Architect of Oblivion
Earl F(arwell) Dodge, our Presidential candidate in
l984, l988, l992, l996 and 2000
“Every man has his disciples, and it’s always Judas who writes the biography. “
– Oscar Wilde
The past 50 years of the Prohibition Party have been dominated by one man, Earl F. Dodge. On the one hand, he appears to have been our Churchill – the person who, persevering against overwhelming odds, kept our Party from being swamped by the wave of historical inevitability; on the other hand, he appears to have been our Rasputin – scheming for personal advantage, while our world disintegrated around us. To a large degree, the history of the Prohibition Party from l952 through 2003 is the record of Earl F. Dodge.
And, the Prohibition Party is but one of Dodge’s many interests. He has been active in other temperance organizations, in patriotic groups, in genealogical societies, in the anti-abortion movement, in anti-gambling efforts, and in his church. Moreover, during the past two decades, he has had to support himself by peddling political memorabilia, because none of his other activities have been successful enough to pay him a living wage.
It is difficult to assess the actual substance of Dodge’s work. I observed him only within the context of his Prohibition Party activities, and I watched his growing repudiation by the voters and his progressive loss of financial assets. Many of the other organizations listed in his resume are also small or insignificant. The people in his circle of acquaintances have mixed opinions about him, some believing him to be an effective leader and others regarding him as a manipulative egotist.
Most of what follows has been compiled from Dodge’s own statements in his National Statesman, in his personal Christmas newsletter, and in his correspondence. The story is incomplete and, except where critically annotated, unverified. I am not comfortable writing a Stracheyite biography of anyone, least of all of such a master of political puffery as Earl F. Dodge. Yet, independently verifying all of these minutia would require literally months of work, time which I do not have. This essay should be considered to be a guide for future biographical investigation, not an authoritative reference in itself.
n.b.: Late in 1999, I sent Dodge a preliminary draft of the manuscript and asked him to correct any errors of fact. He refused to do so, saying that he did not have time¹ (but, he did not say that any part of it was untrue). To quote the eminent historian Charles A. Beard: “Writing any history is just pulling a tomcat by its tail across a Brussels carpet.”
Earl F. Dodge was “the voice of the Prohibition Party” for as long as most of us can remember. He quite literally gave his life to our Party, beginning his association with it at age 19, after attending a 1952 rally conducted by Massachusetts Prohibition Party leader Mark Shaw. Dodge began helping out in the national office in 1957 and by 1968 had become Executive Secretary of the Prohibition National Committee. In 1979, he became Chairman of the National Committee, and he held that office until being promoted to Chairman Emeritus in 2003.
Dodge was born in Malden, Massachusetts on 24 December 1932. He was the son of Earl Farwell Dodge (Sr.) and Dorothy Mae (Harris) Hook. He attended public school at Malden, but dropped out at the 10th grade following the death of his father.
He married Barbara Viola Regan on 20 July 1951. They had 6 children (Earl III, Barbara, Allen, Faith, Karen, and Calvin) and an adopted son (Michael); they also raised daughter Barbara’s first son (Micah Pittman). Karen and Calvin have run for office in Colorado on the Prohibition ticket, as have Calvin’s wife Elsi, Barbara’s husband Robert Pittman², and Faith’s husband Joseph Nelson. Karen and Calvin at different times were made nominal Treasurer of the Prohibition National Committee (although only their father had access to the bank account)³ Faith for many years was listed as a National Committeewoman for Missouri. Earl III and his wife Doris, and Allen and his wife Ellen, have not been active in the Party, nor have Michael or Micah.
Earl F. Dodge began his Prohibition Party career as a field worker, at a salary of $1/year. The Party rarely had enough money to pay him more than that, and he had to support himself by holding other daytime jobs and moonlighting as a Prohibition Party volunteer. He gradually developed an interest in political memorabilia and, since l982, he has supported himself by dealing in campaign buttons and other political ephemera (see: www.buttonsbydodge.com). He did so well in the button business that he became one of the Party’s principal financial backers, in addition to becoming its chief executive. In addition, he used his positions as an officer in other organizations to raise money for the Prohibition Party – by renting them office space, for example4; and he operated an investment scheme to benefit the Party, soliciting “deposits” and offering to pay “good rates of interest”5. He also avoided paying the Social Security tax on his Prohibition Party income by laundering it through the (non-profit) National Prohibition Foundation6.
Dodge suffered a mild heart attack on 3 January 1984. Additional heart problems resulted in a septuple bypass operation on 28 May 1999, immediately upon his return from the 5th Dodge Tour to England. Less than a month later, at our 1999 national convention, Dodge managed to capture his Party’s 5th endorsement for President of The United States – by just one vote (9 to 8).
As Chairman of the Prohibition National Committee, Dodge also edited the at-that-time official Party newsletter, The National Statesman7. As Editor of The Statesman since 1969, Dodge largely selected the issues to be addressed by the Prohibition Party and largely set Party policy toward those issues.
He also produced a small, non-descript Prohibition Party website, www.prohibition.org, which was partly devoted to promoting the commercial activities of “Havel’s House of History.” It is not known what connection existed between Dodge and Havel.
Earl F. Dodge was promoted to Chairman Emeritus in September, 2003, at a public meeting called by a majority of the members of the Prohibition National Committee, after having held an invitation-only meeting at his home in June and having claimed that it was the lawful 2003 nominating convention of the Prohibition Party. Today, Dodge conducts his button business and his other activities from his long-time home in Lakewood, Colorado, assisted by his help-mate of 54 years, Barbara.
Prohibition Party Offices8
Earl F. Dodge made a point of controlling the state Prohibition Party organization, wherever he might be living at a given time. He was Executive Secretary of the Massachusetts State Committee from 1953 through 1956.
Living in Indiana from 1956 through 1961, he was there Chairman of the Indiana State Committee (1958-1961). While living in Denver during 1961 and 1962, he seems to having done nothing for the Party. While in Kansas City, Missouri from 1962 through 1966, working for the National Christian Citizens Committee9, he ran for office in the state of Kansas10 but did not hold any offices in our Party. Going then to Kalamazoo
at the invitation of national Chairman Delmar Gibbons, he served as Chairman since 1974; he also edited the Colorado Statesman
Dodge was appointed by Colorado Secretary of State Mary Estill Buchanan in 1974 to serve on a newly-formed "Elections Advisory Committee." The Committee was charged with devising a way to fairly accomodate 3d party candidates on the Colorado ballot.
On the national level, Dodge was named Co-Chairman (Executive Secretary) of the Prohibition National Committee (with E. Harold Munn, Sr.) in 1958, replacing Virgil Finnell. He resigned in 1962, to take a job with the National Christian Citizens Committee (and was replaced with Delmar Gibbons), but returned to the Prohibition Party as an office volunteer in 1966, again becoming Executive Secretary (“Co-Chairman”) in 1968. When Dodge was elected Chairman of the Prohibition National Committee, in 1979, he recommended that the offices of Executive Secretary and Chairman be combined, and it was done. He then served as Chairman, until being promoted to Chairman Emeritus in 2003.
Dodge was also instrumental in determining the physical location of our national office. The previous Executive Secretary, Delmar Gibbons, had kept the office in his house, in Kalamazoo, Michigan (1963-1967), but before Gibbon’s time, the National Committee had owned a building at Winona Lake, Indiana, called “The Cottage,” (800 Park Avenue / POB 545) which it used for an office. In one of his reminiscences, Dodge tells how he personally visited D. Leigh Colvin, the President of the Prohibition Trust Fund Association, in 1956 and persuaded him to provide $6500 to purchase The Cottage11.
When Dodge became Executive Secretary the second time, in 1968, he followed Gibbons example and kept the office in his home in Kalamazoo, also (1217 Franklin Street / POB 2255) (1967-71). The Cottage was sold for $6000.
Moving to Denver in 1971, Dodge at first kept the office at his home, but soon he rented rooms at 1900 Washington Street for that purpose. On 18 August 1976, he purchased an old house at 2934 Federal Avenue, Denver for an office, using money from the Sarah Ulmer Estate. That house, fortuitously, was in the way of highway construction. Dodge sold it 15 months later, at a profit of $900012. On 23 February 1979, he bought two side-by-side condominium units in downtown Denver. One, 128 West 11th Avenue, became our national office (The other, #132, seems to have been a rent-to-own arrangement with a friend13.)
The office condo was sold late in 1999. It brought a large profit, greatly amplifying Miss Ulmer’s original bequest. Dodge then claimed to have built an addition onto his personal residence in the suburb of Lakewood (10105 West 17th Place), to use for a Prohibition Party office. It is true that the office was moved into Dodge’s house, but the only “addition” the building inspector could find was a portable tool shed in Dodge’s back yard. Miss Ulmer’s money ultimately was used to pay off creditors in Dodge’s failed investment scheme14.
(Since 2003, the officers have kept necessary records in their own homes, and there has been no centralized Prohibition Party office.)
Prohibition Party Candidacies
Political campaigns are the most reliable vehicle minor party politicians have for publicizing their views, and Dodge has run for one or another office on the Prohibition ticket at virtually every opportunity. Initially, he ran pragmatically for local offices which, plausibly, he might win (but never did, although he received some large percentages). Later, he ran symbolically for high offices such as governor, senator, and president. His election data are presented elsewhere in this website.
Temperance Organization Offices15
Earl F. Dodge has held office in several organizations with philosophical ties to the Prohibition Party:
He was a Trustee of the National Prohibition Foundation16 during 1959-2001 and was its Secretary/Treasurer from 1974 through 2001. After allowing the National Prohibition Foundation corporation to lapse, he organized (on 5 June 2002) and is currently President (and the only trustee) of the American Prohibition Foundation. (Today’s “National Prohibition Foundation” is a different legal entity, with different trustees.)
In 1968, he helped organize “Concerned Parents of Kalamazoo” (a school issues group).
He has held various offices in the National Temperance and Prohibition Council – Third Vice-President in 1969, President in 1972-74, Secretary in 1974 and again in 1978, and Treasurer in
He became Secretary of Colorado Alcohol Drug Education in 1972 and was its Executive Director in 1980.
He held various offices in the Partisan Prohibition Historical Society.
He was Secretary/Treasurer of the National Christian Citizens Committee from 1963 through 1965 and was its President from 1966 through 1970.
He was President of the National Civic League17 in 1972, 1976, and 1978-79 and was its Secretary/Treasurer in 1975.
He was Secretary/Treasurer of the Denver Right-to-Life Fund in 1982 and its Treasurer in 1986. He was President of the Colorado Right-to-Life Committee in 1977-1982.
In 1982, he was Secretary/Treasurer of the Colorado Voters Action Group (an anti-lottery lobby).
In 1984, he was active in the Colorado Citizens for Responsible Government (an anti-abortion organization).
Offices in other Organizations18
Away from the Prohibition circuit, Dodge was active in the American Political Items Collectors (see: apic.us) and was President of its Colorado Chapter in 1977 and again in 1979; his specialty was Republican President Warren Harding.
He was the first President of the Good Government Association of Kalamazoo (Michigan), serving from 1968 through 1970. He was a member of the (appointive) Kalamazoo Community Relations Board in 1967-70.
He was appointed to the Colorado State Elections Advisory Board in 1974.
Dodge helped found the Dodge Family Association, in 1981. He has been editor of the Dodge Family Journal since 198519. He was Secretary/Treasurer of the Association in 1987 and is today (January, 2005) listed as Secretary of the Association on their website (see: www.dodgefamily.org). Through his “Dodge Historic Tours” organization, he has led five genealogical tours to England (1988, 1990, 1998, 1999, and 2002), and as of 14 January 2005, he was selling seats on a 6th Tour.
He was Treasurer and Deputy Governor of the Colorado chapter of the Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims in 1997 and Governor in 1999 (see: www.dodgefamily.org).
He was the first President of the Mount Evans (Denver area) Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, in 1985-88. He was the state SAR Chaplain in 1985, state SAR Vice-President in 1986, and state SAR President in 1987 (see: www.cossar.org).
Earl F. Dodge was a Deacon at Beth Eden Baptist Church (Wheat Ridge, Colorado) from 1972 through 1978 and was on the board of Beth Eden Baptist School in 1972, becoming Treasurer in 1973 and board Chairman during 1974-79 (www.betheden.org). Subsequently transferring his membership to Arvada Baptist Church (Arvada, Colorado), he became a Deacon there in 1986 and served as board Chairman in 1998-99.
He has taught a Bible class at the Argyle Park Square women’s retirement home since August, 1973.
He was President of his office condominium owners association in downtown Denver in 1979,
Earl F. Dodge received the “Good Government Award” of the Kalamazoo Good Government Association in 1971, the “Citation of Merit” of the Partisan Prohibition Historical Society in 1979, and the “Friend of Life Award” of the Colorado Right-to-Life Committee in 1981. He was listed in “Who’s Who in the Midwest” in 1971 and in the national “Who’s Who” from 1980 through 1994, on the basis of being an “association executive20.”
Earl F. Dodge has been a very busy person, all of his life. He is a man of wide interests. He deserves much credit for good intentions and for trying hard. That said, one has to ask, what have been the fruits of his labors…..
When Dodge came on the Prohibition Party scene in 1952, the Prohibition national ticket was on the ballot in 20 states and received 78,000 votes; at Dodge’s last campaign, in 2000, our Party was on the ballot in one state and got 200 votes.
In 1952, the Prohibition Party fielded some 250 state and local candidates, of which 16 were elected. In 2000, there were no state or local candidates.
In 1952, the Prohibition National Committee had a budget (1952 dollars) of over $50,000; at Dodge’s last campaign, it had a budget (2000 dollars) of about $20, 000.
In 1952, there were strong state organizations in several states. In 2000, there was a functioning state organization in only one state.
Dodge mismanaged the Partisan Prohibition Historical Society and the National Prohibition Foundation so badly that “hostile directors” were able to take over both organizations and elect new officers (in 1997 and in 2001, respectively).
Hostile directors on the Prohibition National Committee became a majority in 2003, promoted Dodge to “Emeritus,” and elected a new slate of officers there, also.
The Author has attended, off-and-on, National Temperance and Prohibition Council meetings since the mid-1960s. Dodge always attends. I have noticed that he fills three roles there: He amuses everyone by cracking jokes, he leads the singing, and he makes the motion to adjourn: a hale fellow well met.
Dodge has amassed a notable personal hoard of political Americana, with an emphasis on Prohibition Party material – the “Roger Storms Collection,” named in honor of late Party historian Roger C. Storms. Money to develop this was provided by the Prohibition Trust Fund Association, until recently; in 2004, the Trust Fund withdrew its support, for lack of a satisfactory accounting from Dodge 22.
The American Political Items Collectors refused to renew Dodge’s membership sometime before 1995, after complaints by several members that Dodge had visited their homes, distracted them, and pocketed things he liked. He is no longer allowed into display areas at APIC meetings (although the meetings are open to the public)23.
As a long-time participant in the Temperance Movement, the Author knows from personal observation that many of the “organizations” of which Dodge has been an officer are just one or a few people using a fancy name. Colorado Alcohol Drug Education is a good example: CADE was Dodge and one other man, Rayford Feather. Feather had been the Washington lobbyist for the American Council on Alcohol Problems, before going to Colorado, and I knew him casually – he was a fellow Pennsylvanian from the next county to mine. He was a good man, but in Colorado he had an organization of two: himself, and Earl F. Dodge.
The voters in Dodge’s 1996 campaign for President of The United States had this to say about Earl F. Dodge: He received more votes in Arkansas (483 / 0.05%) where he was virtually unknown than he did in Colorado (375 / 0.02%) where he has lived most of his adult life.
Earl Higgerson did much of the footwork in collecting the details of Dodge’s activities in Colorado.
1- Several pieces of correspondence, Author’s files.
2- Dodge says that Robert got over 19,000 votes in his 1978 run for Regent, the “best Prohibition vote ever in Colorado” (Christmas letter, 1978). This vote was exceeded several times later on by other Dodge family members, culminating with Elsi’s 43,500 for Regent in 1990 – and then none of his relatives ran again!
3- Author’s telephone calls to the Lakewood office of First Bank, 5 October 1995 and 11 March 1997.
4- Colorado Right-to-Life rented a room in our condo for their state office (Dodge, 2003, National Statesman 69(12):2.)
5- See Dodge’s (undated, but with a 1 March 2000 postmark) letter to the Executive Committee: “The Foundation had funds deposited with it by individuals and groups, on which it paid interest. Those funds were repaid from the sale proceeds” [from the office condominium].
In an earlier letter to the Executive Committee, dated 15 February 2000, Dodge says “Over the past 15 years, the Foundation has accepted deposits on which it pays interest. That money has been used to subsidize our party. Now, the Foundation pays some $4000 a year in interest on those funds….”
And in an undated (but still earlier) solicitation, Dodge says:
“You may deposit money now with the Foundation and receive an above average rate of interest. This money can be deposited on:
A. A plan whereby you can withdraw money whenever you wish. Any funds left at the
time of your death go to the Foundation for its good work.
B. A plan whereby you give money to the Foundation and receive a lifetime income at a
guaranteed rate – in effect an annuity. Both plans pay good rates of interest ….”
6- Letter to C.L. Gammon, 24 February 2002.
7-The Statesman was sent to all current financial contributors to the Party – in 1975, to some 6000 people (National Observer 12 Jul 75); in 1984 to perhaps as many as 700 (stated in taped interview with Earl Higgerson); in 1993 to about 500 (stated in report on mid-term conference); and in 1995 to about 400 (Higgerson, idem). Near the end, The Statesman probably circulated fewer than 200 copies (estimated on the basis of not having a bulk mail permit, which requires a minimum of 200) (the amount can also be estimated on the economics of xeroxing a few versus printing a lot – The Statesman was xeroxed during its final years).
8- The dates given here and elsewhere are not inclusive. I have only compiled Dodge’s own mentions of holding this or that position.
9- Founded by Rutherford Decker, our 1960 Presidential candidate, “to persuade Christians to become active in the [political] party of their choice.” (Dodge, Statesman 69(12):7, 2003)
10- Dodge says (idem) that he lived in Kansas City, Missouri in 1966, but he ran for office in the state of Kansas in 1966 (Richard Winger, election data).
11- In a letter to the Prohibition National Committee, dated 7 March 2000, Dodge states that The Cottage was purchased in the name of the National Prohibition Foundation. On p.2 of the June, 2003 Statesman (erroneously dated “February-March” on p.1), Dodge states that this was the home of the at-that-time Executive Secretary, Virgil Finnell.
12- City real estate records show a purchase price of $19,500 and a sale price of $28,500.
13- Dodge repeatedly has claimed to have purchased only one unit, #128, but the deed for #132, dated 15 May 1996, states that the seller was the “National Prohibition Foundation,” the same legal entity that owned #128.
14- Dodge has said many times that he built an addition with his own money (cf. an undated letter to the Executive Committee [postmarked 1 March 2000] and a letter to the Executive Committee dated 22 March 2000), but there is no addition – only the tool shed.
15- See footnote 8.
16- A non-profit foundation was necessary to meet the requirements of the Ulmer Estate and of the Prohibition Trust Fund Association; Dodge used it, also, as a holding company and for a money pipeline, perhaps to prevent Prohibition National Committee oversight of his financial dealings and to conceal the sources of his funds. As time went on, the trustees of the National Prohibition Foundation came to be limited to himself and a few close relatives and long-time friends.
17-Today’s “National Civic League” is an unrelated self-help organization of local governments and officials, formerly the “National Municipal League.” Dodge tired of the National Civic League, and, in 1987, the Municipal League took over the name (Encyclopedia of Organizations).
18- See footnote 8.
19- It is instructive to compare Dodge’s effort on The National Statesman with his effort on the Dodge Family Journal.
The Statesman in the 1960s was indifferently printed on cheap paper. Soon after Dodge began his second term as Executive Secretary of the Prohibition National Committee, he hired a better printer and enlarged the sheet size of The Statesman. The professional appearance of The Statesman lasted from 1972 through 1987. Probably in response to the deteriorating financial condition of the Prohibition National Committee, Dodge switched in 1988 to “quick-and-dirty” paste-ups of typewritten material and of clippings glommed from other publications, badly duplicated. For several years, The Statesman looked atrocious – something one would be embarrassed to show to friends or to prospective members. By the mid-1990s, however, Dodge’s wife, Barbara, had learned how to do desk-top publishing with a computer and a xerox machine. The Statesman since then had a more uniform, though still amateurish, appearance.
Dodge began producing the Dodge Family Journal in 1984, for the Dodge Family Association. The Journal, by contrast, is a well-written, well-designed, nicely printed, lavishly illustrated, full-color magazine. Most Journal articles are contributed by readers (Dodge dashed off nearly all Statesman copy, himself). The only similarities between the two “dodgeoffice” publications are the typeface (Times New Roman) and the design of the table of contents.
Dodge’s declining interest in The National Statesman paralleled his increasing interest in the Dodge Family Journal.
20- The Author personally examined these volumes of “Who’s Who” and found Dodge’s listing therein. He is not mentioned in “Who’s Who in the West” 1970-77 and 1980-88 (1978-79 volume not on shelf when I looked for it).
21- For a somewhat different version of all this, see Dodge’s reminiscences “Fifty Years in the Prohibition Party,” published in several installments in his personal National Statesman during 2003.
22- Trust Fund minutes.
23- Letters from and telephone conversations with Joe Hayes, APIC Secretary.
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