John Grenier

John Grenier

John Edward Grenier (August 24, 1930 – November 6, 2007) was a Birmingham attorney and a pioneer in the development of the modern Republican Party in the U.S. state of Alabama. Grenier was a former litigator for Lange Simpson Robinson & Somerville, one of the oldest and most distinguished law firms in Birmingham. [ [ Adams and Reese LLP ] ] He was Alabama state Republican party chairman from 1962-1965. He then launched an unsuccessful campaign in 1966 for the United States Senate. He was thereafter active in 1986 in the election of Probate Judge Harold Guy Hunt of Holly Pond near Cullman in northern Alabama as the state's first Republican governor of the 20th century.

Early years, education, military

Grenier (pronounced Gren YEY) [ [ John E. Grenier, 77, a Leader of Goldwater’s ’64 Bid, Is Dead - New York Times ] ] was born in New Orleans, the youngest of three children of Charles Desire Grenier, Jr., a banker, and the former Beatrice Schaumburg (1893-1971). [ [ Social Security Death Index Interactive Search ] ] He graduated from Jesuit High School and lettered in track, football and baseball. In 1953, Grenier received his undergraduate and law degrees, having completed a five-year program at Tulane University. Then he served as a United States Marine Corps pilot in South Korea after the Korean War, having attained the rank of captain. He flew more than one hundred patrols with VMF-312, the "Checkerboard Squadron". [ [ Adams and Reese LLP ] ]

After Tulane, Grenier married the former Lynne Youmans (born 1932); they moved to Birmingham, the seat of Jefferson County, Alabama's most populous county. They had one son, John Beaulieu "Beau" Grenier (born 1956), a Birmingham attorney married to Joy Grenier. John and Lynne were divorced in 1983, and Grenier married the former Stella Kontos (born 1950). In addition to his wife and son, Grenier was survived by four grandchildren, John Beaulieu Grenier, Jr., Dorothy Monnish Grenier, Evans Barlow Grenier and Carolyn Youmans Grenier of Birmingham, Alabama by the former Celeste Crowe (born 1958) of Mobile, Alabama and a sister, Rosemary Grenier Rivet of San Diego, California. [ [ John E. Grenier, 77, a Leader of Goldwater’s ’64 Bid, Is Dead - New York Times ] ]

After his military service, Grenier enrolled at New York University in New York City, where he received an LL.M. degree in taxation. He practiced law briefly on Wall Street before he and Lynne relocated to Birmingham so that he could join the staff of the Southern Natural Gas Company. He subsequently joined the law firm Bradley Arant Rose & White, where he became a partner and practiced corporate and tax law under the tutelage and mentorship of Lee C. Bradley, Jr. He then joined the firm formerly known as Lange, Simpson, Robinson & Somerville and was a partner there for some thirty-five years before his retirement in 2004. [ [ Adams and Reese LLP ] ]

Campaigning for Nixon and Goldwater

In 1960, Grenier arranged a successful rally in Birmingham on behalf of GOP presidential nominee, then Vice President Richard M. Nixon. In the general election, however, Alabama split its electoral votes between Democratic U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy and an unpledged segregationist slate that supported Democratic U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr., of Virginia. In 1961, Grenier was named chairman of the Young Republicans of Alabama and thereafter was promoted to state party chairman. [Associated Press, "John Grenier dies at 77", November 9, 2007] Employing the Southern Strategy in 1964, Grenier worked to secure the presidential nomination for then Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, who upset the party's "Eastern Establishment", which had dominated the selection process for decades. Grenier secured the support of 271 of the 279 southern delegates to support Goldwater at the national party conclave held in San Francisco. One of the dissenters was Winthrop Rockefeller, future governor of Arkansas, who was committed to his brother, then Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York. Depicted as "bright, tough-minded, and a superb organizer", Grenier then became the executive director of the Republican National Committee, second to then party chairman Dean Burch, also of Arizona. That appointment ended in 1965, when incoming chairman Ray C. Bliss of Ohio assembled a new team at the RNC. In Alabama, state chairman Grenier recruited a slate of candidates for the United States House of Representatives to challenge Democrats who in the past had usually been unopposed in the general election. Five of those candidates were elected. Two of the captured seats -- in Mobile and Montgomery -- have remained in Republican hands since the 1964 election. A third district, based about Birmingham, was Republican held until 1983. Two other districts reverted to the Democrats in the 1966 mid-term elections.

The 1966 campaign

Grenier himself planned to run for governor in 1966, but he instead deferred to U.S. Representative James D. Martin of Gadsden, who became the unopposed Republican Party candidate. Grenier, meanwhile, challenged U.S. Senator John Sparkman. He received 313,018 votes (39 percent) to Sparkman's 482,138 (60.1 percent). Another 7,444 votes (0.9 percent) went to Julian Elgin, an independent who had been Sparkman's Republican opponent in 1960. Sparkman was an entrenched incumbent who had also been the running-mate of Adlai Stevenson of Illinois in 1952. Grenier actually ran ahead of his ticket-mate Martin, who was crushed in the gubernatorial race by Lurleen Wallace (1925-1968), wife of popular outgoing Democratic Governor George Wallace Martin finished with 262,943 votes (31 percent) ; Mrs. Wallace's 537,505 (63.4 percent), and the remaining 47,655 (5.6 percent) went to independent Dr. Carl Ray Robinson (1925-2005), a Bessemer physician. Martin and Grenier each won only one of the state's sixty-seven counties -- Winston in north Alabama, whose descendants were mostly non-slaveholders who had been Republican at the time of the American Civil War. Grenier hence ran eight percentage points ahead of Martin because he received 50,075 more votes than Martin, and 45,503 fewer ballots were cast for senator than for governor. The sole voter group with whom Martin and Grenier prevailed was upper-income whites. [Billy Hathorn, "A Dozen Years in the Political Wilderness:The Alabama Republican Party, 1966-1978," "Gulf Coast Historical Review", Spring 1994, pp. 19-43; State of Alabama, Secretary of State, "Election Returns, 1966"] For a time during the first half of 1966, Senator Sparkman had seemed vulnerable. He won the Democratic nomination by an unimpressive margin over weak opponents. Some 224,000 voters who participated in the gubernatorial primary, handily won by Lurleen Wallace, skipped the Senate race. Grenier concluded that such apparent lukewarmedness toward Sparkman provided a base from which to mount a challenge. Yet Sparkman benefited from Lurleen Wallace's candidacy, for he could extol the popular portions of his record and still stress that he had opposed U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson on nearly half of Senate roll call votes. Philosophical differences between the Wallaces and Sparkman were hence blurred in the interest of party harmony. Sparkman successfully emphasized the value to Alabamians of his constituent services, his chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee and his key membership on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. ["Huntsville Times", October 13, November 3, 1966; "New York Times", July 30, 1966, p. 10] Grenier tried to tie Sparkman to President Johnson, having called his opponent "the ambassador to Alabama from the court of King Lyndon."Fact|date=November 2007 He challenged the Democrats over the economy, constitutional interpretation, the Great Society, civil disobedience, and urban unrest. Grenier proposed military victory in the Vietnam War, the restoration of voluntary school prayer, and restrictions on foreign aid programs. ["Huntsville Times", October 13, 1966; "Montgomery Advertiser", October 12, 1966; "Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report", August 5, 1966, p. 1709; Bernard Cosman and Robert J. Huckshorn, eds., "Republican Politics: The 1964 Campaign and its Aftermath for the Party" (New York, 1968), p. 78; Stephen Hess and David Broder, "The Republican Establishment", p. 337; "New York Times", May 13, 1966, p. 20; May 19, 1966, p. 33; August 26, 1966, p. 17]

Working for Governor Hunt

It was a full twenty years after the 1966 elections before Alabama Republicans won their state's governorship. In 1986, Grenier served as campaign manager for Guy Hunt in Hunt's successful bid for governor. Hunt benefited from a serious split within the Democratic Party that year between Lieutenant Governor Bill Baxley and the more conservative candidate, Attorney General Charles Graddick. Hunt defeated Baxley, just as Grenier had predicted that he would in what was seen outside Alabama as a stunning upset. Grenier then served in the Hunt administration as Chief of Staff and managed Hunt's successful bid for reelection in 1990. Controversies plagued Hunt, however, and he was removed from the governorship in 1993 following his conviction on an ethics offense, before he could complete his second term. [ [ Adams and Reese LLP ] ]

Death and legacy

Grenier was said to have had a zest for living: avid tennis player, snow skier, and fox hunter. He was self-taught in French, German, Spanish, and modern Greek. ["Birmingham News", November 8, 2007]

Grenier died after a brief illness of lung cancer in The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Services were held on November 9, 2007, at St. Mary's On-the-Highlands Episcopal Church in Birmingham. Interment was in Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham. ["Birmingham News", November 8, 2007]

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