09 July 2009

Wizened Kid

Robert Strange McNamara died this week at age 93.

When tapped by JFK to be Secretary of Defense in 1960, McNamara was a registered Republican. Known as a liberal Republican – now an extinct species – McNamara explained later that "… when I had registered to vote in California at age twenty-one, I had registered Republican for no other reason than that my father was." (*)

I understand this to mean that he had registered as a Republican in 1937 because of family tradition and, either through laziness or inertia, had never changed it.

The Oakland Precinct No. 480 voter rolls for November 5, 1940 available on Ancestry.com, include the recent Harvard MBA graduate living at 1036 Annerly Road with his mother Claranel and sister Margaret, both Republicans. Robert S. McNamara, accountant, is listed as a Democrat. This means that sometime between 1940 and 1960 he had, one assumes knowingly, changed his registration to Republican.

His middle name, in case you are wondering, is his mother’s maiden name. The Strange family traces the name back through Missouri and Virginia to Scotland. His mother’s family tree is chock full of Southern Scots-Irish whose American roots go back to Colonial times. In contrast, McNamara’s father Robert J. McNamara, who died in 1938, was the son of Irish immigrants from County Cork. (†)

* In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. (Robert S. McNamarawith Brian Van De Mark.) New York: Times Books, 1995
The Living and the Dead (Paul Hendrickson) New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

McNamara turned 21 in 1937, I think. He might have registered first as Republican, then changed to Democrat, and then back to Republican.