Lena Springs Nominated for Vice-President, 1924
South Carolina women could not vote in any primary or election before 1920, a year after the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted the right. In 1920, Lena Jones Wade Springs of Lancaster enthusiastically cast her vote for the nominees of the Democratic Party. In 1922, she became a Democratic National Committeewoman (serving in that capacity through 1928).
In 1924, Lena Springs, wife of Col. Leroy Springs, was the first woman to be proposed for vice-president of the United States. She was a SC delegate-at-large and chairman of the credentials committee. Her 18 fellow SC delegates saw the nomination as a way to pay tribute to her previous service to the state of South Carolina as well as to the national party.
The 1924 convention was held in New York City. One of the newspapers labeled Mrs. Springs 'the hit of the convention.' She was first noticed when she made her report as chairman of the credentials committee. A correspondent wrote, "So impressed were the delegates and visitors by Mrs. Springs' beauty and clear, sweet voice that the band, uninstructed, struck up with the tune 'Oh, You Beautiful Doll'."
Mrs. Springs, who was chairman of the English Department at Queens College in Charlotte before marrying Colonel Springs, was described as beautiful with "black hair, a clear complexion, blue eyes, and a most winning smile." She had charm but was quite level-headed about the likelihood of being the party's candidate in the national election.
Mrs. Springs said, "I appreciate it...but I have no expectations of ever being nominated. I won't take it seriously, but at the same time I won't treat it lightly."
When asked if she had ever done any public speaking, Lena Springs said she hadn't for public office, but she had made speeches for woman's suffrage and for the Red Cross during the World War I. She could have added that she was the district director of the SC League of Women Voters and had been the organizer and chairman of the Lancaster Red Cross in 1917-18.
Lena Jones Wade had married Leroy Springs in 1913. It was a second marriage for both. She was a native of Pulaski, Tennessee, and had been educated in private schools and Sullins College with post-graduate work at Virginia College in Roanoke. Leroy Springs, a native of Fort Mill, attended the University of North Carolina before dropping out in his sophomore year to become a wholesale grocer in Lancaster. He first married Grace White of Fort Mill and had one child, Elliott White Springs.
In 1895, Springs built the Springs Cotton Mill in Lancaster, and by the time of his marriage to Lena (his wife Grace died of cancer in 1907), had acquired mills in Chester, Fort Mill, and Kershaw as well as a bank, the L & C Railroad, and thousands of acres of cotton plantations.
There were 30 people nominated for the office of vice-president in 1924. The nomination of Lena Springs was only a gesture, but she did get over 50 votes from delegates of a dozen states and the Canal Zone. Will Rogers, the famous cowboy humorist, congratulated Mrs. Springs saying, "I am for you, even though that fact may spell defeat. As a matter of fact, I am willing to consider you for head of the ticket."
After the death of Col. Leroy Springs in 1931, Lena Jones Springs kept the house on Lancaster's Gay Street (now Lancaster City Hall) but spent more and more of her time at her New York City apartment in the Plaza Hotel. She died there May 18, 1942, and was buried in Pulaski, Tennessee.