Paul Vories McNutt (July 19 1891 - March 24 1955) was an American politician who served as governor of Indiana, high commissioner to the Philippines, administrator of the Federal Security Agency, chairman of the War Manpower Commission and ambassador to the Philippines.
In 1909, McNutt entered Indiana University where he was active in campus politics, acted in student theater productions and was a close friend of Wendell Willkie, future Republican candidate for president of the United States who, like McNutt, was then a Democrat.
After graduating from Indiana in 1913, McNutt went to Harvard Law School, taking an extracurricular job as a United Press reporter and sports writer. McNutt took his law degree from Harvard in 1916, then returned to Martinsville to be narrowly defeated in a race for Morgan County prosecutor. The following year he took a job as assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Law, but quit to enlist in the United States Army when the United States entered World War I.
Although McNutt became a major in the field artillery, he spent the war at bases in Texas and South Carolina. While in Texas, he met and married his wife, Kathleen. He left active service in 1919, but later became a full colonel in the reserves.
After leaving military service, McNutt returned to his law school teaching job, becoming a full professor in 1920 and then, in 1925, the youngest dean in the school's history. He skillfully used both his university connections and his wartime experience to launch his political career. As law school dean, he forcefully attacked pacifists and opponents of compulsory military training on college campuses. In 1927, he was elected commander of the Indiana department of the American Legion, an influential veterans' organization, and spoke frequently throughout the state.
In 1928, he decided that a run for governor would be too risky with the Catholic Al Smith likely to be the Democratic nominee for president. Instead, McNutt sought and won the post of national commander of the American Legion. In 1932, Indiana's Democrats nominated him for governor. He won easily, swept along in that year's national Democratic landslide led by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
On the negative side, McNutt earned the reputation of an old-style machine politician by using the reorganization of state government to oust his opponents, both Republican and Democratic, from state jobs and by forcing state employees to pay two percent of their salaries to the Indiana Democratic Party. He had the legislature set up a system of exclusive franchises for beer distribution that went to his campaign contributors. He also had the legislature postpone the 1933 municipal elections, adding an extra year to the terms of local officials, a majority of whom were Democrats.
Although McNutt's administration curtailed the use of court injunctions to prevent labor picketing, McNutt did not hesitate to declare martial law in eleven coal-mining counties where major violence accompanied union efforts to organize the miners. In all, McNutt called out the Indiana National Guard three times in response to labor-related violence.
With the Philippines largely self-governing, the post of high commissioner was mostly ceremonial. Nevertheless, McNutt managed to stir controversy by appearing fussy over details of protocol. He also questioned the wisdom of giving early independence to the islands as promised in the 1934 Tydings-McDuffie Act, believing that the small country could not defend itself.
In a notable humanitarian act, McNutt, in cooperation with Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, quietly persuaded the US Department of State to allow the entry each year into the Philippines of a thousand Jewish refugees fleeing fascist regimes in Europe. The quota was raised to 1,200 in 1939. This was at a time when the refugees could not legally enter the United States itself in large numbers.
McNutt left the Philippines in 1939 to become head of Roosevelt's new Federal Security Agency, an umbrella office that managed an array of New Deal programs that ranged from the Civilian Conservation Corps to Social Security. It also served as a cover agency from 1942 to 1944 for the War Research Service, a secret program to develop chemical and biological weapons. The FSA job gave McNutt high visibility, but his presidential hopes dissolved in the face of Roosevelt's determination to seek a third term. Although McNutt's name was floated as a possible vice-presidential running mate, Roosevelt apparently did not seriously consider the possibility, preferring the more liberal Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace. Ironically, Roosevelt's opponent in 1940 was McNutt's Indiana University classmate Wendell Willkie, now a Republican.
After Japan's surrender in 1945, President Harry S. Truman sent McNutt back to the Philippines for a second tour as high commissioner. Following Philippine independence on July 4 1946, McNutt served as America's first ambassador to the islands, a post he left in 1947 to take up law practice in New York and Washington, D.C. After serving as ambassador, he also chaired the Philippine-American Trade Council, a business organization, and was a director of several firms in Manila.
McNutt's prominence is demonstrated by his appearance on the covers of Life and Time magazines in 1939 when he returned from the Philippines, and on a Time cover in 1942 when he took the chair of the War Manpower Commission.
McNutt died in New York City, aged 63, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.