The President's Man: Leo Crowley and Franklin Roosevelt in Peace and War

By Stuart L. Weiss | Go to book overview

2
The Richelieu of Wisconsin

W hen Crowley returned to Madison in the spring of 1932 his future looked as gloomy as the economy whose ascent and collapse it had so closely paralleled. But only briefly. By the summer, he was an important force in Wisconsin, chairing its Banking Review Board and and salvaging its banks; a year after he was nominally the governor's aide but effectively running the state; in another two years he was managing a major federal agency and advising the president of the United States; and these were only the earlier signs of what would be a new and remarkable career in both government and business. Crowley was lucky: his good friend Albert Schmedeman was elected governor in a nationwide Democratic sweep in November 1932. But he also seized a meager opportunity months before when he might have remained in Florida paralyzed with despair.

Crowley had strong reasons to take the chairmanship of Wisconsin's Banking Review Board: the post offered some protection for Bankshares; it maintained his mask of community service, and it might open a future beyond the confines of his General Paper Company. The job would require visiting almost every hamlet in the state, talking nightly to depositors, bankers, and community leaders. But he could help save the economy of rural and small town Wisconsin, at the same making contacts that, coupled with a deeply depressed economy and a divided Republican party, might elect Schmedeman governor that November.

The problem facing the Banking Review Board was fairly simple. Banks depended on loan payments or foreclosures and sales to meet the demands of depositors. With the price of farm products and of farms having fallen sharply since the previous July farmers could not meet their loan payments, foreclosures did not provide liquidity, and

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