George Romney Papers  1939-1973
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Biography

George Romney was born on July 8, 1907 in Chihuahua, Mexico where his parents had gone to help establish a Mormon colony. Following missionary service in Scotland and England (1927-1928), Romney attended the University of Utah (1929) and George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (1929-1930). He served on the staff of U.S. Senator David I. Walsh in 1929-1930 as a tariff specialist, and afterward as an apprentice with the Aluminum Company of America and the Aluminum Wares Association. In 1931 he married Lenore LaFount.

From 1939 to 1948 Romney was employed by the Automobile Manufacturer's Association, serving as general manager from 1942 to 1948. In 1948 he joined the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation, and in 1954 became chairman and president of the newly formed American Motors Corporation.

In 1961, he was elected a Republican delegate to the Michigan Constitutional Convention, and served as its vice-president. In 1962, Romney decided to seek public office, announcing his candidacy for governor. He easily defeated Democratic incumbent John Swainson. A popular figure with the electorate, Romney was twice reelected. During the later part of his administration, he made a conscious bid for the Republican nomination for president. From about 1966 to 1968, George Romney, governor of Michigan, was an active candidate for the 1968 Republican nomination for president of the United States. Through most of 1967, Romney was in fact front-runner, but his candidacy rapidly faltered and Richard Nixon went on to become President.

Although there have been many reasons advanced for the failure of George Romney's campaign, at least part of the problem can be ascribed to the organizational machinery set up on his behalf, first, to assess his chances, and then, second, to seek delegate support. The fault, according to some national commentators, was the bifurcation of the campaign into two separate, and often, competing organizational arms: Romney Associates, headquartered in Lansing, Michigan, and Romney for President, headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Just when George Romney started thinking about the presidency is not clear. Perhaps the idea formed as a result of the national recognition he received from his leadership of American Motors in the 1950s. To this should be added his demonstrated voter appeal as evidenced by his overwhelming gubernatorial victories in 1962 and again in 1964. Party leaders were beginning to take Romney seriously. No wonder that sometime in 1965, Romney established a small office for himself in the Prudden Building in Lansing to answer the increasing correspondence he was receiving about national political issues, many of which urged him to run for president. After another resounding victory in 1966, Romney decided to have "a hard look" at his chances, and accordingly, he established Romney Associates, moving the files from the Prudden Building into an East Michigan Avenue office and shifting into leadership roles some of his most trusted political and administrative advisors, notably Robert J. McIntosh and Walter DeVries.

As established, Romney Associates was responsible for research, speech writing, press and public relations, scheduling and travel arrangements, and responding to the governor's out-of-state correspondence. At about the same time, believing that he needed a national presence, Romney selected Leonard Hall, former Republican National Chairman, to organize in Washington, D.C. a Romney-for-President Committee. The functions assigned to the Hall group included overall campaign strategy, searching out delegates, bringing together the various state Romney for President groups, preparing mailing lists, maintaining cordial relations with influential members of Congress, and planning for the nominating convention. Perhaps in the two organizations lay the seed of Romney's collapse as a candidate. Because of their geographic separateness and the frequent overlapping of functions, the Romney campaign was marked by internal conflicts and inefficiency. The candidate himself received much of the criticism and his stand on various issues was not as clear-cut as should be expected. Added to this was the resurgence of Richard Nixon as a viable candidate. Unfairly, some might argue, Romney's campaign was dead soon after his official announcement in November 1967; and that following the New Hampshire primary, in February 1968, Romney merely went through the motions, hoping for a political miracle that was not to be.

Following the election of Richard Nixon, Romney resigned as governor and went into the new president's cabinet as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He resigned in 1972 to retire to private life. In his later years, Romney was active in the promotion of citizen involvement in government affairs. George Romney died in 1995.