Truman opposed. The President believed that nominating a Southern candidate from a state where Jim Crow laws were in force would forfeit potential support for the Democratic party from African-American and Northern white voters.
Stevenson was nominated on the third ballot. It was the last nomination contest of either major U.S. political party to require more than one round of voting to nominate a presidential candidate.
The 1952 Democratic Platform
The Democrats favored a strong national defense, collective security against the Soviet Union
, multilateral disarmament, repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act
, equal employment opportunities for minorities and public assistance for the aged, children, blind, and the disabled, expansion of the school lunch program, and continued efforts to fight racial discrimination.
Adlai Stevenson and running mate John Sparkman
lost the election to Dwight D. Eisenhower
and Richard M. Nixon
on November 4
. Despite the defeat, Stevenson was four years later again selected as the Democratic presidential nominee at the 1956 Democratic National Convention