Robert Hannegan
Hannegan 2013-925 (1).jpg
52nd United States Postmaster General
In office
June 30, 1945 – December 15, 1947
PresidentHarry S. Truman
Preceded byFrank Comerford Walker
Succeeded byJesse M. Donaldson
Chair of the Democratic National Committee
In office
January 23, 1944 – October 29, 1947
Preceded byFrank Walker
Succeeded byJ. Howard McGrath
27th Commissioner of Internal Revenue
In office
October 9, 1943 – January 22, 1944
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byGuy T. Helvering
Succeeded byHarold Graves (Acting)
Personal details
Robert Emmet Hannegan

(1903-06-30)June 30, 1903
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
DiedOctober 6, 1949(1949-10-06) (aged 46)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Resting placeCalvary Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Irma Protzmann
EducationSaint Louis University (LLB)

Robert Emmet Hannegan (June 30, 1903 – October 6, 1949) was an American politician who served as Commissioner of Internal Revenue from October 1943 to January 1944. He also served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1944 to 1947 and United States Postmaster General from 1945 to 1947. After his political career, in 1947, Hannegan and partner Fred Saigh purchased the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball. But Hannegan, ill with heart disease, sold his share in the team to Saigh a few months before his death.

Political career

A power broker in the St. Louis Democratic Party allied with Senator Bennett Clark, Hannegan helped save the political career of Harry S. Truman in 1940 following the tax fraud conviction of Truman's ally, Kansas City boss Tom Pendergast. Hannegan supported Truman for re-election to the U.S. Senate when he was challenged in the Democratic primary by Governor Lloyd C. Stark and Maurice M. Milligan, who both sought credit for bringing down Pendergast. Truman re-won the seat with increased support in St. Louis, particularly from Catholic neighborhoods in which Hannegan wielded considerable influence. In his second term, Truman achieved national prominence by chairing a Senate committee investigating government waste in defense contracts. When Franklin D. Roosevelt offered Truman the position of DNC chairman, Truman declined but recommended Hannegan.

Postmaster General Robert E. Hannegan, (left) with the President Harry S. Truman at the Oval Office, in 1946.
Postmaster General Robert E. Hannegan, (left) with the President Harry S. Truman at the Oval Office, in 1946.

In 1944, Roosevelt appointed Hannegan, who had been the Collector of Internal Revenue in St. Louis, to the DNC after testing him by asking for his help with his income tax return.[1] As Democratic chairman, Hannegan was responsible for brokering the deal that made Truman Roosevelt's running mate that year. Shortly before the 1944 Democratic National Convention, Roosevelt famously sent Hannegan a letter stating he would be "happy to run with" either Truman or Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Vice President Henry A. Wallace nearly won the nomination, but Hannegan worked feverishly to secure Truman's nomination. Hannegan later joked he wanted his tombstone inscribed with the words "Here lies the man who stopped Henry Wallace from becoming President of the United States."[2]

Though plagued with ill health for much of his tenure as party chairman, Hannegan emphasized voter turnout efforts in Roosevelt's 1944 re-election campaign and prevented an upset by Thomas Dewey, who won a surprising 46 percent of the popular vote that year. He promoted a liberal policy agenda for the national party and was a strong advocate of labor unions. Hannegan stepped down as chairman after Democrats suffered Congressional losses in the 1946 midterm elections, but his ideological focus at the helm of the party contributed to Truman's upset win in the Presidential election of 1948, and influenced his Fair Deal proposals.


Hannegan died in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 6, 1949. He is interred in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.[3]

In popular culture

Hannegan was mentioned in the film Miracle on 34th Street in his role as Postmaster General. Therefore, in the film, by implication, he was responsible for affirming that central character Mr. Kris Kringle was the one and only Santa Claus.

Hannegan was portrayed by actor John Finn in the 1995 film Truman.


  1. ^ Gunther, John (1950). Roosevelt in Retrospect. Harper & Brothers. pp. 116.
  2. ^ What If 2? Edited by Robert Crowley. 'The Presidency of Henry Wallace', by James Chace, page 394
  3. ^ Historical Tour Outline of Calvary Cemetery (brochure)
Government offices Preceded byGuy T. Helvering Commissioner of Internal Revenue 1943–1944 Succeeded byHarold GravesActing Party political offices Preceded byFrank Walker Chair of the Democratic National Committee 1944–1947 Succeeded byJ. Howard McGrath Political offices Preceded byFrank Walker United States Postmaster General 1945–1947 Succeeded byJesse M. Donaldson