The Improbable Wendell Willkie: The Businessman Who Saved the Republican Party and His Country, and Conceived a New World Order


Product Details

Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publish Date
6.4 X 1.5 X 9.8 inches | 1.6 pounds

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About the Author

David Levering Lewis, the author of God's Crucible, is professor emeritus of history at New York University. A recipient of the National Humanities Medal, Lewis received the Pulitzer Prize for each volume of his W.E.B. Du Bois biography. He lives in New York City.


In his absorbing and all-too-timely book, David Levering Lewis has painted a compelling portrait of a largely--but unjustly--forgotten figure, Wendell Willkie. Our politics needs voices like Willkie's--someone who is in the arena and who calls them as he sees them, seeking common ground rather than perpetual conflict.--Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels and Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Only the formidably erudite David Levering Lewis, the Voltaire of American letters, could remedy our misunderstanding of a neglected treasure like Wendell Willkie while touting a vibrant liberalism that lifts us beyond the self-defeating narcissism of our social morass to a soaring vision of American politics.--Michael Eric Dyson, author of What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America
Meticulously researched and brilliantly written... Lewis, one of our nation's most gifted historians, rightfully elevates the devalued Willkie to high-minded Mount Rushmore statesman status. This is American history at its absolute finest!--Douglas Brinkley, author of Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America
In this gorgeously written biography of Wendell Willkie, David Levering Lewis forces us to reconsider everything we thought we knew about Franklin Roosevelt, the New Deal, and America's rise to global power in the twentieth century.--David Nasaw, author of Andrew Carnegie and The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy
This engrossing and enlightening appraisal by a master biographer shows why and how Wendell Willkie mattered. We gain virtuoso access to a thoughtful leader who demonstrated that effective political opposition need not descend into coarse demagoguery or shrill combat.--Ira Katznelson, author of Redemption
Readers will delight in Lewis's sparkling prose and eagerly turn the pages as Willkie is explained in his many dimensions--a man for all seasons and a timely reminder of the ordinary decency and inspired commitments that have occasionally animated American politics and politicians.--David Mayers, author of America and the Postwar World
Written passionately with the literary and research skills that only David Levering Lewis commands, here is the definitive biography of Wendell Willkie.--Irwin F. Gellman, author of The President and the Apprentice
Filled with surprising new information and stunning insights, David Levering Lewis has gifted us with the global vision and politics of Wendell Willkie--needed, useful, and heartening during these difficult dangerous times.--Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt, Volumes 1-3
In 1940, Roosevelt was deciding whether to run for a third term, a war in Europe was raging, inflaming debate about whether the U.S. should join, and the Republican Party was looking desperately for a candidate who could take back the presidency. The man they chose was Indiana-born Wendell Willkie (1892-1944), a wealthy businessman with no political experience but considerable charm and who only recently had changed party affiliation. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Lewis, who was awarded the National Humanities Medal, draws on abundant archival and published material to create a spirited portrait of the charismatic, outspoken Willkie.... Lewis recounts Willkie's prescient views of the postwar world as well as his staunch civil rights advocacy. A thoroughly researched biography of a remarkable figure.
Lewis, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of W.E.B. Du Bois, offers an insightful, compelling portrait of this political neophyte from the Midwest...In our own polarized age, Wendell Willkie serves as a poignant reminder of what can happen when a political leader steps up to do what is right, defying his party and putting the interests of his country and its people ahead of ambition and partisan advantage.--Lynne Olson, New York Times Book Review
The freshest dimension to Lewis's biography comes from the lifetime of scholarship in African-American history which he brings to bear on Willkie's domestic civil-rights efforts.... Lewis brings the now largely unknown Willkie to a new generation.... The book largely succeeds, suggesting a figure--again, like Reagan--both sunnily approachable and weirdly elusive; one who seems to require imaginative projections.--Thomas Mallon, The New Yorker
[An] insightful, disciplined biography....In Mr. Lewis's telling, Willkie emerges as the kind of figure who is missing on the political stage today: the classical liberal, who stands for individual rights at home and will fight tyranny abroad.--Amity Shlaes, Wall Street Journal
Lewis... provide[s] deeper insights into Willkie's promotion of racial equality.... As Lewis writes, 'Willkie foresaw the postwar promise and peril for the United States as a beacon of democracy in a world of decaying empires, rising expectations, vast oil deposits, and flammable Islam.'--Dennis J. McGrath, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
A nuanced, deeply researched account of Willkie, who despite his loss to the Democratic incumbent, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was arguably one of the most consequential public figures of the 20th century.... Much as Willkie was a godsend to the country, so too is David Levering Lewis for offering us this instructive story of courage and bipartisanship at a time when both are in very short supply.--Richard Moe, American Scholar