Articles Mentioning JW Monday, Oct 25 2010 

From COMM 455 student Alex Mamorsky:

Letter to the editor stating the Coolidge was eloquent without Welliver’s help. Welliver is quoted in an book review in regards to Harding and Coolidge. Safire praises Welliver’s well written speeches for Coolidge. Judson Welliver’s articles on politics in Illinois is referenced. Welliver defends Harding against accusations.


More JW Bio/Speechwriting Monday, Oct 25 2010 

From COMM455 student Teddy Powers:

In The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush, Elvin Lim calls Welliver “The patron saint of the unquotables” when referring to the relative anonymity of early speech writers (83).

According to Jamie Stiehm of U.S. News and World Report, two of the focuses of our class, Welliver and White House Ghosts author Robert Schlesinger (right), look identical. When suggesting Halloween costumes for politicians, she says, “My editor Robert Schlesinger is a dead ringer for Judson Welliver (the first White House speechwriter).”

An article by John Blair in the New England Quarterly described a tiff between president Coolidge and journalist Carter Feld, who allegedly disobeyed vague White House Correspondents’ Association rules by quoting the president. Judson Welliver, who was apprised of the issue, said that Feld had violated the rules many times before (509-510).

An article by Martha Joynt Kumar in Presidential Studies Quarterly on presidential press conferences mentions the key role that Welliver took in finding answers to pre-submitted questions. She writes,

“In three of the four administrations between 1913 and 1933, reporters submitted questions to the president prior to his news conferences. That allowed the president and his staff to flesh out careful responses, to craft ways of ducking questions, or both. Coolidge had a staff assistant, Judson Welliver, who chased down information for him. As he was leaving the White House, President Coolidge said of Welliver: ‘I found him especially helpful in getting information from the different departments on any question that I have under consideration.’ Having such an experienced hand around was important in the preparations for press conferences.”

Marvin Alinsky discusses presidential humor in an article for Presidential Studies Quarterly. In it, he details a joke that President Teddy Roosevelt told to Welliver when he invited Welliver to the White House for dinner. Roosevelt told Welliver that a sheriff had lost a re-election bid by a 17,000 to 4 margin. “The defeated candidate continued to strap two guns to his belt after he left office. When asked why, he responded, ‘A man with no more friends than I’ve got in this county needs all the protection he can get’” (376). No word on whether or not Welliver was amused.

Susan Billingsley notes in her Master’s thesis, “An Analysis of the President-Press Relationship in Solo and Joint Press Conferences in the First Term of President George W. Bush,” that Welliver urged President Harding to reinstitute the dormant practice of having two press conferences per week (20).

More TIME Articles Mentioning JW Monday, Oct 18 2010 

From COMM 455 student Tynia Lewis:

TIME article (the Milestones feature) the announces JW’s death in 1943.

TIME article from 1929 discussing the evolution and growth of presidential speechwriting to that time.

JW, Calvin Coolidge, and the U.S. Economy Monday, Oct 11 2010 

From COMM 455 student Alexis Mott:

Robert Sobel’s biography of Calvin Coolidge contains an extensive account of an interaction between JW and Calvin Coolidge after JW left the Coolidge White House. The discussion involved the economic theories of Harvard economist William Z. Ripley (right) who was concerned about the American economy as early as the mid-twenties. Ripley also authored some unusual theories about the racial composition of Europe.

Citation: Robert Sobel, Coolidge: An American Enigma (Washington, DC: Regnery, 1998), particularly at pp. 360-375.

JW Leaves the Coolidge Administration Friday, Oct 1 2010 

From COMM 455 student Lorena Arias:

This is from a column in Time Magazine called The Presidency: Mr. Coolidge’s Week. The reporter wrote the JW announced he was leaving the White House for a job at the American Petroleum Institute for a better salary and that President Coolidge was “sorry to part” with him.,9171,728575-2,00.html

Discussion of JW in Hoover Memoir Wednesday, Sep 22 2010 

From COMM 455 student Jon Rittenberg:

Former chief usher at the White House Ike Hoover (left) wrote one of the earliest memoirs of life in the White House, and he mentions JW with some detail: “Until the time of Harding, all the presidents, so far as I know, wrote their own speeches. With his coming a man was appointed to prepare whatever set and formal speeches he was called upon to make. The first man to hold this office was Judson Welliver, a widely known newspaper man. He had been with the president through the campaign, being close to the throne, so to speak, an naturally came along to the White House. No doubt he had made himself useful along this very line during the campaign and it was most natural that he should kept on. When Coolidge came, he found Welliver on the job and continued to employ him., no doubt finding him a very handy man…As the whole scheme was a new one, there were many embarrassments for the individual holding down this job. For example, there was no legal appropriation for his salary. It was skimmed from here, there, and everywhere. At one time it was taken from the fund for the payment of the chauffeurs and the upkeep of the garage. Much jealousy was also aroused by this office. The regular secretaries seemed to resent the fact that, owing to the confidential nature of the work, the man holding this job had an entrée to the president which they themselves did not enjoy. He seemed always to be a separate part of the Executive Offices, under orders of no one but the president.”

Citation: Irwin Hood (Ike) Hoover, Forty-Two Years in the White House (Boston: Houghton & Mifflin, 1934), pp. 252-253.

Various Mentions of JW Tuesday, Sep 21 2010 

From COMM 455 student Malka Goldberg:

Even though postings about the JW Society aren’t generally of interest to the JW Project, two articles from a feature of the Washington Post in the 1980s are interesting. Similar to the contemporary “Reliable Sources” column in the Style section, these articles comment on happenings and gossip around Washington. The first article discusses an early meeting of the JW Society and mentions the attendance of JW’s daughter. The second article is interesting in that the same author identifies Coolidge as the president who first appointed JW even as Harding gets the credit in the other report.

Another Post article discusses the naming of JW’s successor in the Coolidge White House–F. Stuart Crawford.

Speechwriters Note JW’s Role Saturday, Sep 18 2010 

From COMM 455 student Jake Fedechko:

Note: Both Price and Sorenson are wrong when they identify JW as working first and only for Coolidge!

Ray Price responds:
The first president to have an aide who was known as a speechwriter was, of all people, that classically taciturn former Massachusetts governor, Calvin Coolidge. The speechwriter’s name was Judson Welliver. The reason I know this is that my Nixon White House colleague Bill Safire, after we were all safely back in private life, started an organization called the Judson Welliver Society, made up solely of former (not current) presidential speechwriters, with about three or four (if still living; we don’t knowingly admit the formerly living) from each administration. We get together for dinner about once every two years; as it happens, we’re having a dinner this January 18.

Other presidents, of course, beginning with George Washington, have had help with their speeches. Most people who write books, or have their names on books, even if they don’t use ghost writers, also get help, sometimes quite extensive, from their editors.

Ted Sorensen responds:

George Washington utilized Alexander Hamilton. But Calvin Coolidge’s Judson Welliver was apparently the first person employed for that purpose in the White House. For the last several Presidencies, drafts have been prepared by full-time wordsmiths in the official Office of Speechwriting.


Ghostwriting Saturday, Sep 18 2010 

From COMM 455 Student Michael Lotman

This had all started to change by the election of Warren Harding, the first president to employ a full-time ghostwriter. Judson Welliver wrote Harding’s speeches, which H. L. Mencken famously compared to “a string of wet sponges,” undetected. (Elsewhere, Mencken called Welliver “a journalist of the highest skill.”) Yet within a few years, Time magazine could clearly detail Welliver’s duties as a ghostwriter to Harding and, later, to Calvin Coolidge. The Time article focuses mostly on Welliver’s successors, including F. Stuart Crawford, who “went under a cloud when it was found that the Coolidge addresses, when dealing with geography and other indisputable facts, followed with a striking literalness the text of the International Encyclopaedia.”

Citation: Fehrman, Craig. “Ghost Stories: How Ghostwriting Went from Scandal-in-waiting to Acceptable Political Reality.” The American Prospect. April 10, 2010. Retrieved from

Welliver and Coolidge Working Together Saturday, Sep 18 2010 

From COMM 455 Student Michael Lotman:

“A less trumpeted but important decision was to retain Judson Welliver, a former newspaperman who worked for Harding as “literary clerk.”  In effect, Welliver served as a White House publicity man and the first dedicated presidential speechwriter.  (It was Welliver who coined the phrase “Founding Fathers,” though Harding often received the credit.)  Under Coolidge, Welliver earned a handsome salary of $7,500, equal to that of senior aides.  Although Coolidge worked hard on his own speeches and wrote far more of them than had Harding, Welliver learned to ape the new president’s style as ably as he had mimicked his predecessor’s.  Indeed, said H.L. Mencken, (right) he made Coolidge’s style “simpler and clearer,” though he added, “It continued to be, in essence, a device for flabbergasting newspaper editorial writers without actually saying anything…to roar like a hurricane without letting loose any comprising ideas.”

Citation: Greenberg, David. Calvin Coolidge. New York: Times, 2007. 45-50.

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