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Garner wants Jim Crow U.S. Capitol restaurant: 1909 | by Washington Area Spark
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Garner wants Jim Crow U.S. Capitol restaurant: 1909

John Nance Garner III, known among his contemporaries as "Cactus Jack", was an American Democratic politician and lawyer from Texas and is shown in a March 1924 photograph.


He was the 32nd Vice President of the United States, serving from 1933 to 1941. He was also the 39th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1931 to 1933.


He represented Texas's 15th congressional district from 1903 to 1933. Garner served as House Minority Leader from 1929 to 1931, and was elevated to Speaker of the House when Democrats won control of the House following the 1930 elections.


While in the Texas legislature, in 1901 Garner voted for the poll tax, a measure passed by the Democratic-dominated legislature to make voter registration more difficult and reduce the number of black, minority and poor white voters on the voting rolls. This disfranchised most minority voters until the 1960s, and ended challenges to Democratic power; Texas became in effect a one-party state.


Garner also challenged the Capitol policy of admitting African Americans to its public restaurants while a congressman in 1909 when the Register of the Treasury, William Vernon sat down at a table near Garner and Rep. Martin Dies, Sr. (D-Tx.).


According to the New York Daily Tribune,


“Mr. Garner and his companion had given their order for food, when Mr. Vernon and his friend entered. At another table the three other Southern members were preparing to eat. The entrance of the register was greeted with protests, and when he had seated himself Mr. Garner announced that his order would have to be cancelled if negroes were allowed in the restaurant.”


“He was followed by his colleagues, and they immediately went to the proprietor, to whom they expressed themselves in unmeasured terms. He declared that he was powerless to interfere and advised that the Speaker be consulted.”


“Mr. Garner heard from L. White Busbey, the Speaker’s secretary, that the restaurant was a public one, and that if Mr. Garner and his friends desired privacy they should go to the dining room set apart for member of Congress.”


“This information served to cool the anger of the Southerners, although there are still mutterings about a boycott on the restaurant.”


Garner was unsuccessful at implementing Jim Crow in the Capitol at that time, but presided over it later in his career.


Garner sought the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1932 presidential election, but he agreed to serve as Franklin D. Roosevelt's running mate at the 1932 Democratic National Convention.


Roosevelt and Garner won the 1932 election and were re-elected in 1936.


A conservative Southerner, Garner opposed the sit-down strikes of the labor unions and the New Deal's deficit spending. He broke with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in early 1937 over the issue of enlarging the Supreme Court, and helped defeat it on the grounds that it centralized too much power in the President's hands.


Garner again sought the presidency in the 1940 presidential election, but Roosevelt won the party's presidential nomination at the 1940 Democratic National Convention. Garner was replaced as vice president by Henry A. Wallace and retired from public office in 1941.


For a detailed blog post on the battle against Jim Crow in the U.S. Capitol’s public restaurants, see


For related images, see


The photographer is unknown. The image is a Harris and Ewing photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Reproduction Number

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Taken sometime in 1924