Senator Glen H. Taylor
Glen H. Taylor was an American actor, singer, radio personality, U.S. Senator (1945-51), and the Vice-Presidential candidate on Henry A. Wallace's unsuccessful Progressive Party ticket in the 1948 Presidential election.
Senator Taylor was also a businessman and founder of Taylor Topper Inc., which was a pioneer maker of men's hairpieces.
Senator Glen H. Taylor
Biographical fast facts
Full or original name at birth: Glen Hearst Taylor*
Date and place of birth: April 12, 1904, Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
Date, place and cause of death: April 28, 1984, Burlingame, near Millbrae, California, U.S.A. (Alzheimer's disease)
Brothers: Ferris Taylor**
Sisters: Lena Corinne Taylor (later known as Lee Morse) (b. November 30, 1897, Portland, Oregon - d. December 16, 1954, Rochester, New York)
Sons: Glen Arod Taylor (b. May 21, 1935)
P.J. Taylor (b. January 26, 1942)
Note: "Arod" is Dora (his mother's name) spelled backwards.
Father: Pleasant John Taylor (known as P.J. Taylor) (a preacher and Texas Ranger)
Mother: Olive Taylor
Burial site: Skylawn Cemetery, San Mateo, California, U.S.A.
Error corrections or clarifications
* Some press sources erroneously spelled his name "Glenn" in the early days of his political career.
** "Terris" was erroneously reported as their brother's name in his sister Lena's 1954 obituary.
*** Some sources erroneously report Glen and his second wife Dora had no children. As noted above, they had three sons.
One final clarification: In a profile of George Murphy, The World Almanac Who's Who of Film erroneously states, "in 1964, Murphy was the first ex-actor to be elected to the US Senate." In reality, Glen was elected to the United States Senate two decades before George Murphy.
Glen H. Taylor was born April 12th, 1904, in Portland, Oregon, and raised in rural Idaho. He was one of thirteen children born to P.J. and Olive Taylor. As was often the case at the turn of the century, not all survived to maturity, but the Taylor clan remained a large brood. Nearly all were musically-inclined, with most family members singing, and playing various instruments. His older sister Lena (later known as Lee Morse) had a prolific recording career and went on to record close to 200 songs in the 1920s and '30s.
Glen Taylor quit school before he reached his teens and managed his brother's tiny movie theaters in Kooskia, and Stites, Idaho. He considered himself a "natural-born actor" and found work easily in entertainment while still in his teens. He worked for various stock companies, including one run by his eldest brother Ferris. Glen remained with him for seven years, then moved on to a musical-comedy company run by his brother Slade in Montana. He married for the first time in the 1920s, but it was a brief marriage, and they soon went their separate ways. In 1930, he married Dora, who'd become the love of his life. Dora and Glen founded "The Glendora Players" in Pocatello, Idaho. The company of singers, dancers and actors gave their first public performance June 13th, 1928, and were a smash hit. Unfortunately talkies were about to take over the entertainment world, and leave traveling shows, like The Glendora Players, struggling for their very existence. Like millions of others, he and his young family spent years fighting to survive during the Great Depression. Even their little three-year-old son Arod got in on the act and would sing cowboy songs and yodel to the delight of audiences. They continued to present their show in towns throughout the Rockies, but the increasing popularity of sound motion pictures, and tough economic times, progressively drained more and more of their audience away.
The book The People's Corporation, by multi-millionaire businessman and inventor of the safety razor, King C. Gillette, provided the inspiration for Taylor to seek public office. In September 1937, with no political experience whatsoever, he announced to his shocked wife Dora, that he planned to run for Congress. Taylor did indeed seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress in 1938, but was unsuccessful, and came in fourth place. When he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1940, he was labeled "semi-socialistic" by the opposition, and "communistic" by some members of the press. His 1940 run for Senate was also unsuccessful. During World War II, he worked briefly as a sheet-metal worker at a California plant making components for U.S. war ships. After returning to Idaho in 1942, he again ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Again, he lost to Senator John Thomas, but Glen had substantially narrowed the gap between them, in that 1942 race.
He'd derisively been labeled a clown, hillbilly, or buffoon, during his early unsuccessful campaigns for office. Despite the attacks, underhanded campaign tricks, and highly-irregular voting results, the "Singing Cowboy" as he was more commonly known to Idaho voters, had solid support in the rural areas of the state, and steadily saw his popularity increasing in some Idaho cities as well.
In 1944, he gave up his cowboy persona, lost the cowboy hat which he had used to cover his prematurely bald head, and donned a respectable business suit. In his fourth try for public office, and his third run for the Senate, Glen Taylor finally triumphed. He was convinced his custom-made toupee that he had personally constructed, had a hand in his victory over Governor Bottolfsen.
When Idaho's senior Senator John Thomas died in 1945, Taylor became the senior senator from Idaho after serving less than a year in office. By this point, Senator Taylor was already known as the "Singing Senator" and was one of the more liberal members of the Democratic Party.
Following the war, he found himself increasingly at odds with the policies of the Truman administration and others within the Democratic Party. This led him to make a move correctly branded "political suicide" by many.
Former Vice President Henry A. Wallace challenged President Truman in the 1948 Presidential election. Wallace was running on the Progressive Party ticket, and Senator Glen Taylor was his Vice-Presidential running mate. Recognizing the move might bring his political career to a premature close, Taylor's wife Dora, pleaded with him not to run. With three sons to put through college, and little in the way of savings, she was looking at the situation realistically. Taylor's passionate beliefs took precedence, and he forged ahead. While the main battle in '48 was between Governor Thomas Dewey, and President Truman, Wallace and Taylor still garnered plenty of press coverage. The Progressive Party platform contained many admirable positions, including an end to racial discrimination, anti-lynching and anti-segregation legislation, and an increase in the minimum wage. Both Wallace and Taylor went much further than the aforementioned positions. Each gave speeches and took stands during the campaign that alienated them from most Americans, and even outraged most liberals. The 1948 Progressive Party ticket was unsuccessful, receiving just 2.37 percent of votes, and failed to carry a single state.
Failing in his bid to retain his senate seat in 1950, Taylor accepted a position as president of the newly-formed Coryell Construction Company. When a government construction contract was imperiled by the fact Glen was considered a security risk, he resigned his position. During the '48 campaign, he'd generated a great deal of animosity with some in the government, as a result of his positions and criticisms of the administration. This is why he was vindictively branded a "security risk."
During the fifties, he was grateful for any job he could find, even the occasional manual labor work as a construction worker. He was eventually forced to return to his former show business career of singing and acting to earn a living. As Sen. Taylor later recalled, "We actually went hungry at times."
In both 1954 and 1956, Taylor ran for the Senate again. He went down to defeat in both elections, and his political career was finished.
While looking for a business venture to call his own, he discovered a lucrative market in men's hairpieces. He founded Taylor Topper Inc., and utilized some of the innovative techniques he'd used to make his own custom toupee, to produce high-quality, "practical, detection-proof, easy-to-put-on, easy-to-take-off, easy-to-keep-clean" men's hairpieces. Taylor Topper was a pioneer maker of hairpieces and remained a leader in the industry, and a profitable endeavor for Senator Taylor and his family.
His autobiography, The Way It Was With Me, was published in 1979. He was the last survivor of the thirteen Taylor children.