This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Monday, May 11, 2015


I took a quick visit to the Farmers' Market on Saturday morning. The only vendor selling garden produce was the SJC hoop house. Vendors selling pork, beef, and shrimp were there, along with Homestead Buttery and Bakery from Remington.

Then it was off to a conversation at the Jasper County Historical Society. Henry Z Scheele, author of the book Charlie Halleck: A Political Biography was there to see the Halleck exhibit as were Sue and Julian Ridlen. Julian was a former treasurer of the state of Indiana and Sue worked as a secretary first for Senator Capehart and, after he was defeated, for several years for Charlie Halleck, There was no formal presentation but conversation with a variety of stories.

Halleck was deeply involved in the political history of the mid 20th century. He was elected to congress in a special election in 1935 after the person elected died within a few weeks of the election. That person was named Landis and was part of a politically important family from Logansport; at one time before 1900 two Landis brothers were serving in Congress from Indiana. Halleck gave the nomination speech for Wendell Wilkie in 1940 and was strongly considered for the vice-presidential slot by Thomas Dewey in 1948 but was passed over in favor of Earl Warren of California because California had more electoral votes. Halleck thought that if he had been the VP candidate, Dewey would have won. Halleck was a better campaigner than Warren, who was not especially good.

Until early in the 20th century Indiana was considered an important swing state and as a result people from Indiana were strong contenders to be presidential and vice-presidential candidates. At that time Indiana had more electoral votes than California.

After WWII both parties wanted Eisenhower to run on their tickets and apparently Truman even offered to step aside if Eisenhower would run as a Democrat in 1948. Charlie Halleck had a major role in steering Eisenhower to the Republican party.

Mrs. Ridlen said that Halleck was easy to work with and that when he got mad at an employee he would say, "You're fired, but rehired." Those who had worked in Washington noted that access to Congressmen is very different today as is the atmosphere of Congress.

The Hallecks had two children. Their son lives in California and their daughter in Florida.

Scheele said that it took a year to write the book but six or seven to research. He had the cooperation of Charlie Halleck and access to his papers. He recalled that at one time he had called Gerald Ford to check on something for a paper he was writing and was surprised to get Ford himself and not a secretary. I believe this was when Ford was president. Steele worked in a carrel in the library at Purdue and and liked that fact that it was quiet and isolated.

If I can find some time, I will try to read Scheele's book. It is currently out of print and ranks even lower on Amazon than my maze books.

We are far enough into spring that the first crop of dandelions has bloomed and gone to seed.

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