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GEORGE ROMNEY BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS — BUSINESS LEADER

“As governor, [George] Romney sponsored a minimum wage law and advocated increased unemployment benefits. He also marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on one occasion and fought for an open housing law in Michigan. As president of American Motors from 1954-1962, Romney pulled the company from the brink of bankruptcy by pushing for smaller, more efficient cars like the Rambler--later named Motor Trend's "Car of the Year" in 1963--at a time when the Big Three auto manufacturers were still content on building oversized, over fueled and overpowered vehicles. Romney's prescience saved the company.”

• As new CEO of American motors, which was losing money and had low sales, “in an unprecedented move, George and 24 top executives voluntarily cut their own salaries by as much as 35 percent.”

• His company produced “the first of the American compact cars (a term coined by George Romney), built by American Motors.”

• Associated Press Man of the Year in Industry — four years in a row

George Romney
GEORGE W. ROMNEY BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS — SERVICE LEADER

“The night before his death, at the age of 88, George drove from his home in Bloomfield Hills to Detroit for a dinner with the nonpartisan Volunteer Leadership Coalition. His participation with the coalition was an outgrowth of his long advocacy of volunteerism and community involvement participation that continued even after his retirement from public office. In the speech George delivered that night, he expressed his long-held belief that money helps, but people solve problems...

“As the specter of war continued to grow in Europe, Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed William Knudsen, then president of General Motors and director of the AMA, to form and direct the Automotive Committee for the Air Defense (ACAD), a committee charged with preparing the aircraft industry to meet the demands of a global war in which air power would be a decisive factor. Knudsen charged George with the task of creating the ACAD, and the two men together led the automotive industry through the difficult transition from manufacturing automobiles to manufacturing aircraft and other war materials.

“George spearheaded the effort to accelerate the conversion to wartime production by promoting cooperative exchanges of tooling, efficient use of plants, and by clearing production bottlenecks...

“It is difficult to comprehend the significance of the role that George played in this national industrial mobilization. His determined efforts to consolidate the automobile industry in an unprecedented cooperative endeavor is a feat unparalleled in our time. Most of the books written about World War II deal with the battles and politics of the time, but very few have detailed the extraordinary, nearly miraculous, efforts of American industry to outproduce the combined industries of the Axis Powers. In that crusade, one of the most important leaders was the young George Romney, making one of his greatest contributions to public service.

“When the war ended, in recognition of Georges extraordinary contributions to the Allied victory, President Harry S. Truman appointed George U.S. delegate to the 1947 Metal Trades Industry Conference of the International Labor Office in Stockholm...

“When he returned home to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, George urged Congress to encourage American businesses and financial institutions to provide economic assistance abroad. His request was a strong contrast to the popular argument that since Europeans had gotten themselves into a mess with their failed monetary policy, they should get themselves out of it. In his testimony, George expressed the fundamental idealism at the core of his beliefs when he stated: "We're all like billionaires living in a few mansions in the midst of a vast world ghetto. Too often our actions belie our words"...

“In the postwar period of 1948, while he worked to return the automobile industry to peacetime production, he was also busy founding the nation's first "United Way" organization in Detroit.

“In December 1956, responding this time to a call from his own neighborhood, George agreed to chair the Citizens Advisory Committee on School Needs in Detroit (CACSND)...

“Georges work with CACSND soon earned him the nickname, Spokesman for a Better Detroit...

“Over an 18-month period moving at a pace most people found impossible the committee compiled a list of 182 recommendations for the overhauling the school system, most of which were eventually adopted. For George, the success of CACSND proved unequivocally that an apolitical group could unite to facilitate swift and necessary social change. It was this experience that convinced him of the power of citizen-action.

“Later, in 1959, when the state of Michigan faced a seemingly insoluble financial crisis, George argued that the problem could only be resolved with the enactment of a new state constitution. He subsequently formed Citizens for Michigan, a nonpartisan citizens group. This broad-based organization was designed to give the Michigan state government the kind of total makeover that CACSND had given the Detroit school system. The group's first charge was to organize a constitutional convention wherein a new state constitution could be drafted.

“From 1959 through 1962, Citizens for Michigan looked into the needs of the Michigan populace, studied new ways of state financing, and prepared a model for the new state constitution. Not everyone was in favor of overhauling the government, however, and incumbent Democratic Governor John Swainson spoke out against the proposed changes in his bid for re-election. It became apparent that nothing would be done unless a governor committed to reform was elected. On February 10, 1962, after a day of contemplation and prayer, George announced his candidacy for the governors office...

“George became the first Republican governor elected in the state since 1948...

“After his retirement from nearly 40 years of public service, George devoted the rest of his life to promoting the idea of volunteerism. He founded the National Center for Voluntary Action and accepted an appointment to be one of the directors of President Bush's Points of Light Program, a program acknowledging the achievements of outstanding citizen volunteers.”

“Romney was born into a home that prized volunteerism and charity. His father, George W. Romney, an automobile executive and governor of Michigan who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1968, founded in 1974 the National Volunteer Center, one of the country's largest volunteer organizations...”

“... There is no more fitting tribute to the man who was among America's foremost volunteers than these words. But more than by his words, Michelle and I both have been inspired by his example. He helped organize the nation's first United Way and made the Points of Light Foundation a tremendous force for good in our nation. He worked every day to inspire citizens to become volunteers and help their neighbors. It was fitting that his last appearance the night before he died was on behalf of volunteerism.”

GEORGE W. ROMNEY BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS — LEADER IN CIVIL RIGHTS

Michigan Historical Review of civil-rights progress under Romney

“... Fine notes that both Governors Williams and Swainson faced the same hurdle: a mostly insensitive, doctrinaire state legislature that continually blocked their attempts to pass meaningful civil rights legislation.

“With the election of the moderate Republican George Romney as governor, however, the state moved to the forefront of civil rights leadership. National civil rights events pushed state events, and Romney's tenure coincided with federal civil rights legislation, notably the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. One of Romney's significant advantages in his fight to enact civil rights legislation stemmed from his consummate effectiveness at working with the state legislature. Consequently, beginning in 1963 with a new state constitution that included a state civil rights commission, Romney succeeded in getting the legislature to pass remarkable civil rights legislation...

“The author concludes that certain qualities coalesced in Republican Governor George Romney that enabled him to oversee a remarkable civil rights evolution in Michigan. These included his ability to use the country's national civil rights events to good advantage and his political skills, such as moderation and bipartisanship. In addition, Romney could rely on Attorney General Frank J. Kelley's uncompromising support for the state's aggressive civil rights commission that gave the commission ultimate authority to resolve civil rights complaints. Although Fine certainly promotes Romney's success, the author does not play favorites; he also discusses the other crucial players in Michigan's civil rights efforts...

“In this book, Fine certainly shows the importance of a state's efforts in winning civil rights for its citizens. Because the author also judiciously uses the seemingly endless lists of statistics and facts to guide, rather than to overwhelm, the reader, he ultimately presents an intriguing and informative narrative. Fine portrays Michigan, a midwestern state not usually associated with remarkable, innovative civil rights legislation, as a national civil rights leader in the 1960s. By highlighting an area of civil rights history that is not well known, Fine alerts historians to the need to consider the wealth of state and local information that is sometimes overlooked in the large national civil rights story. With vigorous, insightful and bipartisan leadership, Michigan produced an accomplished civil rights record for its citizenry and for the nation.”

(George Romney was governor of Michigan from Jan 1963 to Jan 1969.)

Romney enshrined and enforced civil-rights thru a new state constitution

Pushed for, promised and created a new state constitution:

“... George argued that the problem could only be resolved with the enactment of a new state constitution. He subsequently formed Citizens for Michigan, a nonpartisan citizens group. This broad-based organization was designed to give the Michigan state government the kind of total makeover that CACSND [Citizens Advisory Committee on School Needs in Detroit] had given the Detroit school system. The group's first charge was to organize a constitutional convention wherein a new state constitution could be drafted.

“From 1959 through 1962, Citizens for Michigan looked into the needs of the Michigan populace, studied new ways of state financing, and prepared a model for the new state constitution. Not everyone was in favor of overhauling the government, however, and incumbent Democratic Governor John Swainson spoke out against the proposed changes in his bid for re-election. It became apparent that nothing would be done unless a governor committed to reform was elected. On February 10, 1962, after a day of contemplation and prayer, George announced his candidacy for the governors office...

“George became the first Republican governor elected in the state since 1948...

“He had promised the voters to bring a new constitution to Michigan, a promise he kept.”

Placed housing civil-rights in constitution:

“President Nixon tapped then Governor of Michigan, George Romney, for the post of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. While serving as Governor, Secretary Romney had successfully campaigned for ratification of a state constitutional provision that prohibited discrimination in housing.”

Placed civil-rights commission in constitution:

“George Romney has always believed in equal rights for all citizens, and his record of action is unchallenged. No one has demonstrated more conclusively his refusal to compromise on this basic American principle. In 1962 he helped write the provision for the country's only constitutionally established state Civil Rights Commission. As Governor, George Romney fought for and obtained appropriations to make the new Commission more effective. Under his leadership, Michigan is a leader in providing equal opportunities to all, in employment housing, education and public accommodations.”

“Romney spoke glowingly of the civil rights provision of the new constitution, scheduled to take effect at the beginning of 1964:

“ "Come January 1, 1964 all forms of discrimination in Michigan are to end... This document is the clearest, strongest, most complete statement of civil rights of any constitution in the land."

“This end to discrimination, Romney said, will be ushered in and conducted by a Civil Rights Commission, which he will appoint in the near future.

“Romney concluded, "We can in Michigan, on the basis of this new fundamental law, provide a leadership for every other state to follow." ”

“I look back in awe at his bold efforts to make state government serve our citizens better. His contributions to Michigan's current constitution were unparalleled; his commitment to civil rights, ahead of its time; his determination to making government more accessible to the people, a model for every chief executive in the nation.”

Romney fought hard for a stronger national civil-rights platform

As governor, George Romney withheld support from the Republican presidential candidate throughout the 1964 presidential campaign because he was not strong enough in his support of civil rights. He also was unhappy about the 1964 "convention's failure to adopt a strong civil rights plank".

The plank was brief but supportive of civil rights, but not as strong as he felt it needed to be.

“In 1964 Romney stood up to the Republican Party, demanding it take a stronger stand on civil rights. He famously walked out on Barry Goldwater's acceptance speech at the GOP convention.”

“Michigan Gov. George Romney, campaigned alongside former US Sen. Ed Brooke and both father and son walked out of the 1964 GOP national convention after a civil rights plank was blocked.”

Fought for fair housing on the national level

“In 1969 George Romney, secretary of housing, began Operation Breakthrough, an attempt to open the suburbs to people on low incomes, including African-Americans. Thus when Warren, a suburb of Detroit, applied for federal money for urban renewal, Romney made it clear that the availability of federal funds would be directly related to Warren's willingness to accept a low-income project...

“Opposition to Romney's strategies reached such a pitch of intensity that the administration of Richard Nixon (1969-1974) felt obligated to renounce policies intended to achieve suburban integration.”

“Whitbeck and his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had the job of a lifetime: trying to help secretary George Romney open the all-white suburbs of Detroit and other major cities to black homeowners.”

(archived page — original link expired)

“Governor George Romney after a visit to Watts in the fall of 1967...”


George Romney
More than 100 angry white protesters balked at efforts by then-Housing Secretary George Romney, in car, to open their new neighborhoods to blacks.

Governor Romney proclaimed days commemorating civil rights
including official days of mourning for slain civil-rights heroes

“On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as he stood on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tenn., where he had gone to lead a civil rights march. The following day, Michigan Gov. George Romney declared an official period of mourning for King. The period extended through King's funeral. Romney ordered all flags on public buildings to be flown at half staff and asked that the same be done on private buildings. Gov. Romney, in an official statement, said: "The assassination of Martin Luther King is a great national tragedy. At a time when we need aggressive nonviolent leadership to peacefully achieve equal rights, equal opportunities and equal responsibilities for all, his leadership will be grievously missed." ”

“The Walk to Freedom was a tremendous success. It was held on Sunday, June 23, 1963. Some 125,000 peaceful demonstrators took part and raised more than $40,000 for the cause. State and local officials, including Mayor Jerome C. Cavanaugh, took part. Governor George Romney did not march because he did not engage in politics on the Sabbath, but he did declare Sunday "Freedom March Day." ”

Viola Liuzzo left Detroit for Alabama to participate in a 54 mile civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery that began on Sunday March 21st and finished on Thursday, March 25th, 1965. On the day it finished, she was helping transport people between Montgomery and Selma. “In Selma,... Mrs. Liuzzo had been driving civil rights workers when she was ambushed... There was a witness to the shooting,... and ballistics tests would be needed to verify what kind of weapon killed her.” (pg 136-163)

“Saturday brought the Liuzzo family the news that Governor George Romney of Michigan had declared Monday and Tuesday days of statewide mourning for Viola Liuzzo... Governor Romney spent 45 minutes with the Liuzzos and later told the press that Viola's death "reminded me of the death of Joan of Arc." Ministers throughout the city--both black and white--spoke of Viola Liuzzo's sacrifice in their Sunday sermons... Reverend Fulton Bradley of the Tabernacle Baptist Church proclaimed that "...Mrs. Liuzzo is another of the great martyrs who lived and died for a cause." Martin Luther King, who had announced that he would attend the Liuzzo funeral, appeared on Sunday's Meet the Press... The family had invited 100 guests (including Martin Luther King, Jr., who did attend), and after they were seated, others--estimated at about 150--were allowed to join them.” (pg 176-178)

As Governor, participated in or led civil-rights marches and rallies:
1962, '63, '64, '65 and '67

“George Romney marched in civil rights actions in 1962, '63, '64. His young son was with him on that” (Hugh Hewitt)

"Hugh Hewitt is an author, law professor and broadcast journalist." Hugh Hewitt did extensive research on Romney and wrote a book on Mitt Romney.

[In March 1965] “Michigan governor George Romney was leading a Joshua-like march of ten thousand people five times around the Detroit federal building, and six hundred picketed a New York City FBI office to demand U.S. protection for Negro voting rights in Alabama.”

“August, 1967: The Flint City Commission (predecessor to the City Council) voted against a fair housing ordinance, which was designed to prevent discrimination in housing. Mayor Floyd McCree, the city's first black mayor, threatened to resign. Residents staged a sleep-in in front of City Hall. Gov. George Romney showed up at a unity rally at the end of a 10-day protest, which was attended by about 4,000 people.”

The result: “The Commission reversed course and approved the ordinance, but a group against the ordinance collected petitions and forced it to go before voters... Voters approved the housing ordinance, the first of its kind approved in the nation. Flint makes national news for civil rights.”

“Michigan Gov. George Romney walked into a Negro Civil Rights rally in the heart of Atlanta to the chants of 'We Want Romney' and to hear protests from Negroes about city schools. 'They had invited me to come and I was interested in hearing things that would give me an insight into Atlanta,' the Michigan Republican said. Led by Hosea Williams, a top aide to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the all-Negro rally broke into shouts and song when Romney arrived. 'We're tired of Lyndon Baines Johnson,' Williams said from a pulpit in the Flipper Temple AME Church as Romney sat in a front row pew. 'Johnson is sending black boys to Vietnam to die for a freedom that never existed,' Williams said. Pointing to Romney, Williams brought the crowd of 200 to its feet when he said, 'He may be the fella with a little backbone.' Williams said Romney could be 'the next President if he acts right.' ”