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Donald Richberg

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Donald Richberg

Donald Richberg
Donald R. Richberg in 1929
Born Donald Randall Richberg
(1881-07-10)July 10, 1881
Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
Died November 27, 1960(1960-11-27) (aged 79)
Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.
Occupation Author; Attorney; Federal civil servant
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Harriet Herrick (div. 1917); Lynette Mulvey (div. 1924); Florence Weed (surv. 1960)
Children Eloise Richberg Campbell (by Florence Weed)
Parents John Carl and Eloise Olivia (nee Randall) Richberg

Donald Randall Richberg (July 10, 1881 - November 27, 1960)[1][2] was an American attorney, civil servant, and author who was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's key aides and who played a critical role in the New Deal. He co-wrote the National Industrial Recovery Act, was general counsel and executive director of the National Recovery Administration.[3][4] He also co-authored the Railway Labor Act, the Norris-LaGuardia Act, and the Taft-Hartley Act.[1][5][6]

Early life and career

Donald Richberg was born in July 1881 in Knoxville, Tennessee, to John Carl and Eloise Olivia (née Randall) Richberg.[1] His grandfather, Louis Richberg, and his father had migrated from Germany to the U.S. in 1851.[1] His grandfather set up shop as a merchant in New York City before moving to Chicago, Illinois, in 1854 and starting a meatpacking business.[1] Richberg's father became a corporate attorney and later represented the City of Chicago.[1]

Donald Richberg graduated from a Chicago public high school, received a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago in 1901, and a J.D. from Harvard University in 1904.[1] He met Elizabeth Harriet Herrick while at Harvard, and they married in 1906; they separated in 1915, and divorced in 1917 after she left him.[7] He soon married Lynette Mulvey, but they divorced in 1924.[1] The same year, he married Florence Weed (she survived him).[1] They had one daughter.[8]

Richberg and his father established a [1][9] He was named a special state's attorney from 1913 to 1915 and assisted the City of Chicago with its extensive litigation against the People's Gas Company, and from 1916 to 1919 was a special master for a Chicago city court of chancery.[1]

Richberg's first foray into politics was in 1905. Becoming involved in progressive politics, he became a close associate of Jane Addams and Charles Edward Merriam, and campaigned heavily for Edward Fitzsimmons Dunne in the mayoral race that fall.[10] Along with Ickes, he helped form the Progressive-Republican League of Illinois, and became an active member of the Progressive Party nationally.[10][11][12]

Great Railroad Strike of 1922

In 1922, Richberg became nationally famous for his involvement in the Great Railroad Strike. In 1920, Richberg became general counsel for the Railway Employees' Department.[1][13] In this capacity, he served as the primary attorney for the striking railway unions, and led the opposition to the "Daughtery injunction."[14] Deeply angered by what he perceived to be the injunction's unconstitutional infringement on worker rights, Richberg co-authored legislation which in 1926 was enacted as the Railway Labor Act.[5][15] In 1926, Richberg became counsel for the Railway Labor Executives' Association, a lobbying group of railway unions.[1][16] In this capacity, he helped draft the Norris-La Guardia Act, federal legislation which was enacted by Congress in 1932 and which banned labor injunctions.[6][17][18][19] In an attempt to injure the bill's chances for passage, Secretary of Labor William N. Doak (in a meeting which included representatives of the National Association of Manufacturers) offered Richberg a federal judgeship if he would end his support for the bill.[19] Richberg refused. His experiences drafting these successful federal laws led many to consider Richberg to be the foremost expert on labor law by 1932.[2]

Federal service

Blue Eagle poster produced by the National Recovery Administration. The poster would be displayed by employers agreeing to participate in NRA industry codes of fair trade.

In September 1932, Richberg, Ickes, National Progressive League to support New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt for President of the United States.[12][19] After Roosevelt's election in November 1932, Richberg worked on the presidential transition team and for the new administration during the Hundred Days, drafting legislation.[1] In this capacity Richberg was called upon to help draft the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) along with Hugh S. Johnson, Raymond Moley, Rexford Tugwell, Jerome Frank, Charles Wyzanski and Bernard Baruch.[4][20][21] Moley asked Richberg to assist him in putting final touches on the bill after various competing drafts had been reconciled,[4] and Richberg was largely responsible for drafting Title I, Section 7(a)[18]—which guaranteed collective bargaining rights for workers and unions.[3][22]

National Recovery Administration and Presidential councils

On June 20, 1933, at the request of Hugh S. Johnson, President Roosevelt appointed Richberg general counsel of the strikes, and general strikes that threatened to disrupt economic recovery.[25] On August 5, 1933, just 46 days after the passage of the NIRA, President Roosevelt established the National Labor Board (NLB) to take over the implementation of Section 7(a).[18] Richberg openly opposed the National Labor Board and its successor agency (the "first" National Labor Relations Board, established on June 29, 1934).[26] In direct contradiction of NLB policy and rulings, he publicly declared that Section 7(a) did not prohibit company unions or the closed shop, opposed the NLB's concept of representational exclusivity, opposed any attempt to impose a requirement of good faith bargaining on employers.[27] Even as a national strike of 200,000 auto workers seemed imminent in February 1934,[28] Richberg joined with Johnson to issue a "clarification" of Section 7(a) in which they declared that company unions were acceptable under federal labor policy.[20][26]

On June 30, 1934, President Roosevelt announced that Richberg was taking a leave of absence from the NRA to become director of the newly created Industrial Emergency Committee. Roosevelt was experimenting with a number of coordinating bodies to assist in coordinating economic recovery efforts. He created an Executive Council on July 11, 1933, composed of most Cabinet heads and the leaders of most newly created economic recovery agencies "to provide for the orderly presentation of business and to coordinate inter-agency problems of organization and work of the new governmental agencies".[29] On November 17, 1933, he created a similar coordinating body called the National Emergency Council, composed of four key Cabinet secretaries and the heads of six economic recovery agencies, to coordinate and make "more efficient and productive the work of the numerous field agencies of the Government established under, and for the purpose of carrying into effect" the provisions of the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Federal Emergency Relief Act.[30] Now, through an Executive Order, Roosevelt made Richberg director of the Industrial Emergency Committee, composed of the secretaries of the Interior and Labor and the heads of the NRA and Federal Emergency Relief Administration, to "make recommendations to the President ... with respect to problems of relief, public works, labor disputes and industrial recovery and to study and coordinate the handling of joint problems affecting these activities."[21][31] At the same time, Roosevelt put Richberg in charge of the Executive Council and the National Emergency Council, placed him over the Cabinet.[32] His extensive power earned Richberg the sobriquet of "assistant president."[33] But Richberg's role didn't last. The Executive Council was merged with the National Emergency Council and the Industrial Emergency Committee was made a subcommittee of the new body in October 1934.[34] By the end of December 1934, Richberg had resigned from his role as "assistant president" after political attacks from others in the administration.[35]

Return to NRA

Richberg also returned to the NRA. NRA Administrator Hugh Johnson was showing signs of mental breakdown due to the extreme pressure and workload of running the National Recovery Administration.[3] Johnson's increasingly erratic behavior, frequent policy about-faces, and abusive behavior toward subordinates aliented Richberg, who began asking President Roosevelt to fire or replace the Administrator.[3][36] After two meetings with Roosevelt and an abortive resignation attempt, Johnson resigned on September 24, 1934.[3] Three days later, Roosevelt replaced the position of Administrator with a new National Industrial Recovery Board,[37][38] of which Richberg was named Executive Director.[3][26] As head of the Board, however, Richberg engaged in double-dealing, lying to the President about the views of his subordinates and agreeing to his staff's requests that he raise issues with the President and later refusing to do so.[3] He also took increasingly pro-business policy stands. For example, although a majority of the National Industrial Recovery Board had agreed to let the automobile industry code lapse (so that a new code might be negotiated) and to abolish the Automobile Labor Board, Richberg overruled the majority and persuaded Roosevelt to continue the status quo.[28] Labor unions and the NRA staff were outraged.[3][26] Nonetheless, when the chairmanship of the National Industrial Recovery Board came open in the spring of 1935, labor and most Roosevelt advisors grudgingly agreed to ask Roosevelt to name Richberg the new chairman.[3] With the NIRA due to [3] But on May 27, 1935, the U.S. Supreme Court held Title I of the Act unconstitutional in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495 (1935), making the issue moot.[22] A severability clause enabled NRA to continue functioning to some degree, but the vast majority of its regulatory work was now no longer possible. President Roosevelt terminated the Board on June 15, 1935, and replaced it with an Administrator again.[38][39] Richberg resigned the next day.[40]

Later life

Richberg's later life was marked by increasing conservatism and anti-labor attitudes, the practice of law, and writing. He attempted in 1936 to establish his own law firm in Washington, D.C., but this failed.[1] He joined an existing firm, which took the name Davies, Richberg, Beebe, Busick & Richardson.[8][41] He was frequently consulted by members of Congress for his expertise in drafting legislation, and played a major role in authoring the Taft-Hartley Act.[23] In 1956, he helped author a bill introduced into the Virginia General Assembly which would have stopped school desegregation.[1] From 1949 to 1952 he was a lecturer at the University of Virginia School of Law.[8]

Donald Richberg died at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia, on November 27, 1960.[8]


Richberg was a widely published essayist, novelist, poet, and non-fiction author.[3] His more well-known books include:[8]
  • Compulsory Unionism: The New Slavery. Published posthumously, 1972.
  • Donald R. Richberg's story: The Mexican Oil Seizure. Arrow Press, 1939.
  • G. Hovah Explains. National Home Library Foundation, 1940.
  • Government and Business Tomorrow. Harper & Brothers, 1943.
  • Guilty!: The Confession of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1936.
  • In the Dark. Forbes & company, 1912.
  • Labor Union Monopoly: A Clear and Present Danger. H. Regnery Co., 1965.
  • A Man Of Purpose. Kessinger Publishing, 1922.
  • The Murder of a Candidate. National Small Business Men's Association, 1952.
  • My Hero: The Autobiography of Donald Richberg. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1954.
  • Old Faith and Fancies New. Jarman Press, 1949.
  • Poems of Donald R. Richberg. American Natural Gas Company, 1959.
  • The Rainbow. Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc., 1936.
  • The Shadow Men. Forbes & Company, 1911.
  • Tents of the Mighty. Willett, Clark & Colby, 1930.
  • Who Wins In November. 1916.

He also wrote the popular song, Smoke Dreams.[8]


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  2. ^ a b c d Purvis, Thomas L., ed. A Dictionary of American History. Indianapolis, Ind.: Wiley-Blackwell, 1997. ISBN 1-57718-099-2
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Age of Roosevelt, Vol. 2: The Coming of the New Deal. Paperback ed. New York: Mariner Books, 2003. (Originally published 1958.) ISBN 0-618-34086-6
  4. ^ a b c McKenna, Marian Cecilia. Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-Packing Crisis of 1937. New York: Fordham University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8232-2154-7
  5. ^ a b Nelson, Daniel. "The AFL and the Challenge of Company Unionism, 1915-1937." In Nonunion Employee Representation: History, Contemporary Practice, and Policy. Bruce E. Kaufman and Daphne Gottlieb Taras, eds. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2000. ISBN 0-7656-0495-7
  6. ^ a b Cushman, Barry. Rethinking the New Deal Court: The Structure of a Constitutional Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-511532-5
  7. ^ "Donald Richberg Seeks Divorce." Chicago Daily Tribune. May 16, 1917.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Donald Richberg of N.R.A. Is Dead." Associated Press. November 28, 1960.
  9. ^ The firm merged with other partnerships through the years and today is known as Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell. See: "Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell Timeline." Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell. No date. Accessed 2009-04-14.
  10. ^ a b Davis, Allen F. The Social Workers and the Progressive Party, 1912-1916. American Historical Review. 69:3 (April 1964); O'Neill, William L. Feminism in America: A History. 2d ed. Piscataway, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1989. ISBN 0-88738-761-6; McGerr, Michael E. A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003. ISBN 0-684-85975-0; Davis, Allen F. Spearheads for Reform: The Social Settlements and the Progressive Movement, 1890-1914. 3d ed. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1984. ISBN 0-8135-1073-2; McCarthy, Michael P. "Prelude to Armageddon: Charles E. Merriam and the Chicago Mayoral Election of 1911." Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. November 1974.
  11. ^ Nye, Russel B. Midwestern Progressive Politics: A Historical Study of Its Origins and Development, 1870-1958. New York: Harper & Row, 1959; James, Curtis. Presidents, Parties, and the State: A Party System Perspective on Democratic Regulatory Choice, 1884-1936. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-521-66277-X
  12. ^ a b Rollins, Albert Brooks. Roosevelt and Howe. Reprint ed. Piscataway, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2001. ISBN 0-7658-0856-0
  13. ^ September 24, 1922.New York Times."Injunction Upheld Against Rail Men."
  14. ^ During the strike, U.S. Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty, a strong anti-unionist, received permission from President Warren G. Harding to represent the government and railroads before federal district court Judge James H. Wilkerson. On September 1, 1922, Wilkerson issued the most sweeping labor injunction in U.S. history, banning almost all union activity in conjunction with the strike. The injunction subsequently became known as the "Daugherty Injunction," and the backlash against the injunction led directly to passage of the Norris-LaGuardia Act which outlawed labor injunctions. See: Davis, Colin J. Power at Odds: The 1922 National Railroad Shopmen's Strike. Urbana,Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1977. ISBN 0-252-06612-X; O'Brien, Ruth. Workers' Paradox: The Republican Origins of New Deal Labor Policy, 1886-1935. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8078-4737-2; September 26, 1922New York Times."Daugherty Injunction." ; September 20, 1922New York Times."Lays Rail Strike to Eight Financiers." .
  15. ^ Robertson, David Brian. Capital, Labor, and State: The Battle for American Labor Markets From the Civil War to the New Deal. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000. ISBN 0-8476-9729-0; Anderson, Jervis. A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait. Reprint ed. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1986. ISBN 0-520-05505-5; Forbath, William E. Law and the Shaping of the American Labor Movement. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-674-51782-2; Leslie, Douglas L. The Railway Labor Act. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of National Affairs, 1995. ISBN 0-87179-815-8; September 10, 1934Time."Mixed Doubles." .
  16. ^ Rose, Mark H.; Seely, Bruce Edsall; and Barrett, Paul F. The Best Transportation System in the World: Railroads, Trucks, Airlines, and American Public Policy in the Twentieth Century. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-8142-1036-8
  17. ^ Arneson, Eric, ed. Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-class History. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, 2006. ISBN 0-415-96826-7; Reynolds, Morgan O. "An Economic Analysis of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, the Wagner Act, and the Labor Representation Industry." Journal of Libertarian Studies. 6:3-4 (Summer/Fall 1982).
  18. ^ a b c d Morris, Charles. The Blue Eagle At Work: Reclaiming Democratic Rights in the American Workplace. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8014-4317-2
  19. ^ a b c Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Age of Roosevelt: The Crisis of the Old Order, 1919-1933. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003. (Originally published in 1957.) ISBN 0-618-34085-8
  20. ^ a b Watkins, T.H. The Hungry Years: A Narrative History of the Great Depression in America. New York: Macmillan, 2000. ISBN 0-8050-6506-7.
  21. ^ a b Hawley, Ellis Wayne. The New Deal and the Problem of Monopoly: A Study in Economic Ambivalence. Reprinted 2d ed. New York: Fordham Univeersity Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8232-1609-8
  22. ^ a b Kennedy, David M. Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. Paperback ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-19-514403-1
  23. ^ a b Vadney, Thomas E. The Wayward Liberal: A Political Biography of Donald Richberg. Lexington, Ky.: The University Press of Kentucky, 1970.
  24. ^ Shamir, Ronen. Managing Legal Uncertainty: Elite Lawyers in the New Deal. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8223-1662-5
  25. ^ Bernstein, Irving. The Turbulent Years: A History of the American Worker, 1933-1941. Paperback edition. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1970. (Originally published 1969.) ISBN 0-395-11778-X; Dubofsky, Melvyn and Dulles, Foster Rhea. Labor in America: A History. 6th ed. Wheeling, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 1999. ISBN 0-88295-979-4; Rayback, Joseph G. A History of American Labor. Rev. and exp. ed. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1974. ISBN 1-299-50529-5
  26. ^ a b c d Vittoz, Stanley. New Deal Labor Policy and the American Industrial Economy. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8078-1729-5
  27. ^ Gross, James A. The Making of the National Labor Relations Board: A Study in Economics, Politics, and the Law. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1974. ISBN 0-87395-271-5; Dickman, Howard. "Exclusive Representation and American Industrial Democracy: A Historical Reappraisal." Journal of Labor Research. 5:4 (December 1984); Hogler, Raymond. "Exclusive Representation and the Wagner Act: The Structure of Federal Collective Bargaining Law." Labor Law Journal. 58:3 (Fall 2007).
  28. ^ a b Phelan, Craig. William Green: Biography of a Labor Leader. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1989. ISBN 0-88706-870-7; Fine, Sidney. Automobile Under the Blue Eagle: Labor, Management, and the Automobile Manufacturing Code. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1963.
  29. ^ (Online.) Santa Barbara, Calif.: University of California (hosted), Gerhard Peters (database).The American Presidency Project."Executive Order 6202A - Appointing the Executive Council." July 11, 1933. John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters.
  30. ^ (Online.) Santa Barbara, Calif.: University of California (hosted), Gerhard Peters (database).The American Presidency Project."Executive Order 6433-A - Creation of the National Emergency Council." November 17, 1933. John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters.
  31. ^ (Online.) Santa Barbara, Calif.: University of California (hosted), Gerhard Peters (database).The American Presidency Project."Executive Order 6770 - Creating the Industrial Emergency Committee." June 30, 1934. John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters.
  32. ^ November 12, 1934.Time."Assistant President?"
  33. ^ January 21, 1935.Time."Second Thought."
  34. ^ (Online.) Santa Barbara, Calif.: University of California (hosted), Gerhard Peters (database).The American Presidency Project."Executive Order 6889-A - Consolidating the National Emergency Council, the Executive Council and the Industrial Emergency Committee." October 31, 1934. John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters.
  35. ^ Rozell, Mark R. and Pederson, William D. FDR and the Modern Presidency: Leadership and Legacy. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997. ISBN 0-275-95873-6
  36. ^ Black, Conrad. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003. ISBN 1-58648-184-3
  37. ^ (Online.) Santa Barbara, Calif.: University of California (hosted), Gerhard Peters (database).The American Presidency Project."Executive Order 6859 - Reorganizing the N.R.A. and Establishing the National Industrial Recovery Board." September 27, 1934. John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters.
  38. ^ a b 3 vols. Compiled by Robert B. Matchette, et al. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995.Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States."9.2.1 Records of the National Industrial Recovery Board."
  39. ^ (Online.) Santa Barbara, Calif.: University of California (hosted), Gerhard Peters (database)The American Presidency Project."Executive Order 7075 - Reorganizing the N.R.A." June 15, 1935. John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters. ; (Online.) Santa Barbara, Calif.: University of California (hosted), Gerhard Peters (database)The American Presidency Project."Executive Order 7076 - Extending the Activities of the N.R.A." June 15, 1935. John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters. .
  40. ^ "J.L. O'Neill Slated to Head New NRA." New York Times. June 16, 1935.
  41. ^ March 20, 1939.Time."Visitor to Mexico." The firm was later known as Davies, Richberg, Tydings, Landa & Duff. See: "Donald Richberg of N.R.A. Is Dead." Associated Press. November 28, 1960.
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