|John Edward Grenier|
August 24, 1930|
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
November 6, 2007 (aged 77)|
|Place of burial||Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham, Alabama|
Jesuit High School
Alabama Republican state chairman, 1962–1965
(1) Lynne Youmans Grenier (divorced 1983)
From first marriage:
Charles Desire Grenier, Sr.
John Edward Grenier (August 24, 1930 – November 6, 2007) was a Birmingham attorney and a pioneer in the development of the modern Republican Party in the U.S. state of Alabama. Grenier was a former litigator for Lange Simpson Robinson & Somerville, one of the oldest and most distinguished law firms in Birmingham. He was Alabama state Republican party chairman from 1962 to 1965. He then launched an unsuccessful campaign in 1966 for the United States Senate. He was thereafter active in 1986 in the election of Guy Hunt as the state's first Republican governor of the 20th century.
Early years, education, military
Grenier (pronounced Grain YEY) was born in New Orleans, the youngest of three children of Charles Desire Grenier, Sr., a banker, and the former Beatrice Schaumburg (1893–1971). Grenier graduated from Jesuit High School in New Orleans and lettered in track, football and baseball. In 1953, Grenier received his undergraduate and law degrees, having completed a five-year program at Tulane University. Then he served as a United States Marine Corps pilot in South Korea after the Korean War, having attained the rank of captain. He flew more than one hundred patrols with VMF-312, the "Checkerboard Squadron".
After Tulane, Grenier married the former Lynne Youmans (born 1932); they moved to Birmingham, the seat of Jefferson County, Alabama's most populous county. They had one son, John Beaulieu "Beau" Grenier, Sr. (born 1956), a Birmingham attorney married to Joy Houston Grenier (born 1975). John and Lynne Grenier were divorced in 1983; in 1991, Grenier married the former Stella Kontos (born 1950). In addition to his wife and son, Grenier was survived by four grandchildren by his son and Celeste Crowe Grenier (born 1958): John Beaulieu Grenier, Jr. (born 1986), Dorothy Monnish Grenier (born 1989), Evans Barlow Grenier (born 1991) and Carolyn Youmans Grenier (born 1994) of Birmingham, and a sister, Rosemary Grenier Rivet of San Diego, California.
After his military service, Grenier enrolled at New York University in New York City, where he received an LL.M. degree in taxation. He practiced law briefly on Wall Street before he and Lynne relocated to Birmingham so that he could join the staff of the Southern Natural Gas Company. He subsequently joined the law firm Bradley Arant Rose & White, where he became a partner and practiced corporate and tax law under the tutelage and mentorship of Lee C. Bradley, Jr. He then joined the firm formerly known as Lange, Simpson, Robinson & Somerville and was a partner there for some thirty-five years before his retirement in 2004.
Campaigning for Nixon and Goldwater
In 1960, Grenier arranged a successful rally in Birmingham on behalf of GOP presidential nominee, then Richard M. Nixon. In the general election, however, Alabama split its electoral votes between Democratic U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy and an unpledged segregationist slate that supported Democratic U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr., of Virginia. In 1961, Grenier was named chairman of the Young Republicans of Alabama and thereafter was promoted to state party chairman.
Employing the Southern Strategy in 1964, Grenier worked to secure the presidential nomination for then Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, who upset the party's "Eastern Establishment", which had dominated the selection process for decades. Grenier secured the support of 271 of the 279 southern delegates to support Goldwater at the national party conclave held in San Francisco. One of the dissenters was Winthrop Rockefeller, future governor of Arkansas, who was committed to his brother, then Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York. Goldwater's national campaign manager was the Phoenix attorney Denison Kitchel, a friend of the nominee for nearly three decades. Depicted as "bright, tough-minded, and a superb organizer", Grenier then became the executive director of the Republican National Committee, second to then party chairman Dean Burch, also of Arizona. That appointment ended in 1965, when incoming chairman Ray C. Bliss of Ohio assembled a new team at the RNC.
In Alabama, state chairman Grenier recruited a slate of candidates for the United States House of Representatives to challenge Democrats who in the past had usually been unopposed in the general election. Five of those candidates were elected. Two of the captured seats—in Mobile and Montgomery—have remained in Republican hands since the 1964 election. A third district, based about Birmingham, was Republican held until 1983. Two other districts reverted to the Democrats in the 1966 mid-term elections but were reclaimed by Republicans in the 21st century.
The 1966 campaign
Grenier himself planned to run for governor in 1966, but he instead deferred to U.S. Representative James D. Martin of Gadsden, who became the unopposed Republican Party candidate. Grenier, meanwhile, challenged U.S. Senator John Sparkman. He received 313,018 votes (39 percent) to Sparkman's 482,138 (60.1 percent). Another 7,444 votes (0.9 percent) went to Julian Elgin, an independent from Montgomery who had been Sparkman's Republican opponent in 1960. Sparkman was an entrenched incumbent senator and a former member of the U.S. House as well, who had also been the running-mate of Adlai Stevenson of Illinois in 1952. Grenier ran ahead of his ticket-mate Martin, who was crushed in the gubernatorial race by Lurleen Wallace, wife of popular outgoing Democratic Governor George C. Wallace. Martin finished with 262,943 votes (31 percent); Mrs. Wallace's 537,505 (63.4 percent), and the remaining 47,655 (5.6 percent) went to independent Dr. Carl Ray Robinson (1925–2005), a Bessemer physician. Martin and Grenier each won only one of the state's sixty-seven counties—Winston in north Alabama, whose descendants were mostly non-slaveholders who had been Republican at the time of the American Civil War. Grenier hence ran eight percentage points ahead of Martin because he received 50,075 more votes than Martin, and 45,503 fewer ballots were cast for senator than for governor. The sole voter group with whom Martin and Grenier prevailed was upper-income whites.
For a time during the first half of 1966, Senator Sparkman had seemed vulnerable. He won the Democratic nomination by an unimpressive margin over weak opponents. Some 224,000 voters who participated in the gubernatorial primary, handily won by Lurleen Wallace, skipped the Senate race. Grenier concluded that such apparent lukewarmedness toward Sparkman provided a base from which to mount a challenge. Yet Sparkman benefited from Lurleen Wallace's candidacy, for he could extol the popular portions of his record and still stress that he had opposed U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson on nearly half of Senate roll call votes. Philosophical differences between the Wallaces and Sparkman were hence blurred in the interest of party harmony. Sparkman successfully emphasized the value to Alabamians of his constituent services, his chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee and his key membership on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Grenier tried to tie Sparkman to President Johnson, having called his opponent "the ambassador to Alabama from the court of King Lyndon." He challenged the Democrats over the economy, constitutional interpretation, the Great Society, civil disobedience, and urban unrest. Grenier proposed military victory in the Vietnam War, the restoration of voluntary school prayer, and restrictions on foreign aid programs.
The split with James Martin
Jim Martin and John Grenier initially planned a Goldwater-style campaign, but when polls showed certain victory for Lurleen Wallace, Grenier tried to steer independently of Martin. He spoke warmly of the Wallaces and told conservative Democrats: "there are deep differences between John Sparkman and George Wallace." Sparkman's hometown daily, The Huntsville Times, questioned Grenier's attempt to attach himself to the Wallace coattails" even while Grenier affirmed backing for Martin for governor. Grenier's attempt to court Wallace voters drew the private outrage of Martin. The liberal Republican Ripon Society termed the Grenier campaign "an echo of Democratic racism." The tensions between Martin and Grenier accelerated. When Martin leaders asked to switch races again with Grenier, the Senate nominee flatly refused.
Perry O. Hooper, Sr., a former probate and circuit judge from Montgomery and later the first Republican elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, reflected on the Martin-Grenier rivalry, having noted that Martin defeated Grenier in 1968 in a race for Republican national committeeman, a position that Hooper himself subsequently held:
The year 1966 was a disaster ... nobody could imagine a governor's wife running for office and winning. I began to realize it in January, but nobody else seemed to understand. Once we made that mistake, it was all downhill [for Republicans]. It was felt that if we were going to really build a party we needed a governor, and Jim Martin was a hot item. He wanted to switch over to the senatorial nomination, but he wouldn't take a leadership position and let it be known.... He hoped the convention would take over, but John Grenier was too well organized to make the switch. Neither Martin nor Grenier has ever gotten over the 1966 races. Martin ran against Grenier to serve on the national committee in 1968 and blew him away. Hopefully, a lot of these things are in the past. All we can do is learn from 1966.
Journalist Ray Jenkins of the Montgomery Advertiser recalled Martin as having been:
in the vanguard of what promised to be a period of profound political change. Then something dreadful happened to the Republicans on the way to 1966. They picked a fight with George Wallace. The bubble burst and once again the Republicans were relegated to their humble status as a mere facade of patronage....Martin came out of political isolation [in 1978] to spread the faith yet once again, even though the odds were clearly against him.... When told by friends he should become a Democrat, Martin said "If ever there is to be a healthy two-party system in Alabama, someone must keep the faith, someone must keep principle above self interest."...
Perry Hooper, however, disputes Jenkins' analysis. Hooper said that George Wallace may have inadvertently aided the Republican Party by fostering opposition to the national Democrats within Alabama. Hooper said that he had, despite their partisan difference, "always gotten along quite well" with Wallace, whom he remembers as "a southern gentleman who likes people, and it shows." To Hooper, the difficulty of establishing the two-party system came from within the Republican Party itself. Jim Martin, he said, was the party's "finest candidate" but "time just slipped by, and it's difficult to overcome problems like we had in 1966."
Working for Governor Hunt
It was a full twenty years after the 1966 elections before Alabama Republicans won their state's governorship. In 1986, Grenier served as campaign manager for Guy Hunt in Hunt's successful bid for governor. Hunt benefited from division within the Democratic Party in 1986 between Lieutenant Governor Bill Baxley and the more conservative candidate, Attorney General Charles Graddick. Hunt defeated Baxley, just as Grenier had predicted that he would in what was seen outside Alabama as a stunning upset. Grenier then served in the Hunt administration as Chief of Staff and managed Hunt's successful bid for reelection in 1990. Martin also served in the Hunt administration. Controversies plagued Hunt, however, and he was removed from the governorship in 1993 following his felony conviction on an ethics offense before he could complete his second term.
Death and legacy
Grenier's son, Beau, states that his father had a zest for living: avid tennis player, snow skier, and fox hunter. He was self-taught in French, German, Spanish, and modern Greek. Grenier died after a brief illness of lung cancer in The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Services were held on November 9, 2007, at St. Mary's On-the-Highlands Episcopal Church in Birmingham. He was interred at Elmwood Cemetery.
- Adams and Reese LLP
- Hevesi, Dennis (November 10, 2007). "John E. Grenier, 77, a Leader of Goldwater's '64 Bid, Is Dead". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/10/us/10grenier.html?ex=1352350800&en=7d9295afd9ecc2c3&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- Social Security Death Index Interactive Search
- Grenier's brother was Charles D. Grenier, Jr.; Charles' wife, Madeleine Sophie Caire Grenier (1926-2013), was a New Orleans educator.
- Associated Press, "John Grenier dies at 77", November 9, 2007
- Billy Hathorn, "A Dozen Years in the Political Wilderness: The Alabama Republican Party, 1966-1978," Gulf Coast Historical Review, Spring 1994, pp. 19-43; State of Alabama, Secretary of State, Election Returns, 1966
- The Huntsville Times, October 13, November 3, 1966; The New York Times, July 30, 1966, p. 10
- "A Dozen Years in the Political Wilderness", p. 25
- The Huntsville Times, October 13, 1966; The Montgomery Advertiser, October 12, 1966; Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, August 5, 1966, p. 1709; Bernard Cosman and Robert J. Huckshorn, eds., Republican Politics: The 1964 Campaign and its Aftermath for the Party (New York, 1968), p. 78; Stephen Hess and David Broder, The Republican Establishment, p. 337; The New York Times, May 13, 1966, p. 20; May 19, 1966, p. 33; August 26, 1966, p. 17
- The Huntsville Times, November 3, 1966; Montgomery Advertiser, October 20, 1966; The New York Times, August 26, 1966, p. 17
- The Huntsville Times, November 6, 1966
- "A Dozen Years in the Political Wilderness", p. 26
- "A Dozen Years in the Political Wilderness", pp. 27-28
- Montgomery Advertiser, November 12, 1978
- "A Dozen Years in the Political Wilderness", pp. 38-39
- The Birmingham News, November 8, 2007
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