Garland S. Tucker III has rewritten the image of the boardroom-bound corporate leader by writing a book – and not just any book but a scholarly history of what he sees as a key 20th-century presidential election.
“The High Tide of American Conservatism: Davis, Coolidge and the 1924 Election” follows the vote that saw President Calvin Coolidge put in the White House in his own right — as vice president, he succeeded Warren G. Harding, who died in 1923. The election also pushed the Democratic and Republican parties toward the ideological paths they now follow and addressed issues that voters still face, including tax rates and the size of the federal government.
“The 1924 election was much more important than historians thought,” said Tucker, president and CEO of Triangle Capital Corp., explaining it was the last race in which both parties nominated conservative candidates. Before then, each party had liberal and conservative wings; after 1924, Democrats leaned more liberal and the GOP more conservative.
“We’ve gotten used to thinking the Republicans are always more conservative than Democrats,” Tucker said. “It wasn’t really foreordained that the Republicans would have been the conservative party.”
The author spoke highly of Coolidge, the Republican, and John W. Davis, the Democrat, saying they were “refreshingly honest, candid and consistent” and that neither would speak ill of the other in the campaign.
But time has been particularly kind to neither man. Though thought to be popular, Coolidge “has just dropped out of view,” Tucker said. “Davis has dropped out of view totally.”
Why then write about an election 88 years ago?
“It certainly was not a result of thousands of people begging me to write a book about the ’24 election,” he said.
Rather, the book grew out of a long-running interest in history, particularly the 1920s, and the idea that many historians simply dismissed the decade’s importance. Years of reading also acquainted Tucker with the issues, introduced him to research sources and gave him an idea about how to organize the chapters.
Then, there was his wife, Rocky Mount native Grayson Shuff Tucker, who had heard him talk many times about the period.
“She was the one who said to me ‘Why don’t you quit complaining about the election of 2008 and write about the one of 1924?’” Tucker said.
All those factors led Tucker to start writing around Labor Day of 2008. Working with research assistant Rob Ferguson, a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Tucker finished the book in April 2009.
Published by Emerald Book Co., its first press run sold out. It is available online at amazon.com, bn.com and the Conservative Book Club and at Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh and The Regulator Bookshop in Durham. The jacket price is $29.95.
Ross Chandler is Life editor of the Rocky Mount Telegram.