Alton B. Parker
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Parker was born in Cortland, New York, and practiced law in Kingston, New York. He served as a justice of the Supreme Court of New York from 1885 to 1889, and as chief judge of New York Court of Appeals from 1898 to 1904. Parker was a protege of conservative Democratic politician David Bennett Hill.
Parker resigned as chief judge after receiving the 1904 Democratic Party nomination for the U.S. presidency. Parker was supported by conservative Bourbon Democrats, like former President Grover Cleveland, who had been alienated from the party in 1896 and 1900 due to the radicalism of the party's nominee William Jennings Bryan on economic issues. It was hoped that Parker could be acceptable to both factions since he was "sound" on economic issues, but had supported Bryan in 1896 as a good party man. These hopes were frustrated, however, as Parker had little appeal to Bryanites and carried only the Solid South. Division within his party over currency issues and the popularity of incumbent Theodore Roosevelt led to Parker's landslide defeat. Parker was unable to return to his former judicial position and practiced law for the rest of his life.
Author Irving Stone wrote a book called They Also Ran about defeated presidential candidates. He included a chapter about Judge Parker, mentioning that he is the only defeated presidential candidate in history never to have a biography written about him. Stone theorized that Parker would have been an effective president and the 1904 election was one of the few in American history where American voters had two first rate candidates to choose from. Stone professed that Americans liked Roosevelt more because of his colorful style.
Parker's birthplace, Cortland, New York, has a public elementary school named for him.
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