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The 1952 Democratic National Convention and Its Historical Significance


The 1952 Democratic National Convention goes down in history books as one of the most memorable contested conventions. A contested convention occurs when there is no one candidate that has the majority of delegate votes prior to the convention taking place. Many times there is one lead candidate as a political party heads into its national convention but other times it's hard to tell who's in the lead. The following details highlight the events of the 1952 Democratic National Convention and why it's significant.

What Occurred During the 1952 Democratic National Convention?

The 1952 Democratic National Convention took place July 21-26, 1952, at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois. This party convention unfolded in the same location as the 1952 Republican National Convention, which had occurred a few weeks prior. At the time of the Democratic National Convention, there was a deep divide between delegates who supported civil rights, mainly northern states, and those who did not. Ultimately, to promote a more cohesive political party heading into a presidential election, a requirement was put into place that all delegates would pledge to support the resulting nominee and the party as a whole.

During the 1952 Democratic National Convention, the front running candidates included Senator Estes Kefauver (Tennessee), Averell Harriman (New York), and Senator Richard Russell (Georgia). Another candidate, Governor Adlai E. Stevenson (Illinois), wasn't even seeking the nomination but wound up being drafted by the convention and won the nomination on the third ballot.

Why Is It Significant Today?

The 1952 Democratic National Convention is significant today because of its contested convention features and the fact that the selected nominee wasn't even attending the Democratic National Convention as a candidate but as a guest speaker. It took three ballots to decide on a nominee, Governor Stevenson, and this is the last time a multi-ballot convention has occurred. Even more impressive is the fact that Governor Stevenson wasn't even attending the event for the purpose of running for president and wound up winning the nomination.

In the end, it was Republican nominee Dwight D. Eisenhower who would win the presidential election. However, the 1952 Democratic National Convention is still remembered to this day for its contested convention attributes and unique way in which the eventual nominee was selected.