On September 14, 2004 a press release from the United States Senate reported that the two U.S. Senators from Michigan, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, both Democrats, paid homage to the life and career of Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, at the unveiling of Vandenberg's portrait in the Senate Reception room of the U.S. Capitol. Arthur H. Vandenberg was a Republican Senator from Michigan during the 1928 to 1951 period. The Senate Committee on Art, on that day, unveiled Vandenberg's portrait. In October 2000, the Senate had unanimously approved the placement of the painting in the U.S. Capitol.
The above reveals that political differences fade away over the years. In his early U.S. Senate career Vandenberg was the bane of the Democrats. During the Roosevelt Administration he opposed and actively fought against any of the depression years' measures to get the country back on its feet. He was opposed to the NRA, the AAA, the WPA, and any proposal, identified by set of capital letters, coming out of the Roosevelt Administration. Vandenberg also provided the Senate leadership against any U.S. involvement in the then developing war in Europe. He was an isolationist through and through. If he had had his way he would have impeached Franklin Delano Roosevelt, especially after Roosevelt started to provide lend lease aid to the threatened British Navy.
The attack on Pearl Harbor finally awakened Arthur H. Vandenberg. Overnight he changed from an isolationist to a strong supporter of the Roosevelt Administration in its efforts of waging war against the Axis enemies, of not only the U.S., but of the civilized free world. As a matter of fact, Vandenberg's U.S. tenure in the U.S. Senate can be viewed as consisting of two periods. During the first period, from 1928 to 1942, he was a fierce Republican partisan, fighting against virtually everything the Democratic opposition brought up. During his second period as a U.S. Senator, from 1942 to 1951, he became a model for bipartisanship, supporting not only the Roosevelt Administration, but later also the Democratic Truman Administration.
On January 10, 1945, Vandenberg made a memorable and passionate U.S. Senate speech arguing for the U.S. to take an active international leadership role, and in the same speech he endorsed the creation of the United Nations. During the post-World War II years he actively worked with the Truman Administration in the creation of the Truman doctrine, the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Based on his support for the above programs and policies, which turned out to be very critical for the rebuilding of Europe and the defense of the free world against the Communist threat, Vandenberg to this day is revered as one of the more influential U.S. Senators during the twentieth century.
Arthur Vandenberg was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on March 22, 1884. He was the son of Aaron Vandenberg and Alpha [Hendrick] Vandenberg. There is not much known about his ancestors, except for the fact that they were clearly Dutch Americans as reflected by the name Vandenberg. It is also not known if his ancestors were part of the Dutch immigrants who settled in the Grand Rapids area in the 1840s.
Vandenberg attended public schools in Grand Rapids, and studied law at the University of Michigan. Upon graduation he chose a career in journalism and initially worked as a reporter on the Grand Rapids Herald. He eventually became editor and publisher of the Herald until his appointment to the vacant U.S. Senate seat by Michigan Governor Fred Green in 1928 upon the death of the then incumbent U.S. Senator Woodbridge N. Ferris. Vandenberg was reelected to the Senate seat in 1934, 1940 and 1946.
During his years in the U.S. Senate, Vandenberg rose to the position of Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [1947-1949]. In 1945 Vandenberg was a U.S. delegate to the United Nations Conference in San Francisco, and in 1946 he was a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly in London and New York. He was also an advisor to the Council of Foreign Ministers in London, Paris and New York in 1946 and a delegate to the Pan American Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1947.
Arthur Vandenberg was married to Hazel Whitaker. He passed away on April 18, 1951, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, while still in office, succumbing from the complications of lung cancer. He is interred in Oak Hill Cemetery.
Note: The author of this bio profile has recently written and published six non-fiction E-books which are available for $2.99 each on the Amazon Kindle web site. Google: Amazon Kindle Store, Pegels.
Senator Arthur Vandenberg: A Profile in Courage, www.mackinac.org