S.F.B. MORSE AND POSTWAR POLITICS

In the Post War period, dominated nationally by the Democrats and Truman Administration. S.F.B. Morse looked forward locally to strengthen the California Republican Party. Opposed to the New Deal Policies of FDR, and continued liberal efforts, he saw promise in a 31 year old WWII Navy veteran from the Monterey Bay, Donald Grunsky (1916-2000).

Born in San Francisco, Grunsky graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1936, and from law school at Bolt Hall in 1939. Then in 1947 in his first run for the State Assembly won the seat for the 17th District that represented Monterey Bay. The next year he founded his own law firm in Watsonville, half way between Monterey and Santa Cruz, that evolved into the bay area’s strongest land and water use litigator.

In 1952 Grunsky’s popularity, and strong support from Morse and wealthy conservatives,led to him becoming the first State Senator elected to Sacramento without any opposition for a first term. Morse also took great interest in a first term U.S. Senator from Arizona whose rejection of the New Deal, vehement opposition to socialism and communism, distrust of unions and “the welfare state,” complimented his views. Senator Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) was a handsome 43 year old fiscal conservative who believed social security should be voluntary, and that “big government” should not over regulate or raise taxes on banks and business.

Grunsky, Morse, and Goldwater all followed the Washington D.C. Senate Hearings by Senator Joseph McCarthy on ABC TV, and spoke uncritically on what some called the “communist witch hunt.” The John Birch Society and McCarthy even went as far as calling President Eisenhower , and the ACLU communists, but “Ike” did not respond, saying only “I won’t get down in the gutter with that guy.” Eventually news about McCarthy faded, and he died of alcoholism in 1958.

Between 1953 and 1961 Dwight Eisenhower served in the White House, visiting Pebble Beach in 1956 where he was photographed speaking at length with Morse while they played golf, then later met and spoke with with Grunsky. Ike had named Morse’s long time friend, and former California Governor, Earl Warren as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but Morse later disagreed with the president who placed his signature on civil rights bills of 1957 and 1960, measures that Morse and the California Realtors Association opposed. Morse and Grunsky also felt the Commander In Chief should speak more harshly about Moscow during what was then called “The Cold War.” Alarmed by the nuclear capability of the USSR, Morse worried about the success of Sputnik in 1957, and called for an increase in U.S. atomic missiles.

Morse’s friend Edward Tickle (1878-1969) who served in the State Senate , representing the 25th District during the Depression and WWII, was a land developer of the Carmel Highlands Inn, where the “Tickled Pink Lodge” is named for him. Pink and Morse often discussed their dislike for Eisenhower, and attended Bohemian Club meetings with other conservative millionaires, complaining about their tax rates. Tickle, as past Chairman of the California State Republican Central Committee, and Morse as President of the Northern California Republican Campaign Committee , planned fund raising drives for conservative candidates and for Grunsky, hoping the money would buy rich supporters closer links with the elected officials.

Both men were angered by the defeat of Republican candidate William Knowland for Governor in 1959, and the election of Pat Brown. Calling Brown a “Turncoat Republican” who switched to the Democratic Party and the New Deal in 1939, they were startled that all the funds spent to stop Brown were a failure when he won by a large margin. They were also disappointed that earlier Grunsky lost 18 to 22 to be the California Senate President Pro Tem.

Morse, Tickle, Grunsky and other influential Republicans organized strong fund raising drives for Californian Richard Nixon, who had lost his race for governor to Brown. Despite a highly publicized and electric campaign for the White House, Morse was shocked and depressed by the narrow defeat of Nixon in the famed 1960 election. The popularity throughout Monterey Bay for State Senator Fred Farr also troubled them. Raised in wealthy Republican Piedmont, the home of Charles Crocker, like Grunsky during the Depression Farr went to U.C. Berkeley and graduated in law from Bolt Hall as Republicans. Throughout his education in Piedmont at Crocker Elementary School through Cal Berkeley, Farr noted “I didn’t know any blacks,” but serving in WWII he empathized with minorities and became, what Morse called a “Turncoat” and joined the Democrats. This resulted after the war in wealthy local conservatives financing an intense “smear campaign” against him, accusing him of ties to the “Reds.”

Farr, a strong advocate of J.F.K., celebrated his presidency, and the defeat of Ike’s Vice President for their battle for the White House. Fred Farr is often said to be the first “environmentalist” elected to state office, opposing the plans of developers like Morse and Tickle. A former Carmel City Council member, Farr served on the Monterey County Planning Advisory Board with his friend, photographer Ansel Adams, and with Adams also served on the Foundation For Environmental Design with their friends Nicholas Roosevelt of Big Sur ( a relative of President “Teddy” Roosevelt), ex Carmel Mayor Keith Evans, and famed local architect Nate Owings.

Morse opposed the efforts of these advisers to “limit urban sprawl” by greatly restricting commercial and residential tracts along the central coast. Wealthy developers and realtors, like Morse, saw such zoning restrictions as anti-business and against the property rights of land owners to do as they wish with their own private property. They argued that their subdivisions “created jobs” and stimulated the economy, and that “government interference” with their plans to build on their property with non union labor made their political foes “anti-capitalists.”

Morse and his circle of wealthy friends played polo on well bred horses, hosted gala tennis tournaments, held a series of yatching events off Carmel Bay, dined by candle light on gourmet French meals, motored along scenic 17 Mile Drive in rare vintage cars, swam in heated pools, bought rare paintings and vintage bottles of French wine, and made the pine lined golf courses a central part of their lives.

Mary Morse, the attractive daughter of “Duke” S.F.B. Morse grew up surrounded by this elegance and treated like royalty. Her adoring dad wanted to rule his “Dukedom” with the powers of a wealthy baron. Incorporating the area as a town would mean democratic elections of a mayor and City Council like Carmel enjoyed, but would take the oligarchical crown from the Duke’s famous head, making Mary a citizen and not a princess inside a picturesque Dukedom . Mary’s wedding to hansome Richard Osborne was an extravaganza , and in 1954 Morse was so pleased with his charming son in law that he named him President of Del Monte Properties, and he took the title of Chairman Of The Board. For the next decade Osborne was well liked by all, and performed his administrative duties thoroughly, helping his children with their school work and enjoying outings to Carmel with Mary.

THE 1964 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

Morse and his cabal began to plan for elections to replace Kennedy with a nationally known leader whose values would represent theirs. Thus they began to strategize on ways to get the “Republican Establishment” to open their checkbooks to finance smear campaigns against the Kennedys. But the assassination in Dallas in November 1963 then made President Lyndon Johnson their focus to defeat. More felt the California Republican U.S. Senator George Murphy, a former actor, just didn’t have the national reputation yet to look presidential. So this group of “insiders” strategized inside the Lodge at Pebble Beach on ways to financially marshall Barry Goldwater to seem capable of defeating LBJ. The Arizona Senator’s 1960 book “Conscience Of A Conservative” began to rally a right wing base, but Morse recognized the candidate needed wider appeal from speeches that sounded more convincing to the vast television audience.

Murphy and Goldwater were voices heard by the Republican National Senatorial Committee (NRSC) that was founded in 1916 to re-elect candidates and shape the publicity for challengers, so Morse began early to deliver sales pitches that would gain contributions from California conservatives. They wanted Goldwater’s speeches not to sound like John Birch Society pamplets, or the fiery ultra right rhetoric of Orange County politician John Schmidt, who came close to calling Ike a “commie.” Instead their strategy needed to appeal to rich moderates, and working class conservatives.

Although Morse found slogans like “In your heart you know he’s right” appealing for Goldwater, Democratic ads countered with “In your guts you know he’s nuts. “The left made the Arizona Senator sound like a voice on the fringes of his party, selecting quotes to make him sound like an anti communist extremist that could ignite WWIII.These hard ball tactics resulted in LBJ winning 61% of the vote, profoundly disappointing Morse and his circle.

THE 1966 CALIFORNIA CAMPAIGN

. Two years after LBJ’s victory and the launch of his “New Society”, the nation was focused on an increasing “quagmire” in Vietnam and racial unrest in American cities. The state’s contraversial Rumfort Act was to “end racial discrimination” in housing, making restrictions like those against Asiatics, Negroes and Jews in Morse’s deeds invalid. For Morse and other wealthy conservatives this went against their idea of “property rights”, where choices were the right of the owner and not “big government.” Thus the “right wing” and Grunsky supported the Francis Amendment to tame the intention of the Act.

Fred Farr used the word”illiberal” to describe Grunsky at that time. In dictionarys it can mean either non-liberal or “bigoted and narrow minded.”
Farr explained to an interviewer , “He was pretty illiberal. Don was somewhat of a loner in the Senate…he got more fun out of practicing law than serving in the Senate.” The California Realtors Association supported its task of making restrictive covenants banning buyers on the basis of race all unenforceable. But Morse remained a hard core adversary to Farr’s support of the Act. In the tone of a gentleman Farr said that “Don Grunsky, the Senator from Santa Cruz, has been in the Assembly and Senate a long time…and is an able Senator.”

“I was very proud of the fellow who was president of Del Monte Propertys…he came out against the Francis Ammendment. That took a lot of guts. His father in law was S.F.B.Morse…and Dick Osborne came out against it. I thought that was very courageous…I had voted for the Rumfort Act and worked hard against the Francis Amendment. It went to the California Supreme Court and was declared unconstitutional and then it went to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

In the 1964 election Grunsky was the only senator unopposed for re-election, and was also unopposed in 1968. But 1966 was the hardest campaign in Farr’s career. On a family visit to see his son Sam, now a U.S. Congressman, his daughter was killed while being thrown from a horse, and his wife died of cancer. After legislative reapportionment gave Grunsky an advantage along the Monterey Bay, San Benito Count and San Luis Obispo, the district now had nine thousand square miles.

Morse and other wealthy insiders and lobbyists designed a brutal smear campaign of lies to discredit Farr so that the large district would fall into Republican hands.Although the Monterey Herald and Pine Cone supported him, Farr was made out to be in sympathy with the radicals in Berkeley where he and Grunsky had earned their law degrees long ago. Farr said “I was not against the campus riots. Yet the ads against him did their damage.

We wish to thank John Thompson for his contribution and it is reprinted as submitted without editorial comment or change.

John Thompson

If John has a core value, it is based in understanding our world, the needs of our world, protecting our world. Making sure those who need assistance, get assistance, and lead a full life. As a jounalist, he has conducted thousands of interviews and followed thousands of stories that publications did not always deem economically worthy of pursuit. Click Here to read more...

  • Published: 16 posts

One Response to “S.F.B. MORSE AND POSTWAR POLITICS”


jeff
September 8, 2014 Reply

The more I think I know, the more there always seems to be a back story.
Thanks John for the truth. But is it the whole truth or just an appetizer before the entrée?

Leave a Comment



2 × eight =