Robert Rutherford McCormick

Robert Rutherford McCormick (1880-1955), American publisher, was the head of the multimillion-dollar Tribune Company and an "America First" patriot.

Robert R. McCormick was born on July 30, 1880, in Chicago, the scion of two illustrious families. His father was the first American ambassador to Austria-Hungary; his mother was the daughter of Joseph Medill, a founder of the Republican party.

Young McCormick went to school in England while his father was an attachéin London. He graduated from Yale University in 1903. He studied law at Northwestern University. In 1904 he was elected alderman and served on the Chicago City Council for 2 years. When he was 25, McCormick was elected head of the Chicago Sanitary District Board. He was admitted to the bar in 1907. His political career came to an end in 1910 when he took over the Chicago Tribune, which his maternal grandfather had controlled. McCormick became a colonel during World War I. In 1918 he commanded the 61st Artillery Regiment in France.

The Tribune Company was a tribute to McCormick's powers of organization. His newspaper empire at one time contained three major papers: Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, and Washington Times-Herald. An expert estimated that in 1953 the Tribune enterprises earned $10 million. McCormick, in his 1953 annual report, said assets of the company and its 14 subsidiaries in the United States and Canada totaled almost $250 million.

A self-appointed guardian of orthodox Republicanism, McCormick championed individualism and fought for free enterprise and freedom of the press. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was his chief political target, and Ohio senator Robert A. Taft and Gen. Douglas MacArthur were his principal heroes. An isolationist, McCormick opposed the League of Nations, the World Court, and the United Nations. His guns were constantly trained on British imperialism, socialism, and communism.

McCormick was referred to as the "greatest mind of the 14th century." Although his paper was sneered at as a "ceaseless drip of poison," he was perhaps the last of the personalized journalists; he allowed his opinions to flow into news columns. He so sharply criticized Roosevelt during World War II that many people suspected him of being "unpatriotic" this was a crowning heresy for the man who published the American flag on his front page each day. In 1943 McCormick was boomed briefly for president by the Republican Nationalist Revival Committee. In 1954 he helped found "For America," an organization to combat "supernationalism."

In 1915 McCormick had married Amie Irwin Adams, who died in 1939. He married Maryland Matheson Hooper in 1944. He had no children. McCormick died at his estate in Wheaton on April 1, 1955.

Further Reading on Robert Rutherford McCormick

McCormick arouses controversy among his biographers. Frank C. Waldrop, McCormick of Chicago: An Unconventional Portrait of a Controversial Figure (1966), strives remarkably well for impartiality. Frank Luther Mott, American Journalism (1941; 3d ed. 1962), puts McCormick in focus with the rest of America.

Additional Biography Sources

Morgan, Gwen, Poor little rich boy (and how he made good), Carpentersville, Ill.: Crossroad Communications, 1985.

Waldrop, Frank C., McCormick of Chicago: an unconventional portrait of a controversial figure, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1975, 1966.