Alan Cranston

Alan Cranston
Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
In office
January 3, 1987  January 3, 1993
Preceded by Frank Murkowski
Succeeded by Jay Rockefeller
In office
January 3, 1977  January 3, 1981
Preceded by Vance Hartke
Succeeded by Alan K. Simpson
Senate Majority Whip
In office
January 3, 1987  January 3, 1991
Leader Robert Byrd
George Mitchell
Preceded by Alan K. Simpson
Succeeded by Wendell Ford
In office
January 3, 1977  January 3, 1981
Leader Robert Byrd
Preceded by Robert Byrd
Succeeded by Ted Stevens
Senate Minority Whip
In office
January 3, 1981  January 3, 1987
Leader Robert Byrd
Preceded by Ted Stevens
Succeeded by Alan K. Simpson
United States Senator
from California
In office
January 3, 1969  January 3, 1993
Preceded by Thomas Kuchel
Succeeded by Barbara Boxer
25th Controller of California
In office
January 5, 1959  January 2, 1967
Governor Pat Brown
Preceded by Robert C. Kirkwood
Succeeded by Houston I. Flournoy
Personal details
Born Alan MacGregor Cranston
(1914-06-19)June 19, 1914
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
Died December 31, 2000(2000-12-31) (aged 86)
Los Altos, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Geneva McMath (Divorced)
Norma Weintraub (Divorced)
Education Pomona College
Stanford University (BA)

Alan MacGregor Cranston (June 19, 1914 – December 31, 2000) was an American politician, journalist and world federalist who served as a United States Senator from California, from 1969 to 1993.

Born in Palo Alto, California, Cranston worked as a journalist after graduating from Stanford University. After serving as California State Controller, Cranston won election to the Senate in 1968. He became the Senate Democratic Whip in 1977 and held that position until 1991. In 1984, Cranston sought the Democratic presidential nomination, advocating a nuclear freeze during the later stages of the Cold War. He dropped out after the first set of primaries.

In 1991, the Senate Ethics Committee reprimanded Cranston for his role in the savings and loan crisis as a member of the Keating Five. After being diagnosed with prostate cancer, he decided not to run for a fifth term. After his retirement from the Senate, he served as president of the Global Security Institute and advocated for the global abolition of nuclear weapons.

Personal life and education

Cranston was born in Palo Alto, California, the son of Carol (née Dixon) and William MacGregor Cranston. He attended Pomona College for one year, studied abroad for a summer at the National Autonomous University of Mexico before graduating from Stanford University in 1936 with a degree in English.[1][2]

Cranston was born into a well-to-do family from Northern California with interests in real estate. He married and divorced twice. His first wife, Geneva McMath, was the mother of his sons, Robin, who died young in an auto accident, and Kim, who survived him. Cranston was later married to Norma Weintraub.[3]

Early career

Cranston was a correspondent for the International News Service for two years preceding World War II.[4] When an abridged English-language translation of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf was released, sanitized to exclude some of Hitler's anti-semitism and militancy, Cranston published a different translation (with annotations) which he believed more accurately reflected the contents of the book. In 1939, Hitler's publisher sued him for copyright violation in Connecticut; a judge ruled in Hitler's favor and publication of the book was halted, but by then a half million copies had been sold, helping inform a wide audience about the threat Hitler posed.

Before enlisting in the armed forces in 1944 as a private (he held the rank of sergeant at his discharge), he worked as an editor and writer for the magazine Common Ground and later worked in the Office of War Information. The following year he wrote a second book, The Killing of the Peace, a synopsis of the failed bid to get the United States to join the League of Nations immediately following World War I.

Cranston, a supporter of world government, attended the 1945 conference that led to the Dublin Declaration, and became president of the World Federalist Association in 1948.[5] He successfully pushed for his state's legislature to pass the 1949 World Federalist California Resolution, calling on Congress to amend the Constitution to allow U.S. participation in a federal world government. Also in the late 1940s, Cranston began his longstanding opposition to nuclear weapons.[6]

In 1952, Cranston co-founded the California Democratic Council (CDC), and served as chairman. Since that time, the CDC has served as an unofficial coalition of local Democratic clubs that coordinate electoral activities and activism throughout California. The CDC provided substantial support to Cranston in his bid for State Controller in 1958 and his numerous runs for the U.S. Senate.

Public office

State Controller

A Democrat, Cranston was elected California State Controller in 1958 and re-elected in 1962, and defeated for reelection in 1966.


In 1968, he was elected to the first of four six-year terms United States Senate, defeating Republican Max Rafferty in the general election after the staunchly conservative Rafferty had defeated the liberal Republican incumbent, Thomas Kuchel, in that party's primary.

The general election itself was also marred by mudslinging. A conservative writer, Frank Capell, authored a pamphlet suggesting that Cranston may have had Communist leanings in his youth, and that during his stint at the Office of War Information he helped falsely convince Franklin D. Roosevelt that Nazi Germany had perpetrated the Katyń massacre. Many of the same allegations were recycled in an article that ran in American Opinion in 1974 entitled "Alan Cranston: The Shadow in the Senate". (The article's title was a reference to Lamont Cranston, the name of the main character in the popular radio program The Shadow).

During his first few months in office, Cranston introduced a resolution calling for President Nixon to halt closing 59 Job Corps Centers.[7] He amended the original resolution to include a June 30 deadline that would allow Congress to do a study into the targeted facilities and removed language critiquing the Nixon administration for doing damage to the lives of trainees by closing the facilities down. In late April 1969, the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee approved the revised Cranston proposal in a vote of 10 to 6. Cranston predicted victory for the resolution when it was taken up for a vote by the entire chamber.[8] The Senate rejected his proposal on May 13, 1969, by a vote of 52 to 40.[7]

In a September 12, 1971 statement, Cranston disputed claims by the Pentagon that military manpower and national security would be threatened by Congress not renewing President Nixon's draft authority and stated that he would filibuster the draft measure.[9]

In September 1973, Cranston introduced an amendment that would reduce American forces overseas by 20 percent in the next year and a half and would include Naval forces. It was introduced as a fallback amendment to the 40 percent reduction in American forces overseas proposal offered by Senator Mike Mansfield.[10]

In November 1973, Cranston announced his support for the nomination of Gerald Ford as Vice President. He stated his support came after consulting "several hundred persons — Democrats and Republicans, business and labor leaders, elected politicians and party functionaries —in his own state of California" and finding Ford to have little opposition.[11]

On April 23, 1974, Cranston stated that members of the Veterans Administration were encouraged to contribute campaign contributions to the re-election campaign of President Nixon and that head of the Veterans Administration Donald E. Johnson was privy to these activities. Cranston's allegations were verified later that day by a former employee of the VA who admitted being solicited for contributions.[12]

In 1974, Cranston defeated Republican H.L. "Bill" Richardson, a conservative state senator previously affiliated with the John Birch Society. Cranston polled 3,693,160 votes (60.5 percent) to Richardson's 2,210,267 (36.2 percent).

In 1979, after nineteen senators signed a letter indicating that their support for the SALT II treaty was hinged on President Jimmy Carter's response to its impact on U.S. defense posture, Cranston stated that their concerns were legitimate but mostly did not "relate directly to the text of the SALT II treat" and it was likely their hope that their issues with the treaty could be resolved without the usage of killer amendments.[13]

In 1980, Cranston defeated Republican Paul Gann, 4,705,399 (56.5 percent) to 3,093,426 (37.1 percent). His 1980 reelection campaign was notable for a July 31 benefit that would be the last concert The Eagles played at together for 14 years. During the event Cranston's wife thanked Eagles guitarist Don Felder for performing, to which Felder reportedly replied, "You're welcome...I guess." Bandmate Glenn Frey took exception to Felder's comment, leading to onstage bickering and the breakup of the band immediately following the concert.[14][15]

In March 1981, Cranston was one of twenty-four elected officials to issue a joint statement calling on the Reagan administration compose a method of finding a peaceful solution that would end the Ulster conflict.[16]

In April 1981, during a Senate floor speech, Cranston asserted that India and Pakistan had entered the final stages of their preparation for nuclear test sites, speculating that India "will decide to make another test at the Pokaran site in the next few months" and Pakistan "could produce the fissile materials for a similar test, perhaps by the end of this year, most likely by the end of 1982." While Cranston did not identify the source of his information, senior officials in the Reagan administration verified "the gist of Senator Cranston's information."[17]

The New York Times characterized him as a "bald, craggy-looking, none-too-charismatic man."[18]

Cranston was elected again in 1986 defeating Republican nominee Congressman Ed Zschau.

On October 2, 1990, Cranston was one of nine senators to vote against the nomination of David Souter for Associate Justice on the Supreme Court.[19][20]

Presidential candidate

Cranston was Democratic Whip from 1977 to 1991.

He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination for the 1984 election. He became the first announced candidate on February 1, 1983. Despite his age (69) and appearance that seemed even older (he dyed his little remaining white hair a color that most called orange[21]), Cranston quickly became a recognized candidate. His strong support for a nuclear freeze won him an intense following among anti-nuclear activists, support that translated into campaign donations, committed staff (future Washington Senator Maria Cantwell moved to the state in 1983 to head up Cranston's caucus campaign effort there) and volunteers and straw poll victories in Wisconsin, California, and Alabama. However, the entry of George McGovern into the race in September 1983 cut into Cranston's support. He finished a weak fourth in Iowa in February 1984 and dropped out a week later after finishing seventh out of eight candidates in New Hampshire, with only 2 percent of the vote.

Cranston also faced a campaign debt of $2 million from his 1984 run as he began gearing up for an expensive and tough re-election fight in 1986, when he narrowly defeated the liberal Republican U.S. Representative Ed Zschau, who later left the Republican Party.


Cranston was reprimanded by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics for "improper conduct" on November 20, 1991, after Lincoln Savings head Charles Keating's companies contributed $850,000 to voter registration groups closely affiliated with the senator. Keating had wanted federal regulators to stop "hounding" his savings and loan association. Although the committee found that "no evidence was presented to the Committee that Senator Cranston ever agreed to help Mr. Keating in return for a contribution," the committee deemed Cranston's misconduct the worst among the Keating Five. Cranston decided against running for a fifth term while he battled prostate cancer.

Track and field

Throughout his public life, Cranston was notable for practicing and participating in the sport of track and field as a sprinter in special senior races. Many of the events, races for senior sprinters at major track meets, were the early events that became the sport of masters athletics. While on his many political trips, Cranston would spend time sprinting in long hotel hallways to maintain his fitness.[22]

Retirement and death

He dedicated his retirement to the global abolition of nuclear weapons, first through the Nuclear Weapon Elimination Initiative of the State of the World Forum, and then as President of the Global Security Institute, which he founded in 1999.[23]

He lived in Los Altos, California, from his retirement until his death on December 31, 2000.

See also


  1. Alan Cranston Biography - Childhood, Life Achievements & Timeline
  2. Alan Cranston Memorial Tributes and Addresses
  3. "Alan Cranston, Former U.S. Senator, Is Dead at 86". The New York Times. January 1, 2001.
  4. Farrell, Harry (November 21, 1999). "Out of the limelight, former U.S. Sen. Cranston fights a battle for peace". San Jose Mercury News. Archived from the original on August 15, 2000.
  5. About the Democratic World Federalists Archived 2007-09-09 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. Jonathan Schell (January 4, 2001). "Alan Cranston". The Nation.
  7. 1 2 "Senate Vote on Jobs Corps Center". New York Times. May 14, 1969.
  8. "Cranston Predicts Job Corps". Independent. May 1, 1969.
  9. "CRANSTON DISPUTES PENTAGON ON DRAFT". New York Times. September 13, 1971.
  10. "Senate Votes, Then Voids, 40% Cut in Troops Abroad". New York Times. September 27, 1973.
  11. "Democratic Liberals Divided on Ford". New York Times. November 27, 1973.
  12. Rosenbaum, David E. (April 24, 1974). "Cranston Says V.A. Employes Were Solicited for Nixon Gifts". New York Times.
  13. "Carter to Meet 19 Senators 'Concerned' About SALT". Washington Post. December 17, 1979.
  14. "The 10 Messiest Band Breakups". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  15. Ellwood, Alsion (Director) (January 19, 2013). History of the Eagles Part One (Documentary). Showtime.
  16. "24 POLITICIANS URGE U.S. ROLE IN ENDING ULSTER STRIFE". New York Times. March 17, 1981.
  18. "Alan Cranston, Former U.S. Senator, Is Dead at 86". New York Times. 1 January 2001. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  19. Berke, Richard L. (October 3, 1990). "Senate Confirms Souter, 90 to 9, As Supreme Court's 105th Justice". New York Times.
  20. "Senate vote on Souter". UPI. October 2, 1990.
  21. Reed, Christopher (2 January 2001). "Obituaries: Alan Cranston". The Guardian
  22. Archived May 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  23. Bock, Alan: Eye on the Empire,
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert C. Kirkwood
Controller of California
Succeeded by
Houston I. Flournoy
Party political offices
Preceded by
Richard Richards
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from California
(Class 3)

1968, 1974, 1980, 1986
Succeeded by
Barbara Boxer
Preceded by
Robert Byrd
Senate Democratic Whip
Succeeded by
Wendell Ford
Title last held by
Ted Stevens
John Rhodes
Response to the State of the Union address
Served alongside: Robert Byrd, Al Gore, Gary Hart, Bennett Johnston, Ted Kennedy, Tip O'Neill, Don Riegle, Paul Sarbanes, Jim Sasser
Succeeded by
Les AuCoin, Joe Biden, Bill Bradley, Robert Byrd, Tom Daschle, Bill Hefner, Barbara B. Kennelly, George Miller, Tip O'Neill, Paul Tsongas, Tim Wirth
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Thomas Kuchel
United States Senator (Class 3) from California
Served alongside: George Murphy, John V. Tunney, S. I. Hayakawa, Pete Wilson, John F. Seymour, Dianne Feinstein
Succeeded by
Barbara Boxer
Preceded by
Robert Byrd
Senate Majority Whip
Succeeded by
Ted Stevens
Preceded by
Vance Hartke
Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Alan K. Simpson
Preceded by
Ted Stevens
Senate Majority Whip
Preceded by
Alan K. Simpson
Senate Majority Whip
Succeeded by
Wendell Ford
Preceded by
Frank Murkowski
Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Jay Rockefeller
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