Anything can happen in a major national election, says Bill Hills, 87, a resident of Friendship Manor, a retirement complex at 1320 E. Fifth South. He still has a copy of the famous Chicago Tribune newspaper of Wednesday, Nov. 3, 1948 which has a banner headline across the front page: "Dewey Defeats Truman."
"Of course, Dewey didn't defeat Truman," Hills said. "Truman won the presidential election and later editions of the Chicago newspaper had a different headline to reflect Truman's victory."It may have been a bit of wishful thinking on the part of the Tribune's editors - Dewey was a Republican and the Tribune was well-known in those days for its Republican slant, but it was probably more a case of having to get a newspaper out on deadline and it did look, in the early hours of election day on Nov. 2, 1948, that Thomas E. Dewey had cinched the election."
Hills said he remembers that all the pre-election polls showed Dewey a winner. "Polls are great, but they aren't infallible."
A native of Illinois, Hills was a newspaper reporter and editor in Champaign and Decatur, Ill., and in Chicago as a young man in the 1920s, then became an advertising executive for Sears Roebuck & Co.
He moved to Moline, Ill., in 1945 and started his own advertising agency, and he remembers Truman coming to the Quad Cities - Moline and Rock Island, Ill., and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa - to campaign before the November 1948 election.
"Truman stood on the back of a railroad car and talked to people in small towns all over the Midwest in what was called a whistle stop tour. When his train stopped in at least two of the Quad Cities there were huge crowds all around Truman's railroad car to see and hear him."
Hills said the early edition of the Tribune was the paper that went to areas outside of Chicago and into rural Iowa, Indiana and Illinois. "It was probably printed at 9 or 10 p.m. at night and put on trucks and rail cars for delivery the next morning.
"I kept that Tribune and laid it away in the basement of my home, but I didn't take any special pains to keep it safe until a few years ago when I realized it was a rarity."
He has the complete paper, not just the front page, and had put it in a plastic envelope to preserve it.
Hills said he has voted in every presidential election since he was old enough to vote and has voted for some winners and some losers. He and his wife, Deana, will vote Tuesday morning, he said, at Friendship Manor, which has its own polling place.