Albert, Carl


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(b. North McAlester, Oklahoma, 10 May 1908; d. McAlester, Oklahoma, 4 Apr. 2000) US; member of the US House of Representatives 1947 –77, Speaker 1971 –7 Carl Albert came from a relatively poor family of German descent in the mining area of Oklahoma. After attending the University of Oklahoma, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, where he studied law. After a brief spell in F. D. Roosevelt's Federal Housing Administration (1935 –7) and in the Ohio Oil Co. (1939 –40), he practised law until the Second World War broke out. During the war he served in the army until 1946 when he won a seat in the House of Representatives.

Albert was fortunate in that his first committee assignments were light, enabling him to become familiar with the workings of the whole House in depth. His attention to detail caught the eye of Speaker Sam Rayburn and he became part of Rayburn's intimate circle. He became majority whip in 1955, and in 1962 majority leader, beating Richard Bolling for the post. As majority leader, Albert played a major role in helping Lyndon Johnson pass his Great Society legislation. He succeeded John McCormack as Speaker in 1971.

Albert's tactics in Congress had involved the pragmatic appreciation of the needs of individual members and an initial willingness to work with the Southern Democrats, who used their seniority to wield power in the House. Albert was, however, well aware of the pressure for structural reforms of the House which would make it more responsive to majority Democratic sentiment. As majority whip he helped revive the Democratic Caucus to discuss party strategy and as Speaker he facilitated a number of important changes which enhanced the accountability of committees to the House as a whole. Taken together these changes (which included transferring committee assignments from the Ways and Means Committee to the Steering and Policy Committee and requiring that committee chairs be approved by the Democratic Caucus) strengthened party leadership and weakened the independent power of committee chairmen. The reforms also provided the foundation for an increase in the power of the Speaker. Although Albert spearheaded some of the opposition to Republican policies over the years 1971 –7, he also had to manage a divided party and found himself increasingly out of touch with its younger members who wanted more vigorous leadership. In 1977 he retired from Congress.

From A Dictionary of Political Biography in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Politics.

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