• U.S.

National Affairs: Campaign Manager

3 minute read

A perspiring white-suited man without any luggage bustled into Springfield one day last week, went straight to the governor’s mansion. There he conferred with Adlai Stevenson, darted in & out of offices, up & down stairs, made hectic telephone calls. Then he hurried home to Louisville to get some suits and shirts, intended to hurry back in a few days. He was Wilson Wyatt, Stevenson’s new campaign manager.

Why? The choice was puzzling: 1) Wyatt has some local vote-getting experience, none whatever on the national scene, and has proved himself only a fair administrator; 2) he seems to be further to the left than Stevenson. His name was all but picked out of a hat.

During the Democratic Convention, a Stevenson adviser (Fred Hoehler, able director of the Illinois Department of Public Welfare) watched the governor, troubled, alone and isolated, and realized that after the nomination he would need a campaign organization fast. To Stevenson’s right-hand man, Carl McGowan, he suggested Wyatt as a political adviser. Wyatt turned out to be an old pal of McGowan’s. Another friend of Stevenson’s (wealthy Barry Bingham of the Louisville Courier Journal] also turned out to be a friend of Wyatt’s.

Last week the pals produced Wyatt, and Stevenson agreed. Main argument for Wyatt: he is not a “regular,” will foster the notion that Stevenson is independent of the Truman organization.

Who? Wyatt is a corporation lawyer who is usually described as “dynamic.” He was born 46 years ago in Louisville, where his father rose from mule driver to director in the local streetcar company. He made his political debut in 1928 by marching in a Democratic parade together with Al Smith and Alben Barkley, all three wearing brown derbies. In 1941, he ran for mayor, new-broomed Louisville for four years (redistricting, streamlined budget, new garbage-disposal plan, etc.). In 1945, with millions of disgruntled veterans clamoring for homes, Harry Truman picked him as housing expediter.

A devout believer in economic planning, Wyatt started out with vast blueprints—2,700,000 new housing units in two years—but fell disastrously short of that goal. He antagonized the building industry. Congress, other federal agencies, eventually even the White House (see ART). A year after he came to Washington, he quietly got out. Washington knew him as a hard worker, good speaker and as an administrator with a passion for detail and no knack for delegating authority.

He helped found Americans for Democratic Action, was its president from 1947 to 1948, is still a member. Many regular Democrats consider him too far left for comfort. The Republicans last week promptly pounced on him with a statement by National Committee Chairman Arthur Summerfield: “This appointment should serve notice to all Americans, including independents and thoughtful Democrats, that Governor Stevenson would have an organization that would out-Truman the Truman regime in leading the nation down the road to complete socialism .

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com