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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 147

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This is the grave of William Gibbs McAdoo.

Born in 1861 in Marietta, Georgia, McAdoo’s family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee in 1877 when his dad became a professor at the University of Tennsseee and that’s where he attended college. He practiced law in Chattanooga and then moved to New York City in 1892. He moved between New York and Knoxville a couple of times in the 1890s, but around 1900, he became president of the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad Company, where he opened the tunnels that are now part of the PATH system. This started him on a path toward the New York financial elite. As a southerner, he was also a big Democrat who had gone into business with the son of former treasonous general Frances Pemberton. He became vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1912.

By this time, he was close to Woodrow Wilson. He helped get Wilson elected and became Secretary of the Treasury in 1913. He soon married Wilson’s daughter Eleanor even though she was 28 years younger than he. He offered to resign but Wilson rejected that and put him to work putting the Federal Reserve into practice. When World War I started, he faced a major crisis as the European nations began converting their U.S. securities into currency, which they then traded for gold. Given McAdoo’s commitment to the gold standard, this could have seriously decimated the U.S. economy by depleting gold reserves and causing a depression. His response was to close the New York Stock Exchange for 4 months to prevent this. It worked and really did much to make the U.S. a major economic power after the war. During World War I, McAdoo added the role of Director General of Railroads to his portfolio.

McAdoo finally resigned from the cabinet in late 1918. He really wanted to be president and was a major contender for the Democratic nomination in both 1920 and 1924 but never won it. In 1920, that was because he was a Dry in a Wet party and in 1924 because he was wrapped up in Teapot Dome corruption. He also did not reject the KKK’s endorsement in 1924, infuriating the northern immigrant wing of the party as much as his support of Prohibition. He did become a senator from California in 1933. Now 72 years old, he divorced Wilson’s daughter and married a 26 year old nurse named Doris Cross. He served only one term in the senate. He died of a heart attack while traveling in Washington DC in 1941 to celebrate Franklin Roosevelt’s inauguration. In the 1944 biopic of Woodrow Wilson, Vincent Price played McAdoo.

William Gibbs McAdoo is buried in the confiscated lands of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Although for a neo-Confederate like McAdoo, being buried on Lee’s lands probably meant something different.

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