Gingrich’s Ambition

This is apparently not the first time the Newt Gingrich has sought the presidency of something no one really wanted him to have.

According to an article by Elizabeth Williamson in the Wall Street Journal:

A year into his first full-time teaching job, Newt Gingrich applied to be college president, submitting with his application a paper titled “Some Projections on West Georgia College’s Next Thirty Years.”

Mel Steely, a history professor who played a role in Mr. Gingrich’s hiring in 1970, said the bid drew “a chuckle” from administrators. The following year, Mr. Gingrich applied to be chairman of the history department.

“We weren’t going to make Newt our chairman, but he liked the idea of competing for almost anything,” said Mr. Steely, “He figured ‘I’m capable of doing this,’ and it didn’t bother him so much that it offended anybody.”

He came to the institution, now known as the University of West Georgia, highly recommended. Charles Roland, then chairman of the history department at Tulane, where Gingrich earned his PhD in 1971, wrote him a reference letter:

Mr. Gingrich is a dynamic, though quiet spoken, young man with a single-minded purpose in life: to become a fine history scholar. I have every reason to believe that he will succeed. I think that you would find him a favorable and agreeable addition to you staff.

Roland was mistaken. If Gingrich’s single minded purpose was to become “a fine teacher-scholar,” he would have eventually become one, wouldn’t he?

Gingrich did display a singed-minded purpose at West Georgia, but it wasn’t to be a teacher and a scholar. He displayed a characteristic that continues to dominate his personality; it’s a compulsion to try and be in charge of something, anything. He wants to do this even in fields where he isn’t, well, really that talented.

Denied tenure, Gingrich left the Georgia college in 1978. He was first elected to Congress later that year.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer