The thirty-third Vice President Of The United States (VPOTUS) was likely one of the most intuitive, innovative and interesting public figures in the history of the United States. Henry A. Wallace was not a normal man by any stretch of the imagination. His political enemies loved to accuse him of being naive. He was precisely the opposite. His only political weakness was probably his honesty.
A quick recap of his political career shows his stellar qualities and skills. His most noteworthy offices included his leadership as Secretary of Agriculture (USDA) from 1933 until 1940. Wallace served as Secretary of Commerce from 1945 to 1946. He served one term as Vice President from 1941 until 1945 under the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Later, Wallace was selected as the Presidential candidate by the Progressive Party.
Politically, his anti-fascist views were noteworthy and prophetic. He was clearly outspoken in his distaste for overt greed and thirst for power.
“It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups.”–Henry A. Wallace
Such statements were sure to be very unpopular with the elite, upper crust of America. Speaking truth to power is rarely actually popular and leaves one open to attacks by moneyed interests. Perhaps, in this respect, Wallace was naive.
“The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power.”–Henry A. Wallace
“With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”–Henry A. Wallace
While the real fascists long ago stopped calling themselves by that name, it’s easy to figure out who they are and what they’ve been up to while we’ve been distracted by bread and circuses.
On Wallace’s views and activities, thick volumes could, and likely have been written. Albeit after the fact by his political enemies. To take a friendly view of Wallace has been rare. Many liberals have almost forgotten him.
Henry A. Wallace’s outlook and life’s direction were formulated during his childhood as a farmboy raised in rural Adair County, Iowa. His alma mater is Iowa State College at Ames. Wallace was a close pal of George Washington Carver. Both young men spent many hours together collecting botanical specimens. Wallace eventually graduated with a degree in animal husbandry in 1910. He also experimented with corn hybridation techniques and early plant science.
Most farmers in the midwest are very familiar with the name “Pioneer Hi-bred” company. In fact, anybody raised in the midwest during the past few decades remembers the very familiar Pioneer Hi-bred signs and logos seen almost everywhere. Henry A. Wallace was the founder of that corporation. It was started with an inheritance of only a few thousand dollars his wife and he had received.
Another agricultural advance that Wallace had accomplished was the cultivation of a chicken breed that used to account for the vast majority of all egg-laying chickens worldwide. In fact, the world’s largest agricultural research center is the “Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center”.
Politically, Wallace started out as a member of the Republican Party, but switched to the Democratic after realizing his affinity for the policies of Franklin Roosevelt. His most famous political speech, known as “Century of the Common Man”, was given to the Free World Association. It was strongly grounded in Christian principles and references. In the speech he laid out his positive vision of the world after the ultimate defeat of the German Nazis and Japanese fascists. While the speech was very popular among regular citizens, it earned Wallace many enemies among big business leaders, conservatives and even Winston Churchill.
This is just a tiny sample of what lies in store for anybody even remotely interested in the history of the 20th Century and in particular the accomplishments of our 33rd VPOTUS. He was a man not afraid to rock many boats.
The Blue Jay of Happiness is interested in Wallace’s work on hybrid corn and field grasses.