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March 5: A Spirited Campaign

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As 1931 faded into the rearview mirror, the presidential campaign of 1932 began heating up. Held against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, it promised to be a tough contest for incumbent President Herbert Hoover. Democrat William H. Murray, the governor of Oklahoma, was among the challengers.

Murray ran on a questionable record as governor. He had promised to crack down on corruption, appoint no family members, reduce state expenses, and not abuse power. But once in office, he added employees to the state payroll and appointed wealthy donors and twenty relatives to high office. Murray repeatedly called out the National Guard to impose martial law, and tasked them with everything from policing ticket sales at University of Oklahoma football games to policing the oil fields. When the State Auditor presented the evidence, Murray simply dismissed the accusations as lies.

In seeking the 1932 Democratic presidential nomination, he ran on a platform of “Bread, Butter, Bacon, and Beans.” On this date in 1932, North Dakotans were reading the details of the speech Murray gave in Bismarck the night before. He said he entered the race because “no one else seems interested in the common man.” Murray spent two hours outlining his plans for addressing the crisis of the Great Depression. He said that “Bad laws, administered by good men, are better than good laws administered by bad men.” In a swipe at Franklin Roosevelt, who also sought nomination, Murray said he would not support any New Yorker for president. This statement also included New Yorker Al Smith. Murray was adamant that no “big city politician” should be in the White House. He warned Democrats that they could not expect to win the election just by blaming Hoover for all the country’s ills. The Bismarck Tribune noted that Murray spoke to a packed house but “how many Democrats were in the audience was problematical.”

North Dakotans were not overly impressed with William Murray. The state primary was held on March 15th. Franklin D. Roosevelt won handily. Roosevelt went on to win the Democratic nomination, and then beat Hoover in a landslide. He won in all but five states, including North Dakota.

Dakota Datebook by Dr. Carole Butcher


Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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