Jerry Voorhis was a Democratic politician from California. He represented the 12th Congressional District in Los Angeles County from 1937 to 1947 as a representative in the US Congress. He was defeated in the 1946 Congressional election by none other than Richard Nixon. Nixon’s campaign was cited as an example of red-baiting during his political rise.
Voorhis was born in Ottawa Kansas on April 6, 1901. His parents were Charles Brown Voorhis and Ella Ward Lyman Voorhis. His father was a senior executive in several large corporations such as the Pontiac Division of General Motors and later the Nash Motor Company. As a result the family was well off. But the many job changes also meant that there were many moves.
During his school life, Jerry Voorhis lived in Ottawa, Kansas, Oklahoma City, Peoria, Illinois and Pontiac, Michigan. He also attended a private school, the Hotchkiss School which probably enabled him to gain entrance at Yale University.
Voorhis earned a B.S. degree from Yale University in 1923, and later a M.A. degree in education from Claremont Graduate School in California. For the year following his Yale graduation he did some travel in Germany and held a few blue collar jobs. During a visit to his parents in Kenosha, WI in 1924, he met his future wife Alice Louise Livingston and married her on November 27, 1924.
In 1927, the now retired Charles Voorhis, Jerry’s father, decided that it was time for his son to settle down and offered to finance a Boys School so Jerry could run it. Thus as an educator and with family funds, Jerry was able to become the founder of the Voorhis School for Boys and became its headmaster. It was located in Pasadena, CA.
Voorhis’s father earlier had wanted Jerry to go into business but he chose to be an elementary school educator. He remained with the Boys School until 1937, the start of his congressional career. Following the start of his congressional career the School was donated to what would become California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
While serving in the US Congress, Voorhis was a loyal supporter of the New Deal and compiled a liberal voting record. His reelections were by comfortable margins until he faced Nixon in 1946. Nixon claimed that Voorhis was supported by groups linked to the Communist Party and that became a major issue.
Apparently the voters believed it and Nixon was able to defeat Voorhis by 15,000 votes. The alleged communist party connection was a political action group of the Congress of Industrial Organizations [CIO].
Voorhis’s major legislative achievement while in the US Congress was the Voorhis Act of 1940 requiring registration of certain organizations controlled by foreign powers. He was generally highly regarded by his colleagues and others in Washington. The press voted him to be the most honest congressman and the fifth most intelligent.
Following his congressional service, Voorhis remained in his Alexandria, VA home completing his book entitled, “Confessions of a Congressman”. Soon thereafter he was offered the job of Executive Director of the Cooperative League of the USA. The family moved to Winnetka, IL near the League’s Chicago headquarters. The League had been troubled by financial problems but under Voorhis’s guidance was able to improve its financial position and was able to convince some large cooperatives to join the organization.
Voorhis became a writer for the remainder of his life. He wrote numerous books. Among them were such titles as “The Story of the Voorhis School for Boys”, 1932, “The Morale of Democracy”, 1941, “Beyond Victory”, 1944, “Confessions of a Congressman”, 1947, “Credit Unions, Basic Cooperatives”, 1965, “The Strange Case of Richard Milhous Nixon”, 1972, and “The Life and Times of Aurelius Lyman Voorhis”, 1976. The last book was a biography of his grandfather.
Voorhis retired from the Cooperative League in 1967 and moved from Winnetka, IL back to Claremont, CA. In 1972 he and his wife entered a retirement home in Claremont, CA. But he remained active during the remainder of his life. He passed away on September 11, 1984. He had been suffering from emphysema. He was interred in Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, CA. His papers are held by the Claremont College’s Honnold-Mudd Library Special Collections.
Jerry Voorhis, Wikipedia
Horace Jeramiah Voorhis, Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress
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