A hundred years ago, my great-grandfather, James M Dobbs, Sr. was a delegate from the state of Georgia to the 1912 Democratic National Convention held in Baltimore, Maryland in June of that year. Back then only few states held primary elections and unlike today the party’s nominee was not decided until the delegates met in convention. The Georgia delegation was pledged to Oscar Underwood, an Alabama congressman who was running on an anti-Klan/anti-Prohibition platform. Other contenders for the highest office were Speaker of the House, Champ Clark of Missouri and New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson. The convention was quite contentious complete with floor fights – literal fist-fights on the floor that required police intervention – and it took a record breaking number of ballots to finally decide who would be the Democratic nominee for US President. The stand-off finally ended after 46 ballots when Champ Clark accepted the backing of the New York machine. When word got around that Clark had turned to Tammany Hall for support, William Jennings Bryan took to the podium to give a rousing speech denouncing Clark as the “Wall Street candidate” and throwing his support behind Wilson who finally won the nomination.
The Republican convention at Chicago that year was even more combative than the Democratic convention. The GOP split in two when former President Theodore Roosevelt stormed out the convention taking a large number of delegates with him to form a third party of Progressives known as the Bull Moose Party.