Mr. Speaker: Joseph W. Byrns of Tennessee

Mr. Speaker: Joseph W. Byrns of Tennessee

By Ray Hill Clearly, one of the most important and powerful positions in the American system of government is Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives.  The last Tennessean to occupy this vital post was Joseph W. Byrns. Joseph Wellington Byrns was born July 20, 1869 in Cedar Hill, Tennessee.  Byrns graduated from Vanderbilt […]

Mr Speaker: Joseph W. Martin of Massachusetts

Mr Speaker: Joseph W. Martin of Massachusetts

By Ray Hill From 1931 until 1947, the Republican Party had suffered shattering defeats largely brought on by the Great Depression.  Following the 1936 election, where GOP presidential candidate Alf Landon only won the electoral votes of Vermont and Maine, Republicans in the House of Representatives constituted only 88 members. Throughout the decade of the […]

Senator Reed Smoot of Utah

Senator Reed Smoot of Utah

By Ray Hill Reed Smoot is a name long since forgotten by most, save for those few who remember the Smoot – Hawley tariff legislation.  Yet, Reed Smoot was the first Mormon ever to be elected to the United States Senate, setting off a firestorm that consumed much of his first six-year term.  Fear and […]

Old Swaney: William Robert Webb of Tennessee

Old Swaney: William Robert Webb of Tennessee

By Ray Hill Most Knoxvillians have heard of the Webb School, but few remember William Robert Webb, the founder and headmaster of the first Webb School. R. Webb was a formidable character by any standard; he was a professional educator throughout his life, as well as a community activist and briefly, served as United States […]

Texas Liberal: Senator Ralph Yarborough

Texas Liberal: Senator Ralph Yarborough

By Ray Hill While now an apparently Republican “red” state, Texas was once solidly Democratic.  Like Tennessee, Texas has produced some interesting political personalities; Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, Senator Tom Connally, Governor John Connally (no relation to Tom), Governor Ann Richards, George Bush and not least of all, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Ralph Yarborough […]

E.L. Mechem of New Mexico: BIG ED

E.L. Mechem of New Mexico: BIG ED

By Ray Hill   New Mexico entered the union on January 6, 1912 and it became fertile ground for rough and tumble politics that swung from the outrageous to the brutal. Elections routinely were influenced by money and there were frequent charges of voter fraud. One of New Mexico’s first U. S. senators was Albert […]

Alabama Liberal: Lister Hill

Alabama Liberal: Lister Hill

By Ray Hill   Joseph Lister Hill did not emerge from the hills of Alabama, nor did he have to rise above poverty; in fact he was born into a well-to-do family.  Hill’s father was Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill and the future senator was named for his father’s friend, Dr. Joseph Lister, who pioneered the […]