FDR and the Modern Presidency: Leadership and Legacy

By Mark J. Rozell; William D. Pederson | Go to book overview

11
FDR and the "Use Theory":
Robert Worth Bingham
at the Court of St. James's,
1933-1937

William E. Ellis

Robert Worth Bingham ( 1871-1937) demonstrated several tendencies during his lifetime. Though a reconstructed Southerner in many ways, he never completely transcended his Southern upbringing. For example, while ambassador to the Court of St. James's, he reacted effusively to Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, believing that the book more than vindicated the Bingham family's history in his native North Carolina.1

Moreover, he demonstrated many of the ideals of Wilsonian progressivism during his professional life as a lawyer and political leader. After moving to Louisville in 1896, he married into a prominent local family and soon became one of the leading young lawyers there. Though a registered Democrat, he sometimes supported Republicans he thought progressive, cooperating with them in Louisville and Kentucky politics in the first two decades of the twentieth century. While serving as interim mayor in 1907, he infuriated the local Democratic machine with his attempts to reform the body politic.2

After the death of his first wife, Bingham's life drifted for a time until his marriage to the widow of Henry Flagler, Mary Lily Kenan Flagler. She died in 1917 under circumstances that spawned a cottage industry of books in the 1980s, all of which accused her husband of varying degrees of complicity in her death because of a codicil to her will leaving him $5 million.3

-185-

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