The 1940 ‘No Third Term’ campaign
Sept. 25, 1940: A “No Third Term” billboard is unveiled at Wilshire Boulevard and Ardmore Avenue by supporters of Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie.
Following the Democratic Party’s nomination of President Franklin D. Roosevelt for a third term, an anti-FDR movement began under the “No Third Term” banner. They argued that the founding fathers intended that a president should only serve two terms.
In Los Angeles, a “No Third Term Day” was observed on Oct. 23, 1940. The L.A. Times reported the next morning:
More than 1,100 decorated automobiles parading from city to city, hundreds of volunteers distributing literature, buttons and stickers, speakers addressing mass meetings and a number of novel demonstrations were included in yesterday’s observation of No-Third-Term Day in Los Angeles County.
The highlight of the day was the broadcast of Wendell Willkie’s address on the third-term issue last night. …
“Paul Revere” and a party of cowgirls rode the streets of the city warning against breaking the third-term tradition. Sound trucks, calliopes and bands called the attention to the necessity for preserving that democratic safeguard. “Minute Men and Women of 1940” called from door to door to warn citizens of the danger of totalitarianism should the third-term tradition be scrapped.
FDR’s supporters cited World War II as reason for breaking the two-term tradition. Roosevelt won reelection with nearly 55% of the popular vote.
Following Roosevelt’s 1944 reelection to a fourth term, the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1951, setting a firm two-term limit.
The photo above by former staff photographer Jack Herod was not published in 1940. The photo below accompanied the “No Third Term Day” story in the Oct. 24, 1940, L.A. Times.
Oct. 23, 1940: Frances Voltz and Les Sachs ride down Spring Street during “No Third Term Day” demonstrations in Los Angeles.
October 25, 2012, 6:08 pm
FDR's finest moments occurred in his third term. His address to Congress and the nation after Pearl Harbor stands on its own. Then his meetings with Churchill and our allies throughout the war reassured the nation that our leader was very much in the thick of it and in control.
No one could have predicted this in 1940. The U.S. was not yet out of the Great Depression; the economy was still far from achieving a recovery. It took the war to put everyone back at work or off the bread lines and into the fighting fields.
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