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For six years that man has given me unsolicited advice—all of it bad.
While well known as being blamed for the Great Depression, prior to his presidency he was known as something of a miracle man, especially with his humanitarian aid. He served during World War I to help make sure the United States was able to send food to where it was needed, such as America's war allies. And his humanitarianism was such that it was reported a letter addressed to 'Miracle Man, Washington DC' was delivered straight to him. He lived a long time, and after his presidency rehabilitated this reputation through his work in the Third World and with the Boy Scouts of America, and by publicly denouncing the draconian Morgenthau Plan, as well as providing aid for a near-destroyed post-World War II Germany; by the time of his death he was once again one of the most admired men in America, but nobody seems to remember this. By the way, his equivalent up north was R. B. Bennett.
During the Depression, though, America needed to blame somebody. Damn near every major sign of poverty a person could have around them was branded irrevocably with Hoover's name. Turned-out pockets were "Hoover flags." Shanty towns set up for the influx of homeless (like a well-known example in Central Park in New York City) were called "Hoovervilles."
He didn't just outlive all of his predecessors; he also outlived two of his successors, dying 32 years after his term was over in late 1964. (Conspiracy theorists who whisper about the Presidential Guard rehearsing a funeral just before Kennedy's assassination forget that the Guard was actually rehearsing for Hoover, whose death had been expected. As it turned out he held on for a year.)
Hoover was in charge of recovery efforts after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. More humanitarian laurels, but he also struck an unfortunate deal with African-American leaders where he promised to champion black causes during his upcoming presidential run in exchange for patience with the (lack of) assistance going to black flood victims. Hoover never delivered on his promise; this is how the Party of Lincoln lost the black vote.
Herbert Hoover in fiction
- In the 1990s Untouchables, the series' premiere story used the urban legend that it was Al Capone's noisy partying one night which disturbed Hoover's sleep that convinced the President to sic Eliot Ness on the gangster.
- All in The Family famously references him in their Theme Song.
- A brief "imagination" gag in Arthur places class clown Buster in the role of Hoover, attempting to appease the starving and out-of-work Americans with a "rubber chicken in every pot" routine. It doesn't go over well.
- There's a song in the musical Annie titled "We'd Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover". Sarcasm Mode abides.
- In Harry Turtledove's TL-191, Hoover is elected as VP for Calvin Coolidge, but Coolidge dies before taking office and thus Hoover becomes President. Though the Depression started before his rule, he's essentially condemned as a do-nothing and unseated by the Socialists at the next election.