Kurt's Historic Sites

Texas Trip 427

John Nance Garner

Interment LocationVisitedSequence in Graves I Have Visited
Uvalde, TXApril 20, 20124th House Speaker visited; 36th Vice President visited

Photographed April 20, 2012.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to four terms as the U.S. president with three different running mates. The bottom of the Democratic Party ticket in 1932 and 1936 was occupied by John Nance Garner, a 34-year-veteran of the House of Representatives. The Democratic delegates replaced Garner in the VP slot with Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace in 1940, and 72-year-old Garner left public office on January 20, 1941. Garner outlived Wallace — who was 20 years his junior — by two years. When he died in 1967, he was laid to rest beside his wife Ettie Garner in their Texas hometown, Uvalde.

Due to the irrelevance that long accompanied the vice presidency, few of its office holders have had reverence for the post. The very first VP, John Adams, wrote to Second Lady Abigail Adams in 1793, “my Country has in its Wisdom contrived for me, the most insignificant Office that ever the Invention of Man contrived or his Imagination conceived: […] I can do neither good nor Evil.” In 1960, in equally strong yet more crude terms, 91-year-old “Cactus Jack” Garner reportedly told fellow Texan Lyndon B. Johnson that the vice presidency was “not worth a bucket of warm piss.” Garner surely regretted joining the 1932 Democratic ticket instead of running for re-election as a congressman and remaining speaker of the House of Representatives.

Photographed April 20, 2012.
Photographed April 20, 2012.

A factor that likely contributed to his displeasure with the vice presidency was his disagreements with President Roosevelt. Garner was a conservative, which aligned with much of the Democratic Party’s history since its formation in the 1820s. Thus he was out of step with the liberal FDR. Garner opposed numerous components of the 32nd president’s New Deal domestic agenda. His replacement, Henry Wallace, was more progressive and left-leaning than even Roosevelt was.

You will not see many images like this on Kurt’s Historic Sites. This is a photograph my father took of me taking a photograph of the inscription on Vice President Garner’s grave. Since I interned for the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission a few months afterward, I used this picture on my LinkedIn profile for about three years. Then I made the sad but appropriate decision to upgrade to a suit and tie shot.
Photographed April 20, 2012.

Fast Facts

Born: November 22, 1868 in Red River County, Texas

Spouses: Marietta Rheiner Garner (m. 1895-1948)

Political Affiliation: Democratic Party

House Speaker Tenure: 1931-1933

Vice Presidential Tenure: 1933-1941 under Franklin D. Roosevelt

Died: November 7, 1967 in Uvalde, Texas

Age: 98

Interment: Uvalde Cemetery, Uvalde, Texas

"The genesis of this campaign against labor in the House of Representatives is not hard to find. It is within the Democratic party. It runs across to the Senate of the United States and emanates there from a labor-baiting, poker-playing, whiskey-drinking, evil old man whose name is Garner."
- CIO president John L. Lewis

July 1939 in testimony before the House Labor Committee regarding proposed amendments to the Spend-Lend Bill

Sources Consulted and Further Reading

Adams, John. John Adams to Abigail Adams, December 19, 1793. Letter. From Massachusetts Historical Society. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/doc?id=L17931219ja.

Time. “National Affairs: 25 Lousy Cents!” August 7, 1939. http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,848047-1,00.html.

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