President Herbert Hoover was inaugurated as the 31st President of the United States on March 4, 1929, during a period still known as the Roaring Twenties, when wealth and excess were touchstones of American culture. Nearly 8 months later, the façade came crumbling down as the stock market crashed, sparking the onset of the Great Depression.
While President Hoover, a staunch Republican, directed the government to invest in large public works programs – think Hoover Dam – he was unfortunately more well known for the shanty towns that sprung up all over America housing the dispossessed and despairing – think Hooverville.
Hoover was naturally invited to Los Angeles, to represent the federal government at the 1932 Olympic Games hosted in Los Angeles, California. But Hoover declined, becoming only the 2nd sitting president (after Teddy Roosevelt in 1904) not to participate in an Olympic Games on US soil.
As was stated in this Time Magazine article, Hoover knew his Presidency was in trouble and that in an election year, he needed to stay close to power in Washington DC. “’For him to be away from Washington for three weeks would be a national disaster,’ White House aide Lawrence Richey said, according to Bill Watterson’s The Games Presidents Play.”
Ironically, perhaps, it was during the Olympic Games in Tokyo when President Herbert Hoover drew his last breath. He was nearly 90 years old, and like the Los Angeles Games in 1932, the 1964 Games was nary a thought.