Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan wears a lei as he and his running mate, Sen. Richard Schweiker, appear before members of the Hawaii delegation at the Repupblican National Convetion in Kansas City in August 1976. (Associated Press photo)
This is a story, a footnote really, about two Pennsylvania politicians, both members of the tiny Schwenkfelder Church, and the part they played in the 1976 Republican campaign to choose a presidential candidate.
The two men, U.S. Sen. Richard S. Schweiker (he died the other day) and Andrew L. "Drew" Lewis, Jr., were old friends as well as fellow Schwenkfelders, a denomination with fewer than 3,000 members. Mr. Lewis was chairman of Pennsylvania's delegation to the 1976 GOP convention in Kansas City, Mo., and presumably controlled a significant bloc of the state's delegates.
Obituaries of Mr. Schweiker said Ronald Reagan announced before the convention opened he would pick the senator as his running mate in an effort to win some moderate Republicans distrustful of Mr. Regan's conservative leanings.
That surely was part of it, but the more pressing reason was the thought that Drew Lewis, Mr. Schweiker's close friend, would swing some Keystone State votes from President Gerald Ford to Mr. Reagan.
The fact that both men were members of the tight-knit Schwenkfelder church was significant. The church was founded by Caspar Schwenkfeld von Ossig (1489-1561) and by the beginning of the 18th Century its members were heavily persecuted by fellow Christians in southern Germany and Lower Silesia, in what is now Poland. Some of them fled to the United States, settling in and around Philadelphia.
The convention in Kansas City was actually exciting, thanks largely to the bravura performance of Mr. Reagan's campaign manager, John P. Sears. He had almost all of us covering the convention believing that Mr. Reagan had a shot at winning the nomination. I dimly remember that the lead on my story said that Sears was a little like Beau Geste, in the book and in the movies, stuffing dead bodies in Fort Zinderneuf's embrasures to convince angry Tuareg mobs that there was still life in the French Foreign Legion outpost.
The key vote at the convention was on a ridiculous rules change that would have required Mr. Ford to announce his choice as his running mate before the balloting began. The rule was defeated, 1,187 votes to 1,070.
Mr. Sears's ploy, which I am sure he realized was a desperate long shot, didn't work. The Pennsylvania delegation held firm for President Ford. And Mr. Schweiker and Mr. Lewis reportedly were never close friends again.
They were both joined, though, in Mr. Reagan's first Cabinet in 1981. It was a rarity, two Schwenkfelders, Mr. Lewis as secretary of Transportation and Mr. Schweiker as secretary of Health and Human Services.
James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, contributes regular observations to post-gazette.com. Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.