About Oswald Garrison Villard
Oswald Garrison Villard (March 13, 1872 – October 1, 1949) was an American journalist. He provided a rare direct link between the anti-imperialism of the late 19th century and the conservative Old Right of the 1930s and 1940s.
He was born in Wiesbaden, while his parents were living in Germany; he was the son of Henry Villard, an American newspaper correspondent who was an immigrant from Germany, and Fanny Garrison Villard, daughter of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison; she was a suffragist and one of the founders of the Women's Peace Movement. His father later invested in railroads, and bought The Nation and the New York Evening Post.
Villard graduated from Harvard University in 1893. In 1894, he began to write regularly for the New York Evening Post and The Nation, and said that he and his fellow staff members were
". . . radical on peace and war and on the Negro question; radical in our insistence that the United States stay at home and not go to war abroad and impose its imperialistic will upon Latin-American republics, often with great slaughter. We were radical in our demand for free trade and our complete opposition to the whole protective system."
Villard was also a founder of the American Anti-Imperialist League which favored independence for the territories captured in the Spanish-American War. To further the cause, he worked to organize "a third ticket" in 1900 to challenge William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley. He was joined in this effort by several key veterans of the 1896 National Democratic Party. Not surprisingly, Villard made a personal appeal to ex-president Grover Cleveland, a hero of the gold Democrats, urging him to be the candidate. Cleveland demurred, asserting that voters no longer cared what he had to say.
Villard was a pioneer, and today largely unsung, civil rights leader. In 1910, he donated space in the New York Evening Post for the "call" to the meeting which formally organized the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. For many years, Villard served as the NAACP’s disbursing treasurer while Moorfield Storey, another Cleveland Democrat, was its president. In 1916 he was elected president of the Symphony Society of New York. In 1910 he published John Brown 1800-1859: A Biography Fifty Years After, a biography of John Brown. He wrote Germany Embattled (1915) and monographs on the early history of Wall Street and on the German Imperial court. As a pacifist, Villard opposed the US entry into World War I.
While Villard continued to champion civil liberties, civil rights, and anti-imperialism after World War I, he had largely abandoned his previous belief in laissez-faire economics. During the 1930s, he welcomed the advent of the New Deal and called for nationalization of major industries. In 1943, Villard engaged in a debate with philosopher Ayn Rand on the topic of collectivism versus individualism, sponsored by the American Economic Association, which was published in a number of newspapers.
Always independent-minded, however, he bitterly dissented from the foreign policy of the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the late 1930s. He was an early member of the America First Committee which opposed U.S. entry into World War II. He broke completely with The Nation, which he had sold in 1935 because it supported American intervention. At the same time, he became increasingly repelled by the New Deal bureaucratic state, which he condemned as a precursor to American fascism. Also, he deplored the air raids carried out by the allies in the later years of World War II, saying:
"What was criminal in Coventry, Rotterdam, Warsaw and London has now become heroic in Dresden and now Tokyo."
After 1945, Villard made common cause with "old right" conservatives, such as Senator Robert A. Taft, Felix Morley, and John T. Flynn, against the Cold War policies of Harry S. Truman. He died in 1949.
His oldest son was Henry Hilgard Villard who was head of the economics department at the City College of New York and the first male president of Planned Parenthood of New York City. His youngest son was Oswald Garrison Villard, Jr., who was a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University. His daughter, Dorothy Villard Hammond, was a member of the American University at Cairo.
On February 21, 2009 the US Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Villard's civil rights work.