Review of Francis Russell’s biography of Warren G Harding (The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G Harding in His Times)

Warren G. Harding 29th President of the United...
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Just what nationality is our President? A common question today? Yes! But also a question asked of our 29th President who had the shadow of African-American ancestry follow him throughout his life.

A poignant and thorough study of our 29th President,  Warren G Harding, Russell’s biography is a very valid examine of the tensions of history and historical research.

Written as he indicates in the acknowledgements “to the accompaniment of a million-dollar lawsuit” because of his involvement in the discovery of the Carrie Phillips letters, one of Harding’s mistress’, Russell traces the history of the Hardings and their tumultuous life.

Well researched, Russell paints a fairly sympathetic picture of Harding and reveals a man, passionate with women, at odds in a strained marriage, and yet one who like to get along with everyone. And that getting along ability was one, I think, that he was nominated and elected President in 1920.

Though this book was published in 1968 (and under court order Russell had to leave out the excerpts of letters between Phillips and Harding) it provides a detail glimpse into the personality of not just Harding but those who served in his cabinet and administration. And some of the dynamics and factors of politics are strangely a part of today’s discussion about the same issues.
I think that Russell did a wonderful job of bringing out the high points (such as a pointed addressed about the rights of African-Americans to an audience in Birmingham, Alabama) and the low points (such as his hesitation to dismiss corrupt members of his cabinet in a timely and forthright way.)

This book is a good, and controversial, introduction to the life of a President who perhaps is the least known and one of the lower “ranked” Presidents.


2 thoughts on “Review of Francis Russell’s biography of Warren G Harding (The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G Harding in His Times)

  1. Oddly phillip k dick mentions this book i his exegesis. So strangely Mr Harding and pkd were slightly intertwined. By the way pkd disliked this book and said that it bored him greatly but he had dreams where he was instructed to read it. Strange eh?

    1. From what little I know about him, I am not surprise. This particular biography has generated all kinds of controversy since it was published. Thanks for stopping by to comment! Jim

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