Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"A Man of Character"

In November 1959, Sinclair Weeks, former Secretary of Commerce under Eisenhower formalized a letter that he hoped would help his former colleague, Vice President Richard Nixon get elected in the 1960 presidential election. Weeks considered Nixon a friend and even though he had retired in 1958, Weeks remained influential in the Republican Party. The letter outlines Weeks' commitment to the cause of helping "to see to it that Dick Nixon is the next President of the United States." Tweaked by Nixon, the letter was sent to "people around the country who are or have been active in the political arena." Weeks had been active in Republican politics since the 1930s, first as the chairman of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee and its Finance Committee and later as the treasurer of the Republican National and Finance Committees. Nixon deeply appreciated Weeks' support and "loyal friendship." After Nixon's disastrous performance in the first ever televised presidential debates, Weeks sent a memo to Nixon outlining all the things he thought did not work in Nixon's favor:

First, and most importantly, whoever made you up did not, in my judgment, do a very good job. Personally, I would try someone else next time. Jack did better than I thought he would. He is very glib but, to one who thinks about it, he has not your depth nor poise.

He also counseled Nixon on not "agreeing" with Kennedy "too many times."

In the end, however, Nixon was not able to beat the youthful and charismatic Kennedy who was elected with a lead of 112,827 votes, or 0.17% of the popular vote, giving him a victory of 303 to 219 in Electoral College, the closest since 1916. In a 1961 letter to Weeks, Nixon admits that:

Losing the closest election in history was not a pleasant experience from a personal standpoint. But My greatest disappointment was that my efforts could not have been just that extra bit more effective which would have brought victory for those who worked so hard for our cause.

The papers of Sinclair Weeks have recently been reprocessed and the access to all of his correspondence has been improved. The papers chronicle Weeks' life as Mayor of Newton, Mass, Secretary of Commerce and businessman. You can access the collection via our electronic finding aid.

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