George Anthony Dondero

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George A. Dondero (16 December 1883 – 29 January 1968) was a Representative to the U.S. House of Representatives from the state of Michigan.


Dondero was born on a farm in Greenfield Township, Michigan, which has since become part of Detroit. His father was an immigrant from Italy and his mother was an immigrant from Germany. He served as the village clerk of Royal Oak, Michigan in 1905 and 1906, as town treasurer in 1907 and 1908, and as village assessor in 1909. He graduated from the Detroit College of Law in 1910, was admitted to the bar, and started a practice in Royal Oak the same year. He was village attorney, 1911–1921 and assistant prosecuting attorney for Oakland County in 1918 and 1919. He was mayor of Royal Oak in 1921 and 1922 and a member of the board of education, 1910-1928.

In 1932, he was elected as a Republican from Michigan's 17th congressional district to the 73rd United States Congress and the eleven succeeding Congresses, serving from March 4, 1933 to January 3, 1957. The 17th district was newly created following redistricting after the 1930 census and Dondero was the first representative elected from that district. Following the 1950 census, the 18th district was created and Dondero was also the first representative elected from that district, which began in 1953. Both districts are now obsolete.

From 1937 to 1947 Dondero served as ranking member of the House Committee on Education. He was chairman of the Committee on Public Works in the 80th and 81st Congresses. In 1954, he sponsored the bill creating the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which allowed large ocean-going vessels access to the Great Lakes.

A sympathiser with McCarthyism,[1] Dondero claimed American liberals had been responsible for a "whitewash" over the Amerasia affair. In 1947, Dondero tried to block the trial of IG Farben executives for war crimes at Nuremberg by withholding funding for the prosecution team before indictments could be handed down.[2]

Dondero was most notable for mounting an attack on modern art, which he claimed to be inspired by Communism. He asserted that "Cubism aims to destroy by designed disorder... Dadaism aims to destroy by ridicule... Abstractionism aims to destroy by the creation of brainstorms".[3] In 1952, Dondero went on to tell Congress that modern art was, in fact, a conspiracy by Moscow to spread communism in the United States.[4] This speech won him the International Fine Arts Council's Gold Medal of Honor for "dedicated service to American Art."[5] When art critic Emily Genauer (future winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism) interviewed Dondero in the mid-1950s he stated "modern art is Communistic because it is distorted and ugly, because it does not glorify our beautiful country, our cheerful and smiling people, our material progress. Art which does not glorify our beautiful country in plain simple terms that everyone can understand breeds dissatisfaction. It is therefore opposed to our government and those who promote it are our enemies."[6] When Genauer pointed out the resemblance between his views and those of the Stalinist Communists he despised, Dondero was so enraged that he arranged to have her fired from her job at the New York Herald Tribune.[6]

Dondero, a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln[citation needed], named his son after Lincoln's son. Dondero died at the age of 84 in Royal Oak, Michigan and is interred there at Oakview Cemetery. Dondero High School in Royal Oak was named for him.


The Detroit News, Sunday, February 8, 1932. Feature-Fiction Section, page 3. Dondero writes of knowing Abraham Lincoln's son, Robert Todd, and daughter-in-law, Mary Harlan. He states that Mary Harlan Lincoln gave him the original letter written to President-elect Abraham Lincoln by 11-year-old Grace Bedell, suggesting that he grow a beard. Dondero further states that, though not a collector of "Lincoln relics," he did "make it a point to get acquainted with Lincoln's relatives, those who knew him, and those writers who have gathered biographical material about him."


  1. ^ The Politics of Fear: Joseph R. Mccarthy and the Senate By Robert Griffith, states Dondero shared McCarthy's strong anti-communism and worked with McCarthy in 1950 in a campaign against the Truman administration(pgs.,37, 97).
  2. ^ The Devil's Chemists -- 24 Conspirators of the International Farben Cartel Who Manufactured Wars. Josiah E. DuBois, Jr. in collaboration with Edward Johnson. Boston: Beacon Press, 1952, 374 pp. DuBois, Deputy Chief Prosecution Counsel, writes on pg 55, "On the House floor, Representative Dondero of Michigan had spoken savagely. How long, he wanted to know, would the American taxpayer stand for this vengeful nonsense?"
  3. ^ CR 16 August 1949; 81st Congress 1st Session, Speech in US House of Representatives.
  4. ^ Hofstadter, R., "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life" (1963) pp. 14-15, where references are given to Dondero's original speeches.
  5. ^ Anticommunism and Modern Art (Accessed June 6, 2008).
  6. ^ a b John Henry Merryman, Albert Edward Elsen, Law, ethics, and the visual arts, Kluwer Law International, 2002, p.537.

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
United States Representative for the 17th Congressional District of Michigan
1933 – 1953
Succeeded by
Charles G. Oakman
Preceded by
United States Representative for the 18th Congressional District of Michigan
1953 – 1957
Succeeded by
William S. Broomfield