Hoover and 20th Century Presidents: Ronald Reagan

Former President Ronald Reagan speaking at the rededication of the Hoover Presidential Museum in 1992.
Former President Ronald Reagan speaking at the rededication of the Hoover Presidential Museum in 1992.

Several years ago I began a series of blogs about Herbert Hoover and his connections to 20th Century American Presidents. Somewhere along the line, my train of thought was derailed, and I faltered in my task.  Now I aim to get back on track.  In my last blog, I wrote about Hoover and Truman.  Rather than picking up the chronological thread with Eisenhower—whose relationship with Hoover was somewhat fraught—I thought I’d resume with Ronald Reagan.

Why Reagan?  Many would be surprised to discover that Hoover and Reagan had any contact at all.  The story is succinct, based on the scant documentary sources here at the Hoover Library.  In late November 1960, Hoover’s friend Bud Kelland wrote the Chief a letter bemoaning the outcome of the 1960 Presidential election.  Richard Nixon, the nominee championed by Hoover and Kelland, had lost narrowly to John Kennedy.  Arizonan Kelland noted at least the Republicans did well in Arizona and that Goldwater would be the party’s next great hope.

Kelland continues: ‘I have a valued friend whose name is Ronald Reagan.  He is the leader of the conservative element in Hollywood.  Weekly he is the star on the General Electric television show.  He travels for that company throughout the United States and does an amazingly fine job for the things you and I believe in.  He is a very convincing speaker and deserves well of all who are on our side.  He has long wished to meet you and discuss matters with you, and now he will be in New York the week of January ninth.  He has written to ask me to request the privilege of calling on you.  Personally, I think you would enjoy very much having him up to lunch.’

Hoover’s secretary, Bernice Miller, followed up with a November 21, 1960 letter to Reagan: ‘Mr. Hoover would be happy to have you call on him.  Perhaps you might telephone us upon your arrival and we can arrange a mutually convenient time.’  Unfortunately, this lunch meeting was not realized.  Ronald Reagan does not appear on Hoover’s calendar for January 1961.  One can only imagine the conversation that might have taken place between the two men….

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