Bryan County History: Electing a President, 1916

Bryan County Genealogy Library and Archives
Special to the Bryan County News

Washington, June 10, 1916

To the President:

I hereby resign the office of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

I am, Sir, respectfully yours,

Charles Evans Hughes

            With that brief note, Justice Hughes officially declared his intention to run against incumbent Woodrow Wilson for the presidency of the United States. It would prove to be one of the closest and most controversial elections in history…at least until now.

            Wilson, a Democrat, had served as the president of Princeton and as the governor of New Jersey. Elected president in 1912 he earned support for many of his actions concerning the war, but was widely criticized for segregating government offices and trampling on civil rights. The campaign slogans for his second term were “He kept us out of the war.”, and “America First”.

             Wilson’s Republican opponent, Charles Evans Hughes, had served as governor of New York and in 1910 President Taft appointed him Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

            Also on the 1916 ticket was Socialist Allan L. Benson, a magazine writer from New York who wrote a book titled “A Way to Prevent War”, which he promoted throughout the campaign.

            J. Frank Hanly represented the Prohibition Party. The former senator and governor of Indiana created “Hanly’s Flying Squad”, promoting a national fight against the “evils of alcohol”.

            Arthur E. Reimer was the Socialist Labor Party candidate. Reimer established the “Workers International Industrial Union” and toured the country with his running mate, Caleb Harrison. He was arrested and jailed for a short time in Montana for giving a speech in the street without a permit.

            Numerous residents of Bryan County were eager to hear what the candidates intended to do for the country, specifically what they would do about the looming possibility of war. The citizens of Caddo had formed a Democratic Club in the spring, with members H. E. Rappolee, B. F. Maddox, A. E. Ray, W. C. Hatcher, J. L. Boland, J. A. Moore, D. O. Nail, W. F. Dodd, A. P. Hill, A. E. Boydstun, and G. W. Phillips strongly endorsing Wilson. And there was no question about the loyalty of the Caddo Herald: “The Herald knows of no man whom it had rather see elected than President Wilson.”

            Caddo Republicans Homer Keith, A. Rathbun, C. O. Markham, and C. H. Grayson were chosen to attend the county convention and campaign for Hughes. In Bryan County there was also a big emphasis on just getting the rank and file out to vote.

            The campaign included the usual accusations, mudslinging, promises and lies. In the end, the results were so close that a New York paper had already printed the headline announcing Hughes as the new president. However, overnight tabulations of the California vote made Wilson the declared winner.

Woodrow Wilson           277 electoral votes 9,129,606

Charles Evans Hughes    254 electoral votes  8,538,221

Allan L. Benson                                                   589,924

J. Frank Hanly                                                      221,030

Arthur E. Reimer                                                   15,284

            Hughes later served as Secretary of State under Harding and Coolidge. Benson returned to various aspects of journalism in connection with the war. Hanly practiced law and in 1920 argued the case of Hawke v. Smith before the United States Supreme Court. It is unclear what Reimer did in his later years.

            During his second term Wilson had to deal with a war and a pandemic. One has to wonder if he ever regretted winning the election.

BCGLA, P.O. Box 153, Calera, OK 74730