John Nance Garner
John Nance Garner.jpg
Historical Figure
Nationality: United States
Date of Birth: 1868
Date of Death: 1967
Cause of Death: Coronary occlusion
Religion: Methodism
Occupation: Politician, Judge
Spouse: Mariette Rheiner (d. 1948)
Children: Tully Charles Garner
Political Party: Democratic Party
Political Office(s): United States Representative from Texas,
Speaker of the House,
Vice President of the United States
Fictional Appearances:
The War That Came Early
POD: July 20, 1936;
Relevant POD: September 29, 1938
Appearance(s): The Big Switch
Type of Appearance: Oblique contemporary reference
Political Office(s): Vice President of the United States
Joe Steele
POD: 1878;
Relevant POD: July, 1932
Novel or Story?: Both
Type of Appearance: Direct
Date of Death: 1953 (story);
Still alive at end of novel
Cause of Death: Execution by firearm (story);
N/A (novel)
Political Office(s): Speaker of the House,
Vice President of the United States,
President of the United States

John Nance "Cactus Jack" Garner IV (November 22, 1868 – November 7, 1967) was an American Democratic politician and lawyer from Texas. He served in both the Texas legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives. He was the 44th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (1931-33) and the 32nd Vice President of the United States (1933-41) under Franklin D. Roosevelt. A conservative Southerner, Garner opposed the sit-down strikes of the labor unions and the New Deal's deficit spending. He broke with Roosevelt in early 1937 over the issue of enlarging the Supreme Court, and helped defeat it on the grounds that it centralized too much power in the President's hands.

Garner made his own bid for the Democratic nomination in 1940. However, Garner's general conservatism turned off many Democrats. At the convention that summer, Roosevelt was able to arrange a "spontaneous" call for his renomination and won on the first ballot. Roosevelt also selected Henry Wallace as his running mate.

Garner retired to his home in Uvalde, Texas, where he became something of an elder statesman for a number of Democratic politicians until his death in 1967.

John Nance Garner in The War That Came Early[]

Vice President John Nance Garner presided over the joint session of Congress wherein President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a formal declaration of war against Japan. This happened on January 12, 1941, a mere eight days before the end of Garner's second term.[1]

Literary comment[]

Garner isn't named, but the POD would not have affected his reelection in 1936. Whether he continued on in FDR's third term, or was replaced as in OTL, is unknown.

John Nance Garner in Joe Steele[]

Garner in his later years.

John Nance Garner IV was a Representative from Texas, Speaker of the House, the 32nd Vice President of the United States (1933-1953), and briefly the 33rd President. He survived the presidency of Joe Steele by keeping his head down and his mouth shut even as Steele destroyed the American democracy. Upon Steele's death, Garner entered a three-way power struggle which he lost, becoming the second president to be impeached, and the first to be convicted and removed from office. His removal also resulted in the end, at least for the foreseeable future, of the office of President of the United States.

While Garner was an early candidate for Democratic Presidential nomination in 1932, the two front-runners for the nomination were Joe Steele of California and New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. Steele convinced Garner to keep the Texas delegation to the Democratic National Convention on board for Steele. In exchange, Steele offered the vice presidency.[2] Garner didn't have much use for the office, but agreed. However, it was Roosevelt's death in a mysterious fire in the Executive Mansion in Albany that clinched Steele's nomination.[3] Garner nonetheless received the number two spot on the ticket.[4] Later on, he admitted that he'd accepted Steele's offer on the belief that he'd be VP for a term or two.[5]

The ticket handily defeated incumbent Herbert Hoover that November.[6] On Election Night, Garner (who was likely in his cups) gave a victory speech in Steele's hometown of Fresno, where he promised that the country would be unrecognizable once Joe Steele was done.[7] This statement proved darkly prophetic.

After inauguration, Garner was quickly marginalized by Steele. The fact that the office of the vice president was limited in itself didn't help. Already a man with a reputation for hard drinking, Garner divided his time in office between the Senate and in a bar near the White House.[8] He was acutely aware of just what sort of a man Steele was, but was determined not to get on Steele's bad side.

Garner and Steele were elected to six terms. Throughout those 20 years, Garner knew that Steele considered him a "poor relation."[9] Indeed, the only member of the Steele administration who paid any attention to Garner was Charlie Sullivan, a former reporter who became a speechwriter for Steele in 1939.[10]

When Steele abruptly died on March 5, 1953, Garner assumed the office of President. To the surprise of everyone, Garner was quite decisive when he came in, giving orders to let the world know, and to arrange a proper funeral for Steele.[11]

Steele's body lay in state in the Rotunda of the Capitol for three days in a row to accommodate the crowds who came to express their grief. Steele was then buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Garner gave the memorial address.[12] Once Steele was in the ground, Garner began acting like a president. He got resignation letters from the entire Cabinet as a matter of form, including Steele's three key aides, Lazar Kagan, Stas Mikoian and Vince Scriabin, and Charlie Sullivan. However, once they'd signed the form letters, Garner announced that he accepted Kagan, Mikoian and Scriabin's resignations effective immediately. Sullivan he let stay on. While both Kagan and Scriabin were indignant, Mikoian had the presence of mind to ask why Garner was doing this. Garner admitted that he was angered by the shabby treatment he'd received from the three. He offered them ambassadorships to soften the blow, with Mikoian going to Afghanistan, Kagan to Paraguay, and Scriabin to Outer Mongolia. He kept Charlie Sullivan around because Sullivan had in fact talked to him and even drank with him over the past twenty years.[13]

He also secured the resignation of the entire cabinet, save for Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Secretary of War George Marshall.[14] But while Mikoian and Kagan left the country for their respective assignments, Scriabin had no interest in going quietly to Outer Mongolia, and began to tap into the remaining clout he had in the Senate.[15] Subsequently, Acheson died in a plane crash. A week later Marshall was about to give a speech, when he turned blue and keeled over. Despite there being several doctors on hand, Marshall could not be saved.[16]

Garner figured out quickly that someone was moving against him, which he confided in Charlie Sullivan. He pointed out that the Presidential Succession Act of 1886 made the Secretary of State the successor if the President died and the position of Vice President was vacant. Sullivan accused Scriabin, and told Garner how he'd overheard a phone call Scriabin made during the 1932 Democratic Convention just prior to the death of Governor Franklin Roosevelt. Garner listened, and decided that Scriabin wasn't the only person who could make such deaths happen. Sullivan then reminded Garner of another likely enemy: J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Government Bureau of Investigation. He suggested that Garner replace his guard detail, almost exclusively GBI agents, with soldiers. No sooner had Garner resolved to do all this than he was informed that the House had introduced legislation to impeach Garner for high crimes and misdemeanors, and suspected Scriabin's hand at work again.[17]

Garner took steps to try to slow down the impeachment process. He issued an executive order eliminating the restricted zone for former wreckers, an act criticized by Hoover. Moreover, the leaders of the impeachment drive were unmoved.[18] The death of Scriabin, who was hit by a car, also did little to halt the impeachment.[19]

In the end the House passed three articles of impeachment, and the case went to the Senate, which voted overwhelmingly for conviction. Embittered, Garner gave a brief press conference where he promised that things would be far worse without him, as it still wasn't clear who was running the country. He planned to retire to Uvalde, although it was still unclear as to whether he might face criminal charges.[20]

The following day, J. Edgar Hoover, claiming that Congress was attempting to arrogate the powers of the executive to themselves, took temporary executive authority as Director of the United States.[21]

Literary Comment[]

In the short story, Garner ascends to the presidency, and promptly orders the execution of the Hammer (Scriabin) and Hoover. The Hammer likewise orders the execution of Garner and Hoover. Hoover also orders the deaths of Garner and the Hammer. In the end, Hoover triumphs; Garner is executed, and Hoover takes his place, although his precise mechanisms and official title are left unrevealed. The novel instead presents a "legalistic" scenario, where Scriabin is killed by his own negligence in traffic (apparently), and Garner is removed from office by a judicial proceeding. This is one of the rare instances where the novel is actually more "upbeat" than the story.

See Also[]


  1. The Big Switch, p. 402.
  2. Joe Steele, pg. 2.
  3. Ibid., pgs. 16-21.
  4. Ibid., pg. 39.
  5. Ibid., pg. 383.
  6. Ibid., pg. 38-39.
  7. Ibid., pg. 39.
  8. Ibid., pgs. 96-98.
  9. Ibid., pg. 382.
  10. See, e.g., Ibid. pg. 96-98, 153-154, 298, 354-356, 381-384.
  11. Ibid., pgs. 407-409.
  12. Ibid., pgs. 414-415.
  13. Ibid., pgs. 416-417.
  14. Ibid., pg. 424.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid., pgs. 424-427.
  18. Ibid., pg. 427.
  19. Ibid. pg. 428.
  20. Ibid, pgs. 432-433.
  21. Ibid., pgs. 434-435.