Idaho’s Singing Senator, Glen Taylor

It  was a pleasant surprise to read about Senator Glen Taylor, the “singing cowboy”, an Idaho politician few remember. Jasper LiCalzi, blogging for the Idaho Statesman, gives an interesting review of Taylor’s autobiography. I’m not sure, however, you should depend upon Taylor’s autobiography to provide the unvarnished “straight-forward” truth about his career.

When, for example, LiCalzi says that “Most observers believed there were questionable vote counting practices used against Taylor in the biggest  electoral scandal in Idaho history,”  I wonder what sources he has beyond Taylor’s autobiography?

I don’t believe there was ever any evidence of irregularities in the vote count in the 1956 primary.    it is true that Frank Church won the primary by just 200 votes, but narrow margins were not uncommon in those days. Taylor won the Democratic primary over Senator Clark by only 216 votes in 1944, but no one suggested a recount.

Taylor, in 1956, refused to concede defeat and claimed numerous irregularities in the counting and  canvassing of the returns. After failing to get the Senate committee on elections to investigate, he proceeded to conduct a house-to-house poll in an effort to prove that many more persons had voted for him then the returns indicated.  Although the chairman of the Democratic Party offered to help in a court action to clarify the record, Taylor was unable to provide any evidence of irregularities.

The real scandal, and a reason we ought to remember Talyor, occurred in the 1954 campaign. The Republican candidate was Herman Welker, a right wing Republican and strong supporter of Senator Joseph McCarthy. The Republican Party ( at both the national and state level) and  the Idaho media (particularly the Idaho Statesman) waged a smear campaign that was classic “McCarthyism”.

Taylor’s “record” with the progressive party was used against him. Allegations of Communist front associations were made. Senator Welker brought in two national “anti-communists” Matthew Cvetic and Herbert A. Philbrick to speak against him. The only “evidence” was that the Communist Party had endorsed the Progressive Party ticket of Wallace and Taylor in 1948. The Idaho Democratic Party  leaders did nothing to defend Taylor because he had refused to support Truman in 1948.  Consequently, Taylor  was convinced that the party would do anything to keep the nomination from him.

Taylor was an authentic Leftist/Populist and, as a result, appealed to a strong populist leaning among Idahonians since the beginning of the 20th century.  Someone should write a history of Idaho populism. If they did, Taylor would be a leading figure in the story.

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2 comments

  1. I mentioned the 1956 Democratic primary in the first volume of my autobiography. I refer you to that book which is in the BSU Albertson library and is entitled THE BUCCANEER and this is Vol 1 in the series Idaho Smith’s Search for the Foundation, 2003, Jason W. Smith, Writers Press, Boise.
    My father was the Republican Attorney General at the time and immediately after the election (stolen from Taylor by Frank Church’s father in law) we drove to Las Vegas and my Dad picked up a brief case with $75,000 in cash from Meyer Lansky at the Desert Inn. We took that money to Taylor’s people in Pocatello on our way back to Boise from Las Vegas. What I remember about the incident I describe in that book.
    Jason W. Smith, Los Angeles, California
    drjasonsmith@hotmail.com

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