F. Clifton White

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F. Clifton White
Born Frederick Clifton White
June 13, 1918
Leonardsville, New York, USA
Died January 9, 1993 (aged 74)
Greenwich, Connecticut
Residence New York City
Alma mater Colgate University
Occupation Professor at Ithaca College and Cornell University
Campaign consultant
Political party

New York State Conservative Party

Campaign strategist for the Draft Goldwater Committee, 1964
Spouse(s) Gladys Bunnell White (married 1940-1993, his death)

A. Carole Green

F. Clifton White, Jr.

Frederick Clifton White, Sr., known as F. Clifton White or Clif White (June 13, 1918 - January 9, 1993), was an American political consultant and campaign manager for candidates of the Republican Party, the New York Conservative Party, and some foreign clients. He is best remembered as the moving force behind the Draft Goldwater Committee from 1961 to 1964, which secured a majority of delegates to nominate U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, the first modern conservative presidential candidate since Calvin Coolidge.[citation needed]

Life and career[edit]

White was born on June 13, 1918 in Leonardsville in upstate New York and graduated in 1940 from Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. He flew as a navigator on dozens of missions for the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, having earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war, he taught political science at Ithaca College and Cornell University.[1]

In his only candidacy, White was defeated in a Republican primary election for Congress in 1946, a heavily Republican year. His activism grew more intense; he served in Youth for Dewey in 1948 and rose to chair the New York State Young Republicans organization. He was also chairman of the Republican parties in Ithaca and Tompkins County, New York. He attended all Republican national conventions from 1948 to 1992 and was widely recognized for his bow ties and colorful suits.[1]

His Young Republicans activism brought him into collaboration with conservative firebrands, William A. Rusher [2] and John M. Ashbrook,[3] to nominate a conservative Republican for President. The effort began quietly with meetings in 1961 with other party activists. The movement grew to a full-time operation with a Manhattan office opened in the spring of 1962; its address in the Chanin Building gave White the title of his account of the Goldwater campaign, Suite 3505.[4]

Goldwater's speech at the 1960 Republican National Convention had included the phrase, "Let's grow up, conservatives. If we want to take this party back, and I think some day we can. Let's get to work."[5] White and other younger activists took this as their rallying cry and ultimately convinced the reluctant Arizonan to run. He announced his candidacy less than two months after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

White was credited with organizing highly effective grassroots operations in the states that secured enough delegates for a surprising Goldwater victory on the first ballot at the 1964 Republican National Convention held in San Francisco. White's team bested the better-funded Eastern Establishment campaigns of New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton, and several others.

However, after the convention, Goldwater declined to give White the lead role of chairman of the Republican National Committee, a designation which went instead to Dean Burch of Arizona. Goldwater named his personal friend of nearly three decades, Denison Kitchel, a Phoenix lawyer, as the national campaign manager. According to author Theodore H. White (no relation), Clif White was "dismissed" to "an outer circle of advisers." [6] White was left to organize an independent campaign, Citizens for Goldwater-Miller. (This was the group that sponsored the national broadcast of October 27, 1964, "A Time for Choosing", featuring a moving speech by actor Ronald W. Reagan warning of the dire national consequences unless Goldwater were elected. "The speech," as it is now known, is considered the launching pad of Reagan's own career in politics. Inexplicably, several of Goldwater's close advisers tried to halt the Reagan broadcast.)[7] As widely predicted, Goldwater was overwhelmed by incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In 1968, White guided Ronald Reagan's brief presidential campaign. At the time Reagan had been governor of California for fewer than two years. Reagan came in third at the 1968 Republican National Convention held in Miami Beach, Florida, with 182 delegates, behind Rockefeller and first-ballot winner Richard M. Nixon, the former Vice President of the United States.

Back in New York, White managed the 1970 campaign of James L. Buckley, brother of the journalist William F. Buckley, Jr., for the U.S. Senate on the Conservative Party line. Backed by President Nixon and (tacitly) Rockefeller, Buckley won the three-way contest with 38.8 percent of the vote. The Buckley campaign was his first with young pollster Arthur J. Finkelstein, with whom White would go into business in their consulting firm, DirAction Services.[8] Their 1972 campaigns included the Committee to Re-Elect the President (Finkelstein as one of several pollsters), and the successful bid of broadcaster Jesse Helms for the U.S. Senate from North Carolina.

White broke with most conservatives and remained loyal to President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., against Ronald Reagan in the contest for the 1976 Republican nomination. Once in the White House in 1981, President Reagan named White as the director of Radio Marti, which broadcast pro-U.S. programming to communist Cuba.

His foreign clients included President Carlos Andrés Pérez of Venezuela, in Pérez's successful 1973 election campaign. He also served as president of the International Association of Political Consultants, and of its U.S. branch.[1] His corporate clients included U.S. Steel, Standard Oil of Indiana and General Electric.[9]

White was the founding director of the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University in Ohio,[10] a position that he held from 1983 until 1992 when he retired because of health issues.

He died on January 9, 1993.


White wrote several books, including Suite 3505: The Story of the Draft Goldwater Movement (1967)[11] and Why Reagan Won: The Conservative Movement 1964-81 (1981),[12] both co-authored with William J. Gill.


  1. ^ a b c Lambert, Bruce, "F. Clifton White, 74, Long a Republican Strategist", The New York Times, 10 January 1993.
  2. ^ Hodgson, Godfrey, William Rusher obituary", guardian.co.uk, 18 April 2011 17.53 BST. Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  3. ^ Hartz, Jay, "The Political Education of John M. Ashbrook" Archived 2012-03-20 at the Wayback Machine.; On Principal Special Edition for 15th Anniversary of the Ashbrook Center (1998); pp. 11-12. Retrieved 2011-04-21.
  4. ^ White, F. Clifton, with William J. Gill, Suite 3505: The Story of the Draft Goldwater Movement (New Rochelle: Arlington House, 1967; Ashbrook Press, 1992). The Ashbrook Press is part of the Ashbrook Center Ashland University, where White's [papers also reside "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-20. Retrieved 2011-04-21. ]; On Principal Special Edition for 15th Anniversary of the Ashbrook Center (1998); Press p. 3 and papers p. 4. Retrieved 2011-04-21.
  5. ^ Will, George, "The Cheerful Malcontent", Washington Post, 31 May 1998. Goldwater quoted in column.
  6. ^ White, Theodore H., The Making of the President 1964, (New York: Atheneum Publishers, 1965), p. 332n.
  7. ^ White, F. Clifton, with William J. Gill, Suite 3505: The Story of the Draft Goldwater Movement, p. 415 and pp. 408-421 generally.
  8. ^ Buckley, James L., If Men Were Angels: A View From the Senate (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1976), p. 25
  9. ^ White, Theodore H., The Making of the President 1964, pp. 90-96.
  10. ^ Suite 3505, book page at Ashbrook Center website. Retrieved 2011-04-21.
  11. ^ White, F. Clifton, with William J. Gill, Suite 3505: The Story of the Draft Goldwater Movement.
  12. ^ White, F. Clifton, with William J. Gill, Why Reagan Won: The Conservative Movement 1964-81, (Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1981).