William Dodd Biography & Facts
William Edward Dodd (October 21, 1869 – February 9, 1940) was an American historian, author and diplomat. A liberal Democrat, he served as the United States Ambassador to Germany from 1933 to 1937 during the Nazi era. Initially a holder of the slightly antisemitic notions of his times, he went to Germany with instructions from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to do what he could to protest Nazi treatment of Jews in Germany "unofficially," while also attempting to follow official State Department instructions to maintain cordial official diplomatic relations. Convinced from first hand observation that the Nazis were an increasing threat, he resigned over his inability to mobilize the Roosevelt administration, particularly the State Department, to counter the Nazis prior to the start of World War II.
Early and family life and education
"Willie" Dodd was born on October 21, 1869 on a farm near Clayton, Johnston County, North Carolina, the eldest of eight children born to farmer John Daniel Dodd (1848–1941) and his first wife, the former Evaline Creech (1848–1909). His paternal English or Scottish ancestors had lived in America since the 1740s when Daniel Dodd settled among the Highland Scots in the Cape Fear Valley. The family included four younger brothers: Rev. Walter Henley Dodd (1872–1950), Alonzo Lewis Dodd (1875–1952), John Ivan Dodd (1876–1971), and Eff David Dodd (1884–1966). Of his three sisters, only Martha "Mattie" (Martha Ella) Dodd (born 1878) survived long enough to marry.After graduating from Clayton High School, Dodd attended Oak Ridge Military Academy to prepare for college. He was unable to secure an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy or at the University of North Carolina, and so taught at local schools until 1891, when he enrolled at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech). Dodd received his bachelor's degree in 1895 and a master's degree in 1897, by which time he had begun teaching undergraduates. On a colleague's advice, Dodd traveled to Germany and earned his PhD at the University of Leipzig in 1900, based on a thesis (in German) concerning Thomas Jefferson's 1796 return to politics following a three-year hiatus. Shortly after returning to the United States and resuming his teaching career, Dodd married Martha Johns at her family's home in nearby Wake County, North Carolina on December 25, 1901. They had two children, a daughter, Martha (1908–1990), and a son, William E. Dodd Jr. (1905–1952)
Dodd learned a class-conscious view of Southern history from his family, which taught him that slaveholders were responsible for the Civil War. His semi-literate and impoverished father supported his family only through the generosity of wealthier relatives, whom Dodd came to view as "hard men, those traders and aristocratic masters of their dependents". Dodd taught history at Randolph–Macon College in Ashland, Hanover County, Virginia from 1900 to 1908. His instruction there was at times controversial, because it included attacks on Southern aristocratic values and the "Lost Cause". In 1902, Dodd wrote an article in The Nation in which he complained of pressure to flatter Southern elites and their view that slavery played no role in the onset of the Civil War. He criticized the Grand Camp of Confederate Veterans by name. Confederate societies called for his dismissal. Dodd explained that "To suggest that the revolt from the union in 1860 was not justified, was not led by the most lofty minded statesmen, is to invite not only criticism but an enforced resignation." University administrators supported him and he attacked his accusers and detailed their distortions of Southern history. Recruited by the University of Chicago, Dodd began his 25-year career as Professor of American History there in 1908; he declined an offer from the University of California, Berkeley, the following year.Dodd was the first (and for many years the only) college or university professor fully devoted to the history of the American South. He produced many scholarly works, both articles and books, and won excellent reviews as a teacher. Though much of his scholarship was later superseded, Dodd helped to model a new approach to regional history: sympathetic, judicious, and less partisan than the work of earlier generations. In a letter to President Theodore Roosevelt (whose maternal ancestors were from the South), Dodd described his approach: "The purpose of my studying and writing history is to strike a balance somewhat between the North and the South, but not to offer any defense of any thing." Dodd's most prominent works (other than relating to President Wilson as described below) included: The Life of Nathaniel Macon (1903), Jefferson Davis (1907), Statesmen of the Old South (1911), Expansion and Conflict (1915), The Cotton Kingdom: A Chronicle of the Old South (1919) and The Old South: Struggles for Democracy (1937).A Democrat, Dodd became active in Chicago politics. In 1912 he wrote speeches for presidential candidate Woodrow Wilson, a Virginian and academic whose family had similarly experienced the devastating aftermath of the American Civil War. Dodd and Wilson became friends. Shortly after Wilson won the U.S. Presidential Election of 1912, Dodd bought a farm in the developing tourist and railroad community of Round Hill in Loudoun County, Virginia about 50 miles from Washington, D.C. Dodd would visit President Wilson in the White House frequently, and authored a biography, Woodrow Wilson and his Work, that appeared in 1920. Dodd became an early opponent of the theory that German imperialism was solely responsible for World War I. He gave speeches on behalf of Wilson and U.S. participation in the League of Nations. In 1920 Dodd reviewed the League-related parts of the speech Ohio Governor James M. Cox gave when accepting the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Following Wilson's death, Dodd lectured on his administration and its accomplishments, revised his 1920 biography, and co-edited (with key aide Ray Stannard Baker) the six-volumes of The Public Papers of Woodrow Wilson. Dodd defended Wilson in both scholarly journals and the popular press. Through these efforts, he developed connections to a number of figures in the Democratic Party establishment, including Josephus Daniels, Daniel C. Roper, and Edward M. House.
Dodd long planned to write a multi-volume history of the American South. As he reached his sixties, he found the prospect of completing it increasingly unlikely given his academic responsibilities. In addition to his responsibilities at the University of Chicago and later American University, Dodd held several positions as an officer of the American Historical Association and became that organization's president in 1934 (after his ambassadorial appointment described below). Moreover, the Southern Historical Association was founded in November 1934 and published the first volume of the Journal of South.... Discover the William Dodd popular books. Find the top 100 most popular William Dodd books.