J. Danforth Quayle (born 1947) became the second-youngest member of Congress in history when he was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1976. He was the first person from the "baby boom" generation to win a spot on a national ticket and was the fifth youngest vice president ever elected in the United States.
Dan Quayle was born in Indianapolis on February 4, 1947. He was the son of James C. and Corinne Quayle and the grandson of Eugene Pulliam, the founder of Central Newspapers Inc., a national chain of conservative papers. Quayle received his secondary education in the publics schools of Huntington, Indiana, his hometown. In 1969 Quayle graduated from DePauw University, where he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He attended law school at night at Indiana University, Indianapolis, and graduated in 1974. He was admitted to the Indiana Bar that same year. In 1972 Quayle married Marilyn Tucker, a fellow law student at Indiana University. The Quayles had three children—Tucker Danforth, Benjamin Eugene, and Mary Corinne.
After receiving his education, Quayle had very few jobs before running for public office. From 1969 to 1975, during law school, Quayle was a member of the Indiana National Guard. Also during law school he held several appointed positions in the Indiana state government. Afterwards, he worked as an associate publisher for the Huntington Herald press, a family owned paper, and founded Quayle and Quayle, a law office, with his wife. In 1976, with no political experience, he ran as a conservative Republican against Edward Roush, an eight-term incumbent Democrat, for a seat in the House of Representatives and won, becoming the second youngest representative in history. Quayle proved himself to be consistently conservative on all significant votes, enough so that the National Conservative Political Action Committee helped him in his bid for reelection, as they had in 1976. Much was made of Quayle's poor attendance record in the House during the 1978 campaign, but the bad press did not affect his popularity and he won by an overwhelming majority.
In 1980 Quayle ran for a seat in the Senate against another incumbent Democrat. This time his opponent was 18-year incumbent Birch Bayh, whom he also defeated. Quayle had no difficulty winning reelection to the Senate in 1986. The term was to last until 1993 but his selection as the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate, and subsequent election, resulted in his resignation. In the Senate Quayle had again voted conservatively, especially in areas related to national defense. However, his votes did not always fall along party lines. The most significant example of his independence from the right was the Job Training Partnership Act of 1986, which he introduced with Senator Edward Kennedy in 1982. His bipartisan efforts sometimes put him at odds with the Reagan administration, but he was not concerned with the possible alienation of the administration.
On August 18, 1988, in New Orleans, George Bush announced that his running mate for the presidency would be Dan Quayle. The public, the media, and both conservative and liberal politicians were caught off-guard by Bush's selection. Outside of Indiana very few people had heard of Dan Quayle. The primary reasons that Bush selected Quayle as a running mate were Quayle's conservative reputation, his Midwest origin, his relative lack of prominence, and no doubt his young age and good looks.
However, Quayle also brought undesirable scrutiny from the media. During his speech at the GOP national convention Quayle made reference to his time spent in the Indiana National Guard during the Vietnam conflict, which made people wonder if he was dodging the draft. This investigation revealed that Quayle might have used his connections through family-owned papers to gain admittance to the Guard. The media then examined almost every facet of his life and career. Among the issues brought into question were Quayle's admission to the Guard and to law school (without the usual requirements) and his privileged lifestyle. These facts, compounded by several poorly handled speaking engagements, led some members of the GOP to express reservations about Quayle's appointment, but Bush never expressed any thoughts about replacing him. Despite the excessively negative media coverage the George Bush/ Dan Quayle ticket did very well, overwhelming the Michael Dukakis/Lloyd Bentsen ticket at the polls.
Once elected, Quayle was given several jobs by the president, most notably a trip to several South American countries to gather information about the war on drugs. After a short time, the media became less interested in the spectacle of Dan Quayle and he was left alone to perform his duties as the vice president. After two years of his first term in that office, many conservatives hailed Quayle as an excellent vice president and as a conservative who remains non-compromising in his political orientation.
Yet Quayle did not return to the White House after the 1992 election, as Bill Clinton's victory forced Bush out of office. Even though Quayle would no longer be the Vice President, his stint in politics and the public eye was not yet over. In 1994, he published a book entitled Standing Firm. Quayle announced in 1995 that he would not seek election in the Presidential race, citing family and personal reasons for his decision.
Further Reading on J. Danforth Quayle
The only biography of Quayle is The Making of a Senator: Dan Quayle, by Richard F. Fenno Jr., published in 1989. Although widely covered in the media during the campaign, the best periodical sources on Quayle are political journals such as Congressional Quarterly Weekly Reports and the National Journal.