Judd, Walter Henry

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Judd, Walter Henry

(b. 25 September 1898 in Rising City, Nebraska; d. 13 February 1994 in Mitchellville, Maryland), medical missionary to China who as a speaker and congressman urged American assistance to Nationalist China.

The sixth of seven children of Horace H. Judd, a lumberman, and the former Mary Elizabeth Greenslit, a teacher, Judd was born in a Nebraska town possessing a population of 499. After graduating from the local high school, he enrolled at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in 1916. In 1918 he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private, becoming a second lieutenant of field artillery the next year. After the war, Judd received his B.A. degree from the University of Nebraska in 1920 and his M.D. in 1923. He then interned at the university hospital in Lincoln in 1923 and 1924. Meanwhile, having pledged his life to missionary purposes, he spent a year as a traveling secretary for the Student Volunteer Movement, speaking in 100 college chapels and halls. In 1925 he went to China, and after a year of intense language study in Nanking was assigned to a remote town, Shaowu, in Fukien province, so far in the interior that it could only be reached by a ten-day boat trip up the Min River. There he remained until 1931, when persistent attacks of malaria forced his return to the United States. In a typical year he treated 8,000 patients at the clinic, conducted 10 major and 350 minor operations, and made 600 house calls. In 1927 he came close to being killed by an anti-British crowd that belatedly discovered he was an American. (That year a British police inspector in the International Settlement in Shanghai allowed Indian troops to fire on a mob, killing several Chinese, and throughout China anti-British feelings were high.)

After studying surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, from 1932 to 1934, Judd returned to China in 1935, this time with his wife, the former Miriam Louise Barber, whom he had married in 1932. The couple eventually had three daughters. When the Japanese attacked China beginning in 1937, he sent the family home; he remained until 1938.

Upon Judd’s return to the United States the second time, he worked to inform the American people of the danger of Japanese imperialism. From 1938 to 1940 he spoke to 1,600 audiences across the country, supporting himself and his family from a small legacy. In 1939 he testified to the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate and the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives. The next year he started a medical practice in Minneapolis, speaking to audiences in the evenings, and in 1942 he successfully ran for Congress from Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District.

Judd’s twenty-year congressional career brought him to national attention, during which he took middle-of-the-road positions on domestic issues and liberal positions on foreign policy, espousing the United Nations (in 1957 he served as an American delegate to the General Assembly), the Truman Doctrine of 1947, the Marshall Plan, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as the Point Four program to send American technical aid to developing countries. He worked fervently to support Nationalist China and was instrumental in arranging $338 million in Marshall Plan appropriations for pre—Communist China and another $125 million to be spent at presidential discretion. Meanwhile, he had pushed for and obtained a quota for Chinese immigrants in 1943; he later pressed for the elimination of all racial-discriminatory clauses from immigration and exclusion laws in the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952. He supported the Korean War, although he opposed President Harry Truman’s dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur in 1951.

With the return of the Republican Party to the White House in 1953 under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Judd offered even more support for administration foreign policy, including China policy (unlike the average isolationist Republican adherent). In 1960 he was a candidate for nomination as vice president during the first presidential candidacy of Richard M. Nixon. That year Judd was the party keynote speaker, and to all appearances he set the convention on fire. In a bid for eastern support, however, Nixon chose as his running mate Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. Nevertheless, Judd loyally worked for the Nixon-Lodge ticket. After his defeat by the Democrats, Nixon told Judd that the G.O.P. might have won with Judd.

Congressman Judd was taken aback when Nixon, becoming president in 1969, espoused recognition of Communist China. For years Judd had headed the Committee of One Million, which worked against admission of the Peking government to the United Nations. Judd’s committee dissolved in 1971.

Upon his defeat for reelection in 1972, Judd continued his speeches and advocacy centering on East Asian issues and commanded much attention with articles in Reader’s Digest and a radio program. In 1981 Ronald Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He continued to live in Washington rather than returning to Minneapolis, until in 1988 he entered an Episcopalian retirement home in Maryland, where he eventually died at the age of ninety-five. He is buried in Rising City, Nebraska.

Judd’s face was scarred in youth by a physician who sought to cure his acne by use of X rays. The unfortunate treatment led to a lifelong battle with cancer, the disease from which he died. His medical ministry saved many lives. His political ministry may have been less successful, but he was an unforgettable figure to the millions who heard him speak and the many more millions who read his words or heard them quoted or cited. His biographer concluded, perhaps with exaggeration, that he was possessed of a monumental ego. Regardless, he was certainly voluble. During one political campaign, he told his campaign manager to station himself at the rear of a hall and signal him after thirty-five minutes. The manager did so. After forty-five he waved his arms. After fifty-seven the orator interrupted himself to say, “Why, my own campaign manager is even in the back of the room trying to shut me up. But I won’t be shut up—I’m going to finish this speech!”

Judd’s papers are mostly in the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, California, with a small collection in the Minnesota Historical Society. The biography by Lee Edwards, Missionary for Freedom: The Life and Times of Walter Judd (1990), contains much description of national and international events. Chronicles of a Statesman (1980) is a compilation of Judd’s speeches edited by Edward J. Rozek. Obituaries are in the Washington Post and Minneapolis Star-Tribune (both 15 Feb. 1994).

Robert H. Ferrell