David I. Walsh
David Ignatius Walsh was a United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 politician from Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

. As a member of the Democratic Party, he served in the state legislature and then as Lieutenant Governor (1913–1914) and then as the 46th Governor
Governor of Massachusetts
The Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the executive magistrate of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, United States. The current governor is Democrat Deval Patrick.-Constitutional role:...

 (1914–1916). His first term in the U.S. Senate (1919–1925) was followed by a brief hiatus from government, after which he was elected to the U.S. Senate four times, serving from 1926-1947. On foreign affairs, he was a consistent isolationist, from his early opposition to U.S. domination of the Philippines to opposing Lend-Lease until the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Youth and education

Walsh was born in Leominster
Leominster, Massachusetts
Leominster is a city in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. It is the second-largest city in Worcester County, with a population of 40,759 at the 2010 census. Leominster is located north of Worcester and west of Boston. Both Route 2 and Route 12 pass through Leominster. Interstate 190,...

, Worcester County
Worcester County, Massachusetts
-Demographics:In 1990 Worcester County had a population of 709,705.As of the census of 2000, there were 750,963 people, 283,927 households, and 192,502 families residing in the county. The population density was 496 people per square mile . There were 298,159 housing units at an average density...

, Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, on November 11, 1872, the ninth of ten children. His parents were Irish Catholic
Irish Catholic
Irish Catholic is a term used to describe people who are both Roman Catholic and Irish .Note: the term is not used to describe a variant of Catholicism. More particularly, it is not a separate creed or sect in the sense that "Anglo-Catholic", "Old Catholic", "Eastern Orthodox Catholic" might be...

 immigrants. Walsh attended public schools in his birthplace and later in Clinton, Massachusetts
Clinton, Massachusetts
Clinton is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 13,606 at the 2010 census.For geographic and demographic information on the census-designated place Clinton, please see the article Clinton , Massachusetts....

. His father, a comb maker, died when he was twelve. Thereafter, his mother ran a boarding house.

Walsh graduated from Clinton High School in 1890 and from Holy Cross
College of the Holy Cross
The College of the Holy Cross is an undergraduate Roman Catholic liberal arts college located in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA...

 in 1893. He attended Boston University Law School, where he graduated in 1897. Walsh was admitted to the bar and commenced the practice of law in Fitchburg, Massachusetts
Fitchburg, Massachusetts
Fitchburg is the third largest city in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 40,318 at the 2010 census. Fitchburg is home to Fitchburg State University as well as 17 public and private elementary and high schools.- History :...

 in 1897, later practicing in Boston.

Career in state politics

Walsh was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
Massachusetts House of Representatives
The Massachusetts House of Representatives is the lower house of the Massachusetts General Court, the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is composed of 160 members elected from single-member electoral districts across the Commonwealth. Representatives serve two-year terms...

 for two terms in 1900 and 1901, elected from a longtime Republican district. From the start of his political career, he was anti-imperialist and isolationist and opposed America's authority over the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 as part of the settlement of the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

. Walsh's vote to restrict the hours that women and children could work to 58 led to his defeat when he sought another term. He next lost the race for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
The Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts is the first in the line to discharge the powers and duties of the office of governor following the incapacitation of the Governor of Massachusetts...

 in 1910, but ran again and won in 1912, becoming the state's first Democratic Lieutenant-Governor in 70 years He became the first Irish and the first Catholic Governor of Massachusetts in 1914, and served two one-year terms.

He offered voters an alternative to boss-dominated politics, expressing a "forthright espousal of government responsibility for social welfare." Walsh proposed increased government responsibility for charity work and the care of the insane and reorganized the state's management of these areas with little opposition. In his 1914 campaign for re-election, he cited as accomplishments an increase in the amounts paid for workman's compensation and improved administration of the state's care for the insane. As Governor, Walsh fought unsuccessfully for a Women's Suffrage
Women's suffrage
Women's suffrage or woman suffrage is the right of women to vote and to run for office. The expression is also used for the economic and political reform movement aimed at extending these rights to women and without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or...

 Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution
Massachusetts Constitution
The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the fundamental governing document of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, one of the 50 individual state governments that make up the United States of America. It was drafted by John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Bowdoin during the...

. He also campaigned for film censorship in the state after large protests were mounted against the racial depictions in D. W. Griffith
D. W. Griffith
David Llewelyn Wark Griffith was a premier pioneering American film director. He is best known as the director of the controversial and groundbreaking 1915 film The Birth of a Nation and the subsequent film Intolerance .Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation made pioneering use of advanced camera...

's film The Birth of a Nation
The Birth of a Nation
The Birth of a Nation is a 1915 American silent film directed by D. W. Griffith and based on the novel and play The Clansman, both by Thomas Dixon, Jr. Griffith also co-wrote the screenplay , and co-produced the film . It was released on February 8, 1915...


He supported the work of the Anti-Death Penalty League, a Massachusetts organization founded in 1897 that was particularly active and nearly successful in the decade preceding World War I.

As Governor he asked the legislature to call a Constitutional Convention without success. When the legislature later called a convention, Walsh won election as a delegate-at-large as part of a slate of candidates who endorsed adding provisions for initiative and referendum to the state constitution, key Progressive-era reforms. He served as a delegate-at-large to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in 1917 and 1918 that saw those reforms passed. His speech on behalf of initiative and referendum shows him in the role of populist and reformer:
There are men,-and you and I know them,-who, though proclaiming their belief in democracy, really are believers in autocracy. There are men within the knowledge of us all who believe in a government of the few, of the college bred class only, of those only who have been successful in the commercial world, or those only who have been fortunate enough to have been born in an environment of ease and luxury. To this class of men no argument on the initiative and referendum can be addressed with any confidence of success. Consciously or unconsciously, they are recreant to the principles upon which this republic was founded.

After serving a Governor, he practiced law with his older brother Thomas in his hometown of Clinton.

Career in national politics

In 1918, Walsh was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 and served from March 4, 1919, to March 4, 1925. He was the first Irish-Catholic Senator from Massachusetts. A noted orator, he introduced Irish Republic President Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera was one of the dominant political figures in twentieth century Ireland, serving as head of government of the Irish Free State and head of government and head of state of Ireland...

 at Fenway Park
Fenway Park
Fenway Park is a baseball park near Kenmore Square in Boston, Massachusetts. Located at 4 Yawkey Way, it has served as the home ballpark of the Boston Red Sox baseball club since it opened in 1912, and is the oldest Major League Baseball stadium currently in use. It is one of two "classic"...

 on June 29, 1919. At the Democratic National Convention in 1924
1924 Democratic National Convention
The 1924 Democratic National Convention, also called the Klanbake, held at the Madison Square Garden in New York City from June 24 to July 9, took a record 103 ballots to nominate a presidential candidate. It was the longest continuously running convention in United States political history...

, he spoke in favor of condemning the Ku Klux Klan by name in the party platform: "We ask you to cut out of the body politic with the sharpest instrument at your command this malignant growth which, injected, means the destruction of everything which has made America immortal. If you can denounce Republicanism, you can denounce Ku Kluxism. If you can denounce Bolshevism, you can denounce Ku Kluxism."

Walsh failed to win reelection by just 20,000 votes in 1924, the year of the Coolidge landslide
United States presidential election, 1924
The United States presidential election of 1924 was won by incumbent President Calvin Coolidge, the Republican candidate.Coolidge was vice-president under Warren G. Harding and became president in 1923 when Harding died in office. Coolidge was given credit for a booming economy at home and no...

, and briefly resumed the practice of law in Boston. Following the death of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge
Henry Cabot Lodge
Henry Cabot "Slim" Lodge was an American Republican Senator and historian from Massachusetts. He had the role of Senate Majority leader. He is best known for his positions on Meek policy, especially his battle with President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 over the Treaty of Versailles...

, the Republicans fought hard to retain his seat. Though Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was the 31st President of the United States . Hoover was originally a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business...

 and Charles Evans Hughes
Charles Evans Hughes
Charles Evans Hughes, Sr. was an American statesman, lawyer and Republican politician from New York. He served as the 36th Governor of New York , Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States , United States Secretary of State , a judge on the Court of International Justice , and...

 campaigned for his opponent, in the December 1926 special election Walsh won the right to complete the remaining two years of Lodge's term, defeating William Morgan Butler
William M. Butler
William Morgan Butler was a lawyer and legislator for the State of Massachusetts, and a United States Senator....

, a friend of Coolidge and head of the Republican National Committee
Republican National Committee
The Republican National Committee is an American political committee that provides national leadership for the Republican Party of the United States. It is responsible for developing and promoting the Republican political platform, as well as coordinating fundraising and election strategy. It is...


Walsh's 1924 defeat also marked a turning point in his political philosophy. He had previously endorsed an activist role for government, but after 1924 his rhetoric increasingly attacked the "federal bureaucracy" and "big government." Though he had once advocated in favor of federal child labor legislation, he became one of its most consistent opponents.

In 1929, Time published a detailed profile of Walsh and his voting record. It noted that he voted for the Jones Act of 1929 that increased penalties for the violation of Prohibition
Prohibition in the United States
Prohibition in the United States was a national ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol, in place from 1920 to 1933. The ban was mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and the Volstead Act set down the rules for enforcing the ban, as well as defining which...

, but said the Senator "votes Wet, drinks Wet." Its more personal description said:
A bachelor, he is tall and stout. A double chin tends to get out over his tight-fitting collar. His stomach bulges over his belt. He weighs 200 lbs. or more. Setting-up exercises every other day at a Washington health centre have failed to reduce his girth. He is troubled about it. His dress is dandified. He wears silk shirts in bright colors and stripes and, often, stiff collars to match. His feet are small and well-shod. Beneath his habitual derby hat his hair is turning thin and grey. Society is his prime diversion. Of secondary interest are motoring, sporting events, the theatre. In Washington he occupies an expensive suite of rooms at the luxurious Carlton Hotel on 16th Street. A good and frequent host himself, he accepts all invitations out, is one of the most lionized Senators in Washington.

Time reported that some commented on the contrast between his political populism and his luxurious life style. The profile noted he was a "gruff and bull-voiced debater" but that "in private conversation his voice is soft and controlled." In sum, Time said that "Impartial Senate observers rate him thus: A good practical politician, a legislator above the average. His political philosophy is liberal and humane, except on economic matters (the tariff) which affect the New England industry, when he turns conservative. His floor attendance is regular, his powers of persuasion, fair."

When attacking the Hoover administration following the 1930 elections, Walsh identified two principal causes of voter dissatisfaction: "the administration's indifference to economic conditions and its failure to recognize the widespread opposition to prohibition."

Walsh won reelection in 1928, 1934 and 1940, failing in his final bid for reelection in 1946. During his Senate service, Walsh held the posts of chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor (73rd and 74th Congresses) and of the Committee on Naval Affairs (74th-77th and 79th Congresses). In 1932, he supported Al Smith
Al Smith
Alfred Emanuel Smith. , known in private and public life as Al Smith, was an American statesman who was elected the 42nd Governor of New York three times, and was the Democratic U.S. presidential candidate in 1928...

 against FDR for the Democratic nomination for president. He objected to Justice Hugo Black
Hugo Black
Hugo Lafayette Black was an American politician and jurist. A member of the Democratic Party, Black represented Alabama in the United States Senate from 1927 to 1937, and served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1937 to 1971. Black was nominated to the Supreme...

's failure to disclose his earlier membership in the Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan, often abbreviated KKK and informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically...

 and promoted the appointment of Jews to the judiciary, notably that of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
Louis Brandeis
Louis Dembitz Brandeis ; November 13, 1856 – October 5, 1941) was an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939.He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Jewish immigrant parents who raised him in a secular mode...

, a longtime friend. Though a Democrat, he gave only reluctant support to President Roosevelt's agenda. In 1936, when some Democrats looked for an alternative presidential candidate, he supported Roosevelt, "although their relations are none too good." A newspaper reported that "He is not of the insurgent type....At heart, observers [in Boston] say, he dissents from many of the policies of the New Deal," but "he will stay on the reservation" and "he will avoid an open break." During the campaign, he failed to speak in support of the President until October 20, 1936.

In 1936, Walsh, as head of the Senate Labor Committee, lent his name an administration bill to establish labor standards for employees of government contractors, known as the Walsh–Healey Public Contracts Act It provided for minimum wages and overtime, safety and sanitation rules, and restrictions on the use of child and convict labor.

In 1937, he declared himself an opponent of the administration and joined the opposition to FDR's plan to enlarge the Supreme Court
Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937
The Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, frequently called the court-packing plan, was a legislative initiative proposed by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt to add more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. Roosevelt's purpose was to obtain favorable rulings regarding New Deal legislation that...

. Speaking at New York City's Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....

, Walsh argued his position in terms of the separation of powers, judicial independence, and the proper role of the executive. He described the public's reaction as "a state of fear, of apprehension, of bewilderment, of real grief, as a result of the proposal to impair, if not indeed to destroy, the judicial independence of the Supreme Court." He also emphasized the role of the Court in protecting civil liberties, citing two examples:
One was the enactment, during the war hysteria, of a law in one of the sovereign States making it a crime to teach a child the German language....[A] teacher in a German-language school was indicted and convicted....The United States Supreme Court, nine old men, sworn to uphold the Constitution, struck down that law and released from jeopardy an American citizen whose only offense was that he was a victim of war hysteria. I wonder if young men would have had the courage to do it.

Another was an outburst during the Ku Klux Klan hysteria. A State Legislature and the Governor approved a law, supported by an initiative vote of the people, denying a parent the right to send his child to a religious school of his choosing. An independent judiciary, the United States Supreme Court, nine old men, struck down that law and proclaimed that it is an unalienable right under the Constitution for a parent to bring up his children and educate them as he may choose.

He continued:
Who can say when some majority of the moment may attempt to harass a minority? Who dares predict that a future Congress in a time of hysteria may not succumb to the prejudice or passion of the hour....Without an independent judiciary, I hesitate to even think of denials to minorities of constitutional guarantees if some of the doctrines preached by groups in this country today should be enacted into law.

One Cabinet official described his overall relationship to the administration as "not sympathetic...to put it mildly."

Along with 4 of his colleagues, Walsh condemned antisemitism in Nazi Germany in a Senate speech on June 10, 1933.

World War II

In the Senate, Walsh was a consistent isolationist
United States non-interventionism
Non-interventionism, the diplomatic policy whereby a nation seeks to avoid alliances with other nations in order to avoid being drawn into wars not related to direct territorial self-defense, has had a long history in the United States...

 He supported American neutrality with respect to the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 and opposed an American alliance with the United Kingdom until the attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

. Speaking in the Senate on June 21, 1940, he denounced Roosevelt's plans to provide armaments to Great Britain:
I say it is too risky, too dangerous, to try to determine how far we can go tapping the resources of our own Government and furnishing naval vessels, air planes, powder and bombs. It is trampling on dangerous ground. It is moving toward the edge of a precipice--a precipice of stupendous and horrifying depths....I do not want our forces deprive of one gun, or one bomb, or one ship which can aid that American boy whom you and I may some day have to draft. I want every instrument. I want every bomb. I want every plane. I want every boat ready and available. So I can say when and if it becomes necessary to draft him: "Young man, you have every possible weapon of defense your Government can give you."

At the 1940 Democratic National Convention
1940 Democratic National Convention
The 1940 Democratic National Convention was held at the Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois from July 15–18, 1940. The convention resulted in the re-nomination of President Franklin Roosevelt as the Democratic Party candidate for an unprecedented third term. Secretary of Agriculture Henry A...

, where Walsh supported James Farley
James Farley
James Aloysius Farley was the first Irish Catholic politician in American history to achieve success on a national level, serving as Chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and as Postmaster General simultaneously under the first two...

 for president rather than FDR, he and his fellow isolationist Senator Burton Wheeler
Burton K. Wheeler
Burton Kendall Wheeler was an American politician of the Democratic Party and a United States Senator from 1923 until 1947.-Early life:...

 of Montana proposed a plank for the party platform that read: "We will not participate in foreign wars and we will not or army or navy or air force to fight in foreign lands outside of the Americas." They relented when the President added the words "except in case of attack." In that year's election, he out-polled Roosevelt in Massachusetts despite being opposed by the CIO
Congress of Industrial Organizations
The Congress of Industrial Organizations, or CIO, proposed by John L. Lewis in 1932, was a federation of unions that organized workers in industrial unions in the United States and Canada from 1935 to 1955. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 required union leaders to swear that they were not...

 for his anti-New Deal positions.

After the 1940 election in particular, he opposed any action that would compromise American neutrality, first in closed-door hearings of the Naval Affairs Committee, which he headed, and then in attacking the Lend-Lease
Lend-Lease was the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, Free France, and other Allied nations with materiel between 1941 and 1945. It was signed into law on March 11, 1941, a year and a half after the outbreak of war in Europe in...

 program on the floor of the Senate. He was a leading member of the America First
America First Committee
The America First Committee was the foremost non-interventionist pressure group against the American entry into World War II. Peaking at 800,000 members, it was likely the largest anti-war organization in American history. Started in 1940, it became defunct after the attack on Pearl Harbor in...

 movement, opposing U.S. involvement in World War II. In 1940, the New York Times described Walsh as a "more moderate critic" of the administration's attempts to aid Great Britain even as he called the August commitment FDR made to Churchill
Atlantic Charter
The Atlantic Charter was a pivotal policy statement first issued in August 1941 that early in World War II defined the Allied goals for the post-war world. It was drafted by Britain and the United States, and later agreed to by all the Allies...

 one "that goes far beyond the Constitutional powers of the President and one that no other President in our history even presumed to assume....The President alone, and on his own initiative, has undertaken to pledge our government, our nation, and the lives of 130,000,00 persons and their descendants for generations to come."

When the Senate considered the Burke-Wadsworth Act
Selective Training and Service Act of 1940
The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, also known as the Burke-Wadsworth Act, was passed by the Congress of the United States on September 17, 1940, becoming the first peacetime conscription in United States history when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law two days later...

 to establish peacetime conscription for the first time in U.S. history, Walsh offered an amendment, which failed to pass, that would have delayed the law's effective date until war was declared. In June, 1940, he authored an amendment to the naval appropriations bill, sometimes called the Walsh Act of 1940, which permitted "surplus military equipment" to be sold only if it was certified as useless for American defense. To aid Great Britain, the administration evaded the Walsh provision by substituting leases for sales and by trading equipment for bases. In 1941, when the administration used the Greer incident, an exchange of fire between a German submarine and an American destroyer, to authorize American forces to "shoot on sight," Walsh held hearings of the Naval Affairs Committee to demonstrate that the administration was misrepresenting the facts of the encounter to support its case for American military action against Germany.


On May 7, 1942, the New York Post
New York Post
The New York Post is the 13th-oldest newspaper published in the United States and is generally acknowledged as the oldest to have been published continuously as a daily, although – as is the case with most other papers – its publication has been periodically interrupted by labor actions...

, which had long favored U.S. involvement in the European conflict, implicated Walsh in a sensational sex and spy scandal uncovered at a Brooklyn male brothel for U.S. Navy personnel that had been infiltrated by Nazi spies. The charges went unreported by the rest of the press, but word of mouth made it, according to Time, "one of the worst scandals that ever affected a member of the Senate." The police operation led to the arrest and conviction of 3 foreign agents and the brothel's owner-operator, Gustave Beekman, though promised leniency for cooperating with the police, received the maximum sentence of 20 years for sodomy and was not released from prison until 1963.

The scandal was complex in that it implicated the Senator as a homosexual, as a patron of a male bordello, and as a possible dupe of enemy agents. Homosexuality was a taboo subject for public discourse, so the Post referred to a "house of degradation." At one point a sub-headline in the New York Times called it a "Resort." In the Daily Mirror
New York Daily Mirror
The New York Daily Mirror was an American morning tabloid newspaper first published on June 24, 1924, in New York City by the William Randolph Hearst organization as a contrast to their mainstream broadsheets, the Evening Journal and New York American, later consolidated into the New York Journal...

, columnist Walter Winchell
Walter Winchell
Walter Winchell was an American newspaper and radio gossip commentator.-Professional career:Born Walter Weinschel in New York City, he left school in the sixth grade and started performing in a vaudeville troupe known as Gus Edwards' "Newsboys Sextet."His career in journalism was begun by posting...

 mentioned "Brooklyn's spy nest, also known as the swastika swishery." The Post first suggested a scandal. Over the course of several weeks it hinted an important person was involved, then named "Senator X", and finally identified Walsh by name. Its sensational treatment of the story detracted from the seriousness of its charges.

The brothel's owner and several others arrested in a police raid identified Walsh to the police as "Doc," a regular client, whose visits ended just before police surveillance began. Some furnished intimate physical details. President Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 believed the charge that Walsh was homosexual was true. He told Vice President Henry Wallace
Henry A. Wallace
Henry Agard Wallace was the 33rd Vice President of the United States , the Secretary of Agriculture , and the Secretary of Commerce . In the 1948 presidential election, Wallace was the nominee of the Progressive Party.-Early life:Henry A...

 that "everyone knew" about Walsh's homosexuality and he had a similar conversation with Alben W. Barkley
Alben W. Barkley
Alben William Barkley was an American politician in the Democratic Party who served as the 35th Vice President of the United States , under President Harry S. Truman....

, the Senate majority leader
Majority leader
In U.S. politics, the majority floor leader is a partisan position in a legislative body.In the federal Congress, the role differs slightly in the two houses. In the House of Representatives, which chooses its own presiding officer, the leader of the majority party is elected the Speaker of the...


Without discussing details, Walsh issued a brief statement calling the story "a diabolical lie" and demanding a full investigation. He then conducted his usual Senate business without reference to the charges. An FBI investigation produced no evidence to support the New York Posts specific charges against the Senator, though it accumulated much "derogatory information" in its files.

On May 20, 1942, with a full report from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover
John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972...

 in hand, Senator Barkley addressed the Senate at length on the irresponsibility of the New York Post, the laudable restraint of the rest of the press, the details of the FBI's report, and the Senate's affirmation of Walsh's "unsullied" reputation. He declined to insert the FBI report in the Congressional Record, he said, "because it contains disgusting and unprintable things." Without addressing Walsh's sexuality, he said the report contained no evidence that Wash ever "visited a 'house of degradation' to connive or to consort with, or to converse with, or to conspire with anyone who is the enemy of the United States." He denied the charges related to espionage. He provided no specifics about the sexual activity at issue and said the details of the charges were "too loathsome to mention in the Senate or in any group of ladies and gentlemen." The press conflated the charges in a similar way. For example, the New York Times report of Barkley's speech said that the FBI reported that "there is not the 'slightest foundation' for charges that Senator Walsh, 69-year-old chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee, visited a 'house of degradation' in Brooklyn and was seen talking to Nazi agents there."

Isolationist senators promptly denounced the charges as an attack on their political position. Senator Bennett Clark
Bennett Champ Clark
Joel Bennett Clark , better known as Bennett Champ Clark, was a Democratic United States Senator from Missouri from 1933 until 1945, and was later a United States federal judge.-Biography:...

 asserted that Morris Ernst
Morris Ernst
Morris Leopold Ernst was an American lawyer and co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union.He was born in Uniontown, Alabama on Aug. 23, 1888, to a Czech-born father and German mother. He lived in various locations around New York City from the age of 2...

, attorney for the New York Post, had contacted the White House trying to engage the administration to smear FDR's opposition. Senator Gerald Nye
Gerald Nye
Gerald Prentice Nye was a United States politician, representing North Dakota in the U.S. Senate from 1925-45...

 contended the incident represented a larger effort on the part of a "secret society" that for two years had been trying to discredit him and his fellow isolationists.

The press used these Senate speeches to cover the affair at last. Their treatment varied in tone:
Boston Globe: Senator Walsh Story Denounced as Absolute Fabrication

New York Times: FBI Clears Walsh, Barkley Asserts

New York Post: Whitewash for Walsh

Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

 reported Barley's speech exonerating Walsh and that the Post in reply had repeated its charges. It concluded its coverage: "The known facts made only one thing indisputable: either a serious scandal was being hushed up or a really diabolical libel had been perpetrated."

Final Senate years

During the 1944 presidential race, with FDR seeking a fourth term, his running mate Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 referred to Walsh as an "isolationist" a characterization Walsh resented. On November 2, just 3 days before the election, the President called Walsh at his home in Clinton, Massachusetts, to invite him to join the presidential party in Worcester, Massachusetts and Walsh accepted the invitation to the relief of the Democrats. The contretemps gave Walsh an opportunity to define his position, that he was no isolationist because he favored the war and seeing the war through to total victory. He also believed the troops should return home quickly, allowing only that some may be required to perform "police duties in enemy territory," and the reserves demobilized. He hoped for a "democratic peace...free from the influences of political expediency which compromises with imperialism and surrenders to power politics."

In 1945, demonstrating that his isolationism was not absolute, Walsh voted in favor of the United Nations Charter
United Nations Charter
The Charter of the United Nations is the foundational treaty of the international organization called the United Nations. It was signed at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in San Francisco, United States, on 26 June 1945, by 50 of the 51 original member countries...

. He was one of a dozen senators who protested the failure of the United Nations to invite a Jewish delegation to its founding San Francisco Conference
United Nations Conference on International Organization
The United Nations Conference on International Organization was a convention of delegates from 50 Allied nations that took place from 25 April 1945 to 26 June 1945 in San Francisco, California. At this convention, the delegates reviewed and rewrote the Dumbarton Oaks agreements...


Given his poor relationship with the White House, Walsh anticipated that the administration might even support an opponent in a Democratic primary when he next ran for reelection. He faced no such challenge, but was defeated in his 1946 race for reelection by Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. was a Republican United States Senator from Massachusetts and a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, South Vietnam, West Germany, and the Holy See . He was the Republican nominee for Vice President in the 1960 Presidential election.-Early life:Lodge was born in Nahant,...


Personal life and death

Walsh was raised a Roman Catholic and throughout his life identified himself as a Catholic and practiced his religion both in public and in private. An altar boy as a youth, in his adult years he regularly attended retreats and participated in meetings of Catholic laymen. Senate colleagues recognized his Catholic faith and occasionally baited him by challenging him to defend himself as a partisan of Catholic interests, which Walsh did not hesitate to answer. Once when a senator accused the Catholic Church of attempting to involve the United States in the church's battle with the government of Mexico, Walsh defended the Church at length, saying in part:
I am unworthy to make any defense of the Roman Catholic Church but I want to remind every senator on this floor that everyone of them owes her an everlasting debt of gratitude. For fifteen centuries she alone held aloft the torch of Christianity in the world; she gave her blood to preserve it....I speak in the name of the large, tolerant and superb non-Catholic citizenship of my state. I speak also in the name of the forty percent of soldiers and sailors in the last war who were Roman Catholics. I speak not less confidently in the name of the nearly twenty million Roman Catholics in these United States; and I say that the sons of my Church are loyal and true, on this issue, not less than every other, always and at all times loyal and devoted to our country, its institutions and its high aims and objects.

Walsh never married. He and his brother Thomas, who died in 1931, supported their four unmarried sisters, two of whom outlived the Senator. Walsh's homosexuality has been accepted by historians. Writing in the 1960s, former Attorney General Francis Biddle
Francis Biddle
Francis Beverley Biddle was an American lawyer and judge who was Attorney General of the United States during World War II and who served as the primary American judge during the postwar Nuremberg trials....

 hinted at the subject when he described Walsh in the mid-1930s as "an elderly politician with a soft tread and low, colorless voice...whose concealed and controlled anxieties not altogether centered on retaining his job." According to Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal is an American author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and political activist. His third novel, The City and the Pillar , outraged mainstream critics as one of the first major American novels to feature unambiguous homosexuality...

, interviewed in 1974, "There wasn't anybody in Massachusetts...who didn't know what David Walsh was up to." Walsh's most recent biographer writes that "The campaign to destroy David I. Walsh worked because he could not defend himself....David I. Walsh was gay."

Upon his retirement from political office, Walsh resided in Clinton, Massachusetts
Clinton, Massachusetts
Clinton is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 13,606 at the 2010 census.For geographic and demographic information on the census-designated place Clinton, please see the article Clinton , Massachusetts....

 until his death following a cerebral hemorrhage in Boston on June 11, 1947. Walsh is buried in St. John’s Cemetery, Clinton.

In his later years he received honorary degrees from Holy Cross, Georgetown University
Georgetown University
Georgetown University is a private, Jesuit, research university whose main campus is in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Founded in 1789, it is the oldest Catholic university in the United States...

, Notre Dame
University of Notre Dame
The University of Notre Dame du Lac is a Catholic research university located in Notre Dame, an unincorporated community north of the city of South Bend, in St. Joseph County, Indiana, United States...

, Fordham
Fordham University
Fordham University is a private, nonprofit, coeducational research university in the United States, with three campuses in and around New York City. It was founded by the Roman Catholic Diocese of New York in 1841 as St...

, Boston University
Boston University
Boston University is a private research university located in Boston, Massachusetts. With more than 4,000 faculty members and more than 31,000 students, Boston University is one of the largest private universities in the United States and one of Boston's largest employers...

, Canisius College
Canisius College
Canisius College is a private Roman Catholic college in Buffalo, New York, United States. The college was founded in 1870 by members of the Society of Jesus from Germany and is named after St. Peter Canisius. The college is one of 28 institutions in the Association of Jesuit Colleges and...

, and St. Joseph's College (Philadelphia)
Saint Joseph's University
Saint Joseph's University is a private, coeducational Roman Catholic Jesuit university located partially in the Wynnefield section of Philadelphia and partially in Lower Merion Township and located in the Pennsylvania Main Line, Pennsylvania, United States.The school was founded in 1851 as Saint...


A bronze statue of him by Joseph Coletti was erected near the Music Oval on Boston's Charles River Esplanade in 1954. It bears the motto: "non sibi sed patriae
Non sibi sed patriae
Non sibi sed patriae is a Latin phrase meaning "Not for self, but for country". The phrase is inscribed over the chapel doors at the United States Naval Academy.-References:...

", a tribute to his service to the U.S. Navy while in the Senate. Walsh's alma mater, Holy Cross, awards an annual scholarship in his name.

External links

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