Richard M. Nixon, elected thirty-seventh President of the United States by a whisker, got public support from only two major Protestant leaders. But they were big ones.
After a long personal friendship, and several appearances with Nixon during the campaign, evangelist Billy Graham said in Dallas five days before the election that he had voted for Nixon by absentee ballot. Formal endorsement came from the Rev. Joseph H. Jackson, of the huge National Baptist Convention, Inc., whose opinion was shared by few other Negro leaders (see editorial, p. 25).
Hubert H. Humphrey got a series of endorsements from social-action Protestants, white and black. George C. Wallace won little prestigious support, and drew active opposition from a few church spokesmen who did not endorse either of his opponents.
And some activists sat this one out, disgruntled over the Viet Nam war. This 1968 phenomenon showed how far the war had eclipsed the racial-justice crusade of the earlier sixties. For these clergymen couldn’t rouse enough enthusiasm to back Humphrey or Nixon—or both—against Wallace, who had repudiated the whole church consensus on race.
In the Dallas interview, Graham said “I almost feel sorry for the next president, because he will be heading into the eye of a hurricane. What we really need is a great religious awakening.”
The evangelist, probably the nation’s best-known and most-respected clergyman, said he would make no speeches for Nixon. “I am trying to avoid political involvement. Perhaps I have already said too much, but I am deeply concerned about my country. It is hard to keep quiet at a time like this. I feel like this is going to be the most important election in American history.”
Historians may yet debate what role the evangelist—who ...1
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