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Created 3 March 2010
George was born 8 July 1907 in Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico and married 2 July 1931 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, Lenore Emily LAFOUNT, the daughter of Harold Arundel LAFOUNT and Alma ROBINSON. She was born 9 November 1908 in Logan, Cache, Utah and died 7 July 1998, in Bloomfield Hills, Oakland, Michigan. George died 26 July 1995 in Bloomfield Hills, Oakland, Michigan.
Romney was born in the Mexican state of Chihuahua to Gaskell Romney and Anna Amelia Pratt. Romney's grandparents were polygamous Mormons who fled the United States when the Mormon church disavowed polygamy; polygamy was a federal crime in the U.S. and Mexico, but ignored in remote Mexican villages. When the Mexican Revolution broke out, Romney's family went to Oakley, Idaho, and finally ending up in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In 1926, Romney spent two years as a Mormon missionary in England and Scotland.
Romney took coursework at the University of Utah and George Washington University, but never completed work on a college degree.
In the late 1920s, Romney followed his high school sweetheart, Lenore LaFount, to Washington, DC after her father had accepted a government position. Romney became a speechwriter for Massachusetts Democratic senator David I. Walsh, then moved on to become a lobbyist for Alcoa in 1930. When LaFount, an aspiring actress, began earning bit roles in Hollywood movies, Romney was able to be transferred out West to continue the relationship. When LaFount had the opportunity to sign a three-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, Romney convinced her to return to Washington, and married her on July 2, 1931. They had four children: Lynn, Jane, G. Scott and Mitt.
After nine years with Alcoa, Romney's career had stagnated, so he moved to Detroit with his wife and their two daughters to become the local manager of the Automobile Manufacturers Association. During World War II, Romney headed the Automotive Council for War Production, which worked to optimize automotive companies' war production.
After the war, Romney worked as an executive for the manufacturing firm Nash-Kelvinator Corporation under company head George W. Mason, and played a key role in the development of the Rambler. When that firm merged on May 1, 1954 with Hudson Motor Car to become the American Motors Corporation (AMC), Romney became the chairman of the combined company.
Working with Mason and chief engineer Meade Moore, Romney elected to phase out the well-known but poor selling Nash and Hudson brands in favor of the Rambler nameplate, as part of a then-untried strategy of focusing on making compact cars exclusively, an approach that led to unexpected financial success for AMC. At the time of the decision, the company had been on the verge of being taken over by corporate raider Louis Wolfson, but the company's resurgence made Romney a household name, and he capitalized on it by entering politics.
He led the Constitutional Convention that revised Michigan's Constitution from 1961 to 1962 and followed this up with a successful 1962 campaign for Governor of Michigan. However, his running mate was defeated by the Democratic candidate and incumbent, Thaddeus Lesinski. Romney was a strong supporter of civil rights and was generally considered a moderate Republican, perhaps a bit to the right of Nelson Rockefeller, but well to the left of Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan.
After deciding to wait out the 1964 election, Romney announced he was a candidate for president in the 1968 election. Polls in 1967 showed him the leader among rank and file Republicans, especially among the "moderates."
On 31 August 1967 Governor Romney made a statement that ruined his chances for getting the nomination. In a taped interview with Lou Gordon of WKBD-TV in Detroit, Romney stated, "When I came back from Viet Nam [in November 1965], I'd just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get." He then shifted to opposing the war: "I no longer believe that it was necessary for us to get involved in South Vietnam to stop Communist aggression in Southeast Asia," he declared. Decrying the "tragic" conflict, he urged "a sound peace in South Vietnam at an early time." Thus Romney disavowed the war and reversed himself from his earlier stated belief that the war was "morally right and necessary." The connotations of brainwashing following the experiences of the American prisoners of war (highlighted by the 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate) made Romney's comments devastating to his status as the GOP front-runner. Republican Congressman Robert Stafford of Vermont sounded a common concern: "If you're running for the presidency," he asserted, "you are supposed to have too much on the ball to be brainwashed." At the National Convention Romney finished a weak 6th with only 50 votes on the first ballot (44 of Michigan's 48 plus 6 from Utah).
Following Nixon's election, Romney was named to the cabinet as Housing and Urban Development secretary. He served in that office until the start of Nixon's second term in January 1973. During his four years, Romney slightly increased the amount of federally subsidized housing, but was prevented from expanding the concept to suburban areas.
Romney was known as an advocate of public service. At the first meeting of the National Center for Voluntary Action (NCVA), February 20, 1970, he said:
Americans have four basic ways of solving problems that are too big for individuals to handle by themselves. One is through the federal government. A second is through state governments and the local governments that the states create. The third is through the private sector - the economic sector that includes business, agriculture, and labor. The fourth method is the independent sector - the voluntary, cooperative action of free individuals and independent association. Voluntary action is the most powerful of these, because it is uniquely capable of stirring the people themselves and involving their enthusiastic energies, because it is their own - voluntary action is the people's action. As Woodrow Wilson said, "The most powerful force on earth is the spontaneous cooperation of a free people." Individualism makes cooperation worthwhile - but cooperation makes freedom possible.
The George W. Romney Institute of Public Management at Brigham Young University honors the legacy left behind by Romney.
For much of the next two decades, he was out of the public eye, but re-emerged in 1994 when he helped campaign for his son, Mitt Romney, during the younger Romney's unsuccessful bid to unseat Senator Edward M. Kennedy in Massachusetts.
That same year, Romney's ex-daughter-in-law, Ronna Romney, decided to seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate from Michigan while continuing to use her married name. (She was formerly married to the governor's other son, G. Scott Romney.) The former governor showed his displeasure by endorsing her opponent, Spencer Abraham, who went on to win the primary and the general election.
The following year, Romney died of a heart attack at the age of 88, while exercising on his treadmill in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Romney served as a patriarch for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints until his death.
In 2002, Mitt Romney, also a Republican, was elected to the office of Governor of Massachusetts.
Romney was born in Mexico, which raised the issue if he was eligible to be President, which is constitutionally limited to a "natural born citizen" of the United States. Both his parents were American citizens, and he returned to the U.S. before he turned 21. That was sufficient for him to be a U.S. citizen, but not necessarily to pass the "natural born" test (which only applies to presidents). The issue was never tested in court and contrasts with the cases of Barry Goldwater, who was born in the Arizona Territory, and John McCain, who was born to American parents in the Panama Canal Zone at a time it was part of the U.S. and his father (a naval officer) was assigned to duty there. The Romneys had purposely left American legal jurisdiction.
George W. Romney, an automobile executive who became a three-term Governor of Michigan, a Republican Presidential candidate and a member of the Nixon Cabinet, died yesterday at his home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., a Detroit suburb. He was 88.
His wife, Lenore, whom he married in 1931, found him collapsed yesterday morning on the treadmill in the exercise room of their home, their son G. Scott Romney said. The office of the Oakland County Medical Examiner issued a statement saying only that Mr. Romney had died of natural causes.
Mr. Romney was chairman and president of the American Motors Corporation when he resigned in 1962 to run, successfully, for Governor. He ran for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1968 but dropped out of the race just before the New Hampshire primary. He then served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in President Richard M. Nixon's first term.
Mr. Romney represented the liberal wing of the Republican Party, supporting civil rights initiatives and Government social programs and opposing the war in Vietnam. His politics proved successful in Michigan, where he was elected Governor three times, by increasingly large margins.
But as a politician on the national stage, he seemed wooden. He was ridiculed because of a remark in 1967 that he had originally supported the war in Vietnam because he had been "brainwashed" by generals and diplomats during a visit there in 1965. As Housing Secretary, he was outside President Nixon's inner circle and was relegated to pleading in vain for an expansion of urban and other domestic programs.
Mr. Romney resigned after Mr. Nixon was re-elected in 1972 and essentially retired from public life. But he re-emerged last year to campaign actively for his other son, Mitt, who ran for the Senate in Massachusetts and lost to the incumbent, Edward M. Kennedy.
George Wilcken Romney was born in 1907 in a Mormon colony in Chihuahua, Mexico. His parents were American citizens and monogamists, but they had moved to Mexico along with many other Mormons when Congress outlawed polygamy in the 1880's.
His parents moved back to the United States when he was a child, and he was reared in Idaho and Utah. He served two years as a Mormon missionary in England and Scotland. He also attended several colleges but never graduated.
As a young man, Mr. Romney worked in Washington as a speechwriter for a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, David T. Walsh. He then became a Washington lobbyist for the aluminum industry and an official of the Automobile Manufacturers Association.
In 1948, he joined the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation. Six years later, Nash-Kelvinator merged with the Hudson Motor Car Company to create American Motors, and Mr. Romney became president of the company. He managed to rescue American Motors from near collapse with a successful promotion of the company's Rambler as a midget mightier than Detroit's "gas-guzzling dinosaurs."
He also became engaged in civic affairs, heading a citizens' committee for Detroit's schools and organizing a political group, Citizens for Michigan, to study Detroit's problems.
In 1962, after weeks of agonizing and a 24-hour prayerful fast, Mr. Romney resigned from American Motors to run for Governor against the Democratic incumbent, John B. Swainson. With an appeal to labor unions unusual for a Republican, Mr. Romney won by 78,000 votes and became the first Republican Governor of Michigan in 14 years.
He was re-elected in 1964 and 1966. In 1967, he became the first announced candidate for the 1968 Republican Presidential nomination.
In the early campaigning in New Hampshire, Mr. Romney was a front-runner. But as the weeks went by, he was increasingly dogged by his remark about having been brainwashed. The perception grew, fairly or not, that he was a witless candidate with his foot in his mouth.
Mr. Romney always maintained that his real problem had been that there was not room for both him and Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York as candidates to the left of Mr. Nixon. But Mr. Rockefeller did not enter the race in earnest until the Romney candidacy had faltered.
As Housing Secretary, Mr. Romney tried to expand public housing and move some of it into the suburbs. He did increase somewhat the amount of federally subsidized housing, but others in the Administration blocked his efforts to place it in suburbs.
In retirement, Mr. Romney remained physically active, walking several miles a day and playing golf.
In addition to his wife and two sons, he is survived by two daughters, Lynn Keenan and Jane Romney; 23 grandchildren, and 33 great-grandchildren.
Lenore LaFount Romney (November 9, 1908 – July 7, 1998) was a former First Lady of Michigan and a Michigan politician.
Romney was born in Logan, Utah to Harold Arundel LaFount (1880-1952) and Alma Luella Robison (1882-1938). She was the wife of former Michigan Governor George W. Romney, having married him on July 2, 1931 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the mother of Mitt Romney, who was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 2002. She had three other children: Lynn, Jane, and G. Scott Romney.
She married George Romney while he was a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., after he convinced her to give up a budding acting career in Los Angeles. She abandoned a three-year contract she had just signed with MGM. The couple then moved to Michigan, where George Romney worked as an automobile executive.
When her husband was elected Governor of Michigan, she became the state's first lady. She moved back to Washington in 1969, when her husband became the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the administration of President Richard Nixon. In 1970, Mrs. Romney ran for the United States Senate from Michigan but was defeated by incumbent Democrat Philip A. Hart by a wide margin.
Lenore Romney died in Michigan and is interred in Fairview Cemetery in Brighton, Michigan, in the same grave as her husband.
CHILDREN of George WILCKEY ROMNEY and Lenore Emily LAFOUNT:
1. LYNN b: ; , , . _____ KEHNAN 2. JANE b: ; , , . md: ; . . . _____ ROBINSON 3. GEORGE SCOTT b: 7 Jun 1941; , , . md: ; , , . Miss STERN 3. WILLARD MITT b: 12 Mar 1947; Detroit, Wayne, Michigan. md: ; , , . Ann Lois DAVISBack to Gaskell ROMNEY's Family Page.
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