A Biography of Wendell Willkie
Wendell Willkie never held a public office, yet he nearly became president of the United States. A registered Democrat until the fall of 1939, he captured the Republican party's nomination less than a year later. It was, by all accounts, a meteoric rise—to win the nomination Willkie defeated such party stalwarts as Thomas Dewey, Robert Taft, and Arthur Vandenberg. These Republican front-runners had been insisting that the war in Europe wasn't a national concern since two oceans protected the U.S. from the aggressors, while for months Willkie had warned of the danger of a Europe controlled by fascists. Shortly before the GOP convened in Philadelphia, Hitler's armies swallowed Denmark, Norway, the Low Countries, and France. In a time for heroes, Willkie was a man of the hour.
Almost overnight Willkie moved the Republican party out of its hidebound isolationism and sent a message to the world that Americans stood together against Axis aggression. Roosevelt, although recognizing Willkie as a formidable political opponent, called his nomination a "godsend" because it finally brought national unity.
“A masterly biography.”
—Chicago Tribune Book World
“Willkie’s maverick but meteoric career is set forth crisply in this fast-moving, carefully documented biography.”
—Los Angeles TimesSee all reviews...
“A brisk and lucid account [that] vividly conveys that sense of the extraordinary in Willkie’s 1940 Republican nomination, in the presidential campaign that followed, and in the service he gave to his country.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Dark Horse is not merely fine biography or history. More than that, it’s a damned good yarnwell worth reading just for the fun of it.”
“A warm, readable biography that reminds us why so many people wanted Willkie.”
“An engaging, thorough narrative of Willkie’s life.”
—The New Republic
“Dark Horse is a superb book. I read it avidly. . . . There are a lot of lessons here for modern times.”
—President George Bush
“In this fascinating and detailed chronicle of Willkie’s life, Steve Neal has captured the man as he was and as I remember him: his warmth, vitality, and appeal.”
—William L. Shirer
“A lovely portrait of one of the most vivid characters of recent times . . . a study not only of the man but of America and its problems in a time of change.”
—Theodore H. White
“A highly readable biography of one of the most colorful and significant figures of the Roosevelt era”
“Seldom is a nearly forgotten figure in American history brought to life again in such a burst of light and excitement as Steve Neal's Willkie. Willkie was the only Republican lion since Teddy Roosevelt, and his roars echo through this marvelous account.”
—Robert J. Donovan
“Necessary reading for anyone who would like to understand Willkie himself and, even more important, the tumultuous times during which he lived.”
—John S. D. Eisenhower
“Neal’s sprightly prose is irresistible. A wonderful portrait of a Hoosier.”
—Robert H. Ferrell
Roosevelt's election to a third term—and Willkie's defeat—turned out to be the closest presidential race in a generation, and Willkie received more votes than any previous Republican candidate, setting a record that stood until Eisenhower's '52 landslide. And despite his defeat, Willkie grew in stature becoming Roosevelt's special envoy during World War II, first to London during the Blitz and later to the Middle East, to Russia, and to China. On the home front Willkie became the spokesman of the One World philosophy that influenced U.S. foreign policy for a generation and the conscience of American politics, speaking out against isolationism, imperialism, and the persecution of minorities.