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Senate Madness – First Round: Five vs. Twelve seeds

19th Century Era

5. Sam Houston, D/Know Nothing-Texas, 1793-1863: The namesake for the nation’s fourth-largest city, Sam Houston still lives deep in the hearts of Texans. He was the Texas Republic’s first president, and when Texas became a state, he became one of its senators. In that chamber, he refused to endorse the Kansas-Nebraska Act – which allowed states to decide for themselves whether to keep slavery – because he felt it would further divide the nation. In fact, he was the only Southern Democrat to vote against the act, and he was right: Less than a decade after its passage, the country descended into Civil War. Houston’s opposition damaged him politically, and he was dismissed from the Senate by the Texas Legislature (remember, this was before direct election of senators), and then ran for governor and lost. Two years later, however, he ran again for governor, and won, but was deposed in 1861 after Texas seceded from the union – despite his best efforts to avoid that -- and he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederate states.

12. Hamilton Fish, Whig-N.Y., 1808-1893: Fish served only one term in the Senate, but his resume was very similar to fellow New Yorker William Seward’s – governor, senator, and secretary of state (under Grant). In the Senate (1851-1857), Fish served on the Foreign Relations Committee and, though against slavery, was a moderate on the issue. Despite his short tenure in the Senate, the Fish family is one of the longest-serving families in Congress in American history. There was a Hamilton Fish in Congress from 1843-1856 and then from 1909 all the way up to 1994. But just one of those terms was in the Senate.

 

 

20th Century Era 

5. Huey Long, D-La., 1893-1935: The inspiration for Robert Penn Warren’s flawed protagonist in “All the King’s Men,” Long was one of the more notable politicians during the early days of the Great Depression. A populist who, served as governor and senator (and in both positions for a period of time), the Louisianan first supported Franklin Roosevelt but later opposed his New Deal. Long explored a potential presidential bid in 1936, but was assassinated in Louisiana the year before.

12. Richard Russell, D-Ga., 1897-1971: He served in the U.S. Senate for nearly 40 years, becoming the dean of southern conservative Democrats during the 1950s and 1960s. Russell chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and he staunchly opposed the civil-rights legislation of that era. Due to his legislative acumen and skill, one of the Senate office buildings is named after him. 

 

 

Modern Era 

5. Hubert Humphrey, D- Minn., 1911-78: A strong debater, parliamentarian, and liberal, the "Happy Warrior” Humphrey merged Minnesota's Democratic and Farmer-Labor parties, and he fought for civil rights, farmers, and small businesses.  His biggest legislative achievements were helping get through the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As vice president to LBJ, he helped to pass the Voting Rights Act and Medicare. 

12. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, 1924-2012: Inouye was Hawaii’s most prominent politician, having served as its U.S. senator for nearly 50 years and as its first congressman. He was a key questioner on the Senate’s Watergate committee in the 1970s, and he chaired the Senate’s investigation of the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s. As the Senate’s president pro tempore, Inouye – a Japanese American – became the highest-ranking public official of Asian descent in U.S. history. Before launching his political career, Inouye was a decorated World War II hero who lost his arm in battle (and who spent time in a military hospital with two other Senate Madness participants who also were wounded in World War II, Bob Dole and Phil Hart). 

 

 

Mixed Era 

5. Wayne Morse, R/D-Ore., 1900-74: The original "maverick" senator, he was only one of two senators opposing the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, accurately predicting the difficulty of the Vietnam War. His opposition to the war, however, likely cost him his seat. He switched from Republican to independent in 1953, symbolically moving a folding chair to the middle of the aisle. But in 1955, Lyndon Johnson persuaded him to join the Democrats, giving them a one-seat majority. Morse held the longest talking filibuster record of 22 hours and 26 minutes until it was broken four years later by Strom Thurmond.

12. George Norris, R-Neb., 1861-1944: Known as the father of the Tennessee Valley Authority – the New Deal program that provided flood control and helped bring electricity to the Tennessee River region – Norris served in the U.S. Senate for 30 years (1913-1943) as both a Republican and independent (after he supported Franklin Roosevelt for president in 1932). Norris lost his bid for re-election in 1942 and passed away two years later.