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John W. Bricker

(b. 1893)

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(b. Pleasant Township, Ohio, 6 Sept. 1893; d. Columbus, Ohio, 22 Mar. 1986)

US; State Attorney-General 1933–7, Governor 1938–46, vice-presidential candidate 1944, US Senator 1946–58 John Bricker was a conservative whose values reflected the isolationist wing of the Republican Party associated with Robert A. Taft. He attended Ohio State University, where he studied law. Although Bricker passed the Ohio bar examination in 1917, his legal training was interrupted by the First World War. Initially declared medically unfit to serve, Bricker became first an army athletic instructor and then, after getting ordained for the purpose, an army chaplain. He practised law in Ohio, becoming state Attorney-General in 1933.

In 1938 Bricker was elected Governor of Ohio, a position he held for three successive terms. In office Bricker was extremely successful at improving the state's finances while expanding its expenditure on social programmes and education. He was instinctively hostile to the New Deal and its expansion of federal government power, which he saw as a threat to the integrity of state government.

In 1944 Republican nominee Thomas Dewey chose Bricker as his running mate, rather than Everett Dirksen. Bricker's isolationist values appealed also to the far right but Bricker repudiated the attempt by Gerald L. K. Smith and the America First Party to nominate him as that party's vice-presidential candidate. The Dewey-Bricker ticket was defeated by Franklin Roosevelt but Bricker emerged as a significant figure in the Republican Party. He was elected to the Senate in 1946 and served two terms until defeated in 1958 as a result of a massive anti-Republican swing in Ohio.

In the Senate, Bricker was a fierce opponent of Communism and anything which ensnared America in international institutions or smacked of world government. He opposed American membership of the International Atomic Energy Agency and was hostile to the United Nations and foreign aid. He repeatedly tried to amend the constitution to limit the power of the President to make international agreements. Although all his efforts failed, the so-called ‘Bricker amendment’ found support in both parties and underlined the strength of isolationist sentiment in Congress after the Second World War. In 1953, despite Eisenhower's rejection of the philosophy of the Bricker amendment, the Senate came within one vote of the two-thirds majority required to submit the amendment to the states.

Subjects: Social sciencesPolitics

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