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0:00 - Introduction

0:16 - Organization and workings of Phil La Follette's office

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Partial Transcript: Mabel E. Griswold handled the correspondence. Charles M. Dow greeted and interviewed all visitors. A.W. Zeratsky, from La Crosse, handled mailings and was the first to apply the retail mail order technique of mass mailings to select groups, such as teachers or businessmen, to politics. Phil La Follette went to Washington to see Roosevelt, and told him about this strategy. The person to whom FDR delegated the task of composing a letter suitable for Roosevelt's purposes used virtually the same letter which La Follette had shown to Roosevelt. Thomas M. Duncan was another secretary. He was a former state senator, a former socialist, and very bright and able. Gordon Sinykin was La Follette's executive counsel.

3:10 - Tommy Duncan

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Partial Transcript: Duncan planned how to get programs through the legislature. He was contact with the legislature. Duncan and Phil La Follette, driving in Milwaukee, hit and killed a man. Thompson did not know Duncan very well in the late 1930s because Thompson was working as a file clerk along with Cliff Pulvermacher, now in upper Michigan, and Pete Morrisey, who later became judge in Walworth County. Duncan extremely intelligent and excelled at legislative maneuvering. Once, the opposition was boycotting the legislature. Duncan proposed that all the bills be put together so that they could be passed on one motion before the opposition returned. That idea was never used.

5:51 - Phil and Isen La Follette

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Partial Transcript: Thompson usually drove Isen, Phil's wife, to speaking engagements. Phil had a professional chauffeur. John Gaus, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, and Max Otto, professor of philosophy, were La Follette's two most frequent visitors. Elizabeth Brandeis Raushenbush, daughter of Justice Brandeis, and her husband, Paul A. Raushenbush, both professors of political science at the university, were also friends of the La Follettes.

7:33 - The Progressive Club at the UW

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Partial Transcript: The Club was involved in state and university politics. Speakers, for example Bob and Phil La Follette and Tom Amlie, would address the monthly club meetings. The Progressives formed an independent group on campus and elected Jim Doyle and Ruth Doyle to board of The Daily Cardinal. They installed a new editor. After the next elections, that editor was fired. A strike edition of the paper was published for quite a while. Bob Gregeson was elected to the Union board on the platform that six cent hamburgers would cost five cents. The Progressives met regularly at a few tables in the Union. One regular was a farmer from Walworth county whose farm was foreclosed upon who was trying to go to law school. Other regulars were two brothers from Milwaukee and a man named Sonnenberg.

11:15 - Motivation to join the Progressive Club

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Partial Transcript: Thompson, like many people, felt strongly about political issues and strongly supported the Progressive Party, FDR, and Phil La Follette. The Club was a close-knit group, much like a fraternity.

12:50 - 1934 campaign

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Partial Transcript: Thompson circulated petitions to put the Progressive Party on the ballot before the primary and immediately after the convention at which the party was formed. At the urging of Phil La Follette, Thompson went to see William T. Evjue and Charles Holmberg of the Capital Times to see about starting a Progressive Party paper in Dane County. He sold $15 ads to Progressive Party candidates and wrote the editorial. Charlie Holmberg wrote many of the stories.

14:59 - Support for Progressives in Stoughton area

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Partial Transcript: Stoughton was overwhelmingly pro-La Follette. Lines were strongly drawn: people were either Progressive Republicans or Stalwart Republicans; there were few Democrats.

16:56 - The late 1930s

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Partial Transcript: Thompson ran for city council, a non-partisan office, in 1939. Norman and Analise Clapp managed the campaign. The Capital Times endorsed Thompson and the Wisconsin State Journal opposed him. Thompson became chairperson of the Progressive Party in Dane County. The Party controlled the courthouse and was supported by labor, farmers, and university people.

19:32 - 1937 split in Progressive Party

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Partial Transcript: Phil La Follette never joined the Farmer-Labor-Progressive Federation because he did not want to appear radical. Andy Biemiller, labor, former socialists, and maybe some Farmer Union members were the backbone of the Farmer-Labor-Progressive Federation. Organized labor tried to organize a truckers coop at the Richland Center Creamery. This created such an uproar that the farm organizations divided into the more liberal Wisconsin Federation of Coops and the Wisconsin Council of Agriculture. For many years afterwards the Wisconsin Federation of Coops was identified with the Democrats, and the Wisconsin Council of Agriculture was identified with the Republicans.

22:41 - Harold Groves

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Partial Transcript: Groves was a state senator and professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin in the 1930s. Considered the “godfather of Progressive taxation theory.”

23:28 - Thomas R. Amlie

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Partial Transcript: Very popular with young Progressives. He used to give speeches at the university in favor of “production for use and not for profit.” He was by far the most liberal person elected to Congress from Wisconsin in that era. Amlie was very popular on campus in the 1938 senate election. His opponent, Herman L. Ekern was an older, more traditional, and well-entrenched Progressive.

25:07 - 1940 gubernatorial race

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Partial Transcript: Paul Alfonsi had strong support among Progressive students. Thompson was the assistant manager of Orland Loomis' campaign. He worked with Maurice B. Pasch, Harold E. Stafford, and Philip E. Nelson from Superior, a Republican until 1936. Nelson and Arthur Zimney, a Milwaukee Democrat, were wooed to the Progressive camp.

26:17 - 1946 and after

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Partial Transcript: Thompson was in the army from September 1942 until 1946. He was told in 1946 that his services were not needed for the campaign because Bob La Follette would easily win the election. La Follette did not campaign and lost. Thompson did not have contact with La Follette after that. La Follette was critical of Thompson's and others' work in the Democratic Party. He never helped Thompson when Thompson ran for governor and congress.

28:28 - Glenn D. Roberts

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Partial Transcript: Very close to the La Follettes. He was Phil La Follette's law partner.

28:56 - Thompson became Democrat after 1946 primary

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Partial Transcript: Thompson voted in the Republican primary in 1946. When La Follette was defeated, Thompson thought no one else in the Republican Party was interesting so he agreed to manage Democrat William G. Rice's Congressional campaign when asked by Andy Biemiller. Rice was a law professor at the university. Bob Henry defeated Rice and died shortly thereafter. A special election was held in which Thompson ran against Glenn R. Davis. Thompson lost by a small margin because, he says, he was unknown, not because he was unpopular. The same situation resulted in his loss of the gubernatorial race in 1948.

32:50 - Campaign style in the 1930s

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Partial Transcript: In the 1930s, the Progressives spent little on campaigning, but spoke often throughout the state. Phil La Follette would speak to 600-1500 people at a time. This type of campaigning ended with the advent of television. In 1948 and 1950 Thompson spoke from platform trucks to very small crowds, although the newspaper coverage of the event was usually good.

34:22 - La Follette's decision on which Party to join in 1946

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Partial Transcript: The Progressives were divided on which ticket to run on in 1946. One point of contention was foreign policy. La Follette did not think that the time was right to run on the Democratic ticket. He discussed alternatives with Thompson in 1945 or 1946; Thompson advised him to run as a Democrat.

0:00No transcript.