“Alfalfa” Murray on cover of Time - HISTORY
Year
1932

“Alfalfa” Murray on cover of Time

One of the most colorful western politicians of his day, William “Alfalfa” Murray makes the cover of Time magazine after announcing his long-shot candidacy for the Presidency.

Born in poverty near Toadsuck, Texas, in 1869, Murray dabbled in a variety of careers before finally settling on law. In 1898, he moved to Oklahoma Territory, where he earned his odd nickname by establishing a successful farm renowned for its alfalfa. He also developed a passionate interest in Democratic politics and played a major role in creating the new Oklahoma state constitution in 1906. The following year he won election to the Oklahoma House of Representatives, where he became its speaker.

In 1916, Murray took an unpopular stand against American preparations for war in Europe that brought an abrupt and seemingly permanent end to his political career. Falling back on his farming skills, he founded an agricultural colony of U.S. citizens in Bolivia that nearly bankrupted him. When he returned to the U.S. in 1929, though, the political landscape had changed to his benefit. The beginning of the Great Depression pushed many Americans to look for unorthodox solutions for their problems, and Murray suggested several improbable plans to help the nation escape economic depression.

Campaigning for Oklahoma governor in 1930, Murray portrayed himself as a protector of the downtrodden. His demagogic promises to take from the rich to give to the poor won him the election in a state hit hard by the Depression. To further demonstrate his commitment to the impoverished, he allowed the unemployed to grow potatoes on the grounds of the governor’s mansion. In 1932, he made an improbable bid for the presidency, promising to provide “Bread, Butter, Bacon, and Beans” to every hungry American. More a publicity stunt than a serious bid for the presidency, Murray’s candidacy nonetheless landed him on the cover of Time magazine.

One of the dozens of local demagogic agitators that gained national prominence in the Depression years, Murray’s political agenda was eventually overshadowed by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Again failing to win re-election in 1934, Murray spent the remainder of his life attempting a political comeback and writing angry denunciations of FDR and the New Deal.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Deerfield razed in Queen Anne’s War

Deerfield, a frontier settlement in western Massachusetts, is attacked by a French and Native American force. Some 100 men, women, and children were massacred as the town was burned to the ground.The Deerfield raid was the bloodiest event of Queen Anne’s War, a conflict known to ...read more

Kerner Commission Report released

The President’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders—known as the Kerner Commission—releases its report, condemning racism as the primary cause of the recent surge of riots. Headed by Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois, the 11-member commission was appointed by President ...read more

Shaker founder born

Ann Lee, the founder of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, a Christian sect commonly known as the Shakers, is born in Manchester, England.In 1770, “Mother” Ann broke from the Quakers to establish her own religious movement based on celibacy, sexual ...read more

McDaniel wins Oscar

On February 29, 1940, Gone with the Wind is honored with eight Oscars by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. An epic Southern romance set during the hard times of the Civil War, the movie swept the prestigious Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, ...read more

South Korean troops withdrawn

South Korea pulls 11,000 troops out of Vietnam as part of its program to withdraw all of its 48,000 troops from the country.The South Korean contingent had begun arriving in country on February 26, 1965, as part of the Free World Military Forces, an effort by President Lyndon B. ...read more

Hank Aaron record-breaking deal

On February 29, 1972, Hank Aaron signs a three-year deal with the Atlanta Braves that pays him $200,000 per year, making him the highest-paid player in Major League Baseball at the time. Two years later, Aaron became baseball’s home run king when he broke Babe Ruth’s ...read more

Earthquake devastates Moroccan city

The city of Agadir in Morocco is reduced to ruins by an earthquake on this day in 1960. Northeastern Africa was not generally an area known for earthquakes, though there had been a deadly tremor in Algeria six years earlier.Agadir, located south of Casablanca on the Atlantic ...read more

Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid splits

Union General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry raiders split into two wings on their way south to Richmond. Colonel Ulrich Dahlgren and 500 troopers swung out further west as Kilpatrick and 3,000 men rode on to the outskirts of Richmond. The raid stalled there, and Dahlgren was ...read more

Two ships sink in North Sea battle

On the afternoon of February 29, 1916, both the British armed merchant ship Alcantara and the German raider Grief sink after engaging each other in a close-range battle on the North Sea.The German raider Grief was in disguise, flying under the Norwegian flag and with Norwegian ...read more