Robert Rice Reynolds

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For other people named Robert Reynolds, see Robert Reynolds (disambiguation).
Robert Rice Reynolds
Robert Rice Reynolds.jpg
United States Senator
from North Carolina
In office
December 5, 1932 – January 3, 1945
Preceded by Cameron A. Morrison
Succeeded by Clyde R. Hoey
Personal details
Born (1884-06-18)June 18, 1884
Asheville, North Carolina
Died February 13, 1963(1963-02-13) (aged 78)
Asheville, North Carolina
Nationality American
Political party Democratic

Robert Rice Reynolds (June 18, 1884 – February 13, 1963) was a Democratic U.S. senator from North Carolina between 1932 and 1945. Almost from the outset of his Senate career, "Our Bob," as he was known among supporters back home, acquired distinction as a passionate isolationist and increasingly as an apologist for Nazi aggression in Europe. Even after America's entry into World War II, according to a contemporary study of subversive elements in America, he "publicly endorsed the propaganda efforts of Gerald L. K. Smith," whose scurrilous publication The Cross and the Flag "violently assailed the United States war effort and America's allies."[1] Reynolds and Smith, one of the nation's most influential fascists, likewise collaborated on The Defender, an anti-Semitic newspaper partly owned by Reynolds.[2] Reynolds on occasion turned over his Senate office facilities to subversive propagandists and allowed them to use his franking privilege to mail their literature postage-free.[3]


Originally from the town of Asheville, Reynolds practiced law there and was elected to serve as solicitor (prosecuting attorney) for the area (1910–1914). He ran for Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina in 1924, losing to J. Elmer Long in the Democratic primary. Reynolds first ran for the United States Senate in 1926, but was not successful. He ran again in 1932 and defeated interim Senator Cameron Morrison in the Democratic primary runoff by nearly two to one after running a particularly nasty, populist campaign, which accused Morrison of being a Communist sympathizer. During one campaign speech, he proclaimed, "Cam likes fish eggs, and Red Russian fish eggs at that. Don't you want a Senator who likes North Carolina hen eggs?"[citation needed]

President Franklin Roosevelt recruited Franklin W. Hancock, Jr. to oppose Reynolds in the 1938 Democratic primary, but Reynolds won handily.

In 1941, Reynolds became chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs.

A confidential 1943 analysis of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Isaiah Berlin for the British Foreign Office stated that Reynolds[4]

is exceptional among Southerners, in that he is a bitter Isolationist of a disreputable kind. His Anglophobia is proverbial and his journal The Vindicator is a low-grade Fascist sheet. He is distrusted by the majority of his colleagues and his assumption of the chairmanship of the Military Affairs Committee (by seniority) was universally regarded as disastrous outside his own circle of chauvinist demagogues. His State produces cotton and tobacco and he, therefore, votes for reciprocal trade pacts.

By 1944, the Democratic Party had had enough of Reynolds and chose former governor Clyde R. Hoey to seek Reynolds's seat in the primary. As a result, Reynolds did not seek reelection. Hoey won the primary and went on to win the general election in a landslide victory over a Republican opponent. Reynolds did seek to return to the Senate in 1950, but was hopelessly discredited by this time and won only 10% in the Democratic primary, behind Frank Porter Graham and Willis Smith.

Personal life[edit]

On October 9, 1941, the then 19-year-old Evalyn McLean, daughter of Edward B. McLean, the former publisher/owner of the Washington Post, and Evalyn Walsh McLean, became the fifth wife of then 57-year-old Senator Reynolds.[5] She died of a sleeping pill overdose on September 20, 1946, which some believe is a result of the Hope Diamond curse. Their daughter, Mamie Spears Reynolds Gregory (d. 2014), became an owner and driver for the Reynolds Racing Team of Asheville, the first woman to qualify for the Daytona 500, and co-owner of the ABA Kentucky Colonels professional basketball team.[6]

After leaving public life, Reynolds practiced law and real estate until his death, in Asheville.

He wrote the book Gypsy Trails, Around the World in an Automobile; Asheville, NC: Advocate Publishing Company (presumed date 1923).[7]


  1. ^ Michael Sayers and Albert E. Kahn, Sabotage, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1942, p. 249.
  2. ^ Charles Higham, American Swastika, Doubleday & Co., Garden City, N.Y., 1985, p. 52.
  3. ^ Sayers and Kahn, pp. 193, 227.
  4. ^ Hachey, Thomas E. (Winter 1973–1974). "American Profiles on Capitol Hill: A Confidential Study for the British Foreign Office in 1943" (PDF). Wisconsin Magazine of History 57 (2): 141–153. JSTOR 4634869. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-21.  The scholar who in 1973 edited and analyzed Berlin's report described his allegations regarding Reynolds' sympathy to fascism as "both intemperate and gratuitous".
  5. ^ Lewiston Daily Sun - October 10, 1941
  6. ^ News & Observer
  7. ^ World Catalog

External links[edit]

United States Senate
Preceded by
Cameron A. Morrison
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from North Carolina
December 5, 1932 – January 3, 1945
Served alongside: Josiah William Bailey
Succeeded by
Clyde R. Hoey