Public Figure Profiles

Walter Reuther

Walter Philip Reuther (September 1, 1907 – May 9, 1970) was an American leader of organized labor and civil rights activist who built the United Automobile Workers (UAW) into one of the most progressive labor unions in American history. He saw labor movements not as narrow special interest groups but as instruments to advance social justice and human rights in democratic societies. He leveraged the UAW's resources and influence to advocate for workers' rights, civil rights, women's rights, universal health care, public education, affordable housing, environmental stewardship and nuclear nonproliferation around the world. He believed in Swedish-style social democracy and societal change through nonviolent civil disobedience. He cofounded the AFL-CIO in 1955 with George Meany. He survived two attempted assassinations, including one at home where he was struck by a 12-gauge shotgun blast fired through his kitchen window. He was the fourth and longest serving president of the UAW, serving from 1946 until his death in 1970.As the leader of five million autoworkers including retirees and their families, Reuther was influential inside the Democratic Party. During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt frequently consulted Reuther, referring to him as "my young red-headed engineer." Following the Bay of Pigs in 1961, JFK sent Reuther to Cuba to negotiate a prisoner exchange with Fidel Castro. He was instrumental in spearheading the creation of the Peace Corps and in marshaling support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Fair Housing Act. He met weekly in 1964 and 1965 with President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House to discuss policies and legislation for the Great Society and War on Poverty. The Republican Party was wary of Reuther, leading presidential candidate Richard Nixon to say about John F. Kennedy during the 1960 election, "I can think of nothing so detrimental to this nation than for any President to owe his election to, and therefore be a captive of, a political boss like Walter Reuther." Conservative politician Barry Goldwater declared that "[Reuther] was more dangerous to our country than Sputnik or anything Soviet Russia might do." In 1955, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. wrote, "Walter P. Reuther, the extraordinarily able and intelligent leader of the UAW, may well become in another decade the most powerful man in American politics."A powerful ally of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, Reuther marched with King in Detroit, Selma, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Jackson. When King and others including children were jailed in Birmingham, Alabama, and King authored his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, Reuther arranged $160,000 for the protestors' release. He also helped organize and finance the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, delivering remarks from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial shortly before King gave his historic "I Have a Dream" speech on the National Mall. An early supporter of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, he asked Robert F. Kennedy to visit and support Chavez. He served on the board of directors for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was one of the founders of Americans for Democratic Action. A lifetime environmentalist, Reuther played a critical role in funding and organizing the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. According to Denis Hayes, the principal national organizer of the first Earth Day, "Without the UAW, the first Earth Day would have likely flopped!"Reuther was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995 by President Bill Clinton, who remarked at the ceremony, "Walter Reuther was an American visionary so far ahead of his times that although he died a quarter of a century ago, our Nation has yet to catch up to his dreams." Reuther was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Murray Kempton, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, wrote, "Walter Reuther is the only man I have ever met who could reminisce about the future." A. H. Raskin, labor editor of The New York Times, wrote, "If the speed of a man's mind could be measured in the same way as the speed of his legs, Walter Reuther would be an Olympic champion." George Romney, Governor of Michigan, once said, "Walter Reuther is the most dangerous man in Detroit because no one is more skillful in bringing about the revolution without seeming to disrupt the existing forms of society."

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Some of their strengths

Walter Reuther has many admirable traits.

Based on spiritual traditions from around the world, they are someone who can be described as Loyal, Kind, Passionate, Intuitive, Imaginative, Creative, and Compassionate.

Smart and Sophisticated

According to Mysticism’s Astrology tradition, Walter Reuther is someone who is a smart, sophisticated, and organized person who displays kindness and grace in every day interactions, and who also has a passionate soul. A person who is known for being fun and creative.

Soulful and Intuitive

Based on Daoism’s Ba-Zi or ‘Chinese Zodiac’ tradition, people who know Walter Reuther well know them as someone who can be graceful, romantic, and reserved, like gentle rain.

Productive and Perseverent

According to Hinduism’s Jyotisha or ‘Vedic Astrology’ tradition, many would also describe Walter Reuther as someone who is productive, persevering, deliberate, and direct.

A person who is creative, has good luck with work and money, good listening skills, good relationships with people at work, is a good teacher or counselor, and who is good at organizing groups, teams, or causes.

Inquisitive and Progressive

Based on the Mayan Tzolk’in or ‘Mayan Astrology’ tradition, Walter Reuther is someone who is an eternal student who is always interested in learning new things, and who has a desire to shake things up and change things.

They are also someone who is balanced, organized, and in-charge, and who loves traveling, working hard, and figuring out the patterns of things.

Altruistic and Purposeful

According to Judaism’s Kabbalah tradition, Walter Reuther tends to be someone who has a desire to be of service to a higher calling and who is always trying to perfect things. Who can be practical and polished, reserved and methodical, and who tends to trust internal judgment before trusting anyone else at face value.

Some of Walter Reuther's challenges

While Walter Reuther has many strengths, nobody is perfect. They also have some challenging traits they need to manage.

For example, Walter Reuther can be Stubborn, Sensitive, Difficult, Perfectionist, Emotional, Standoffish, and Idle.

Difficult and Perfectionist

One of Walter Reuther's key challenges is that they are someone who can be difficult and too much of a perfectionist.

Possessive and Stubborn

Walter Reuther is someone who can be possessive, jealous, inflexible, and stubborn, can have a habit of being a frivolous spender, and who can feel insecure or cynical in romantic relationships and have difficulty forming productive personal and professional partnerships.

Critical and Bossy

Finally, Walter Reuther also can be too focused on the small details of life, try to control whatever is happening, and be finicky and demanding.

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