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George Norris

(b. 1861)


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(b. Clyde, Ohio, 11 Jul. 1861; d. McCook, Nebraska, 2 Sept. 1944)

US; Senator George Norris was the eleventh of twelve children. He studied and graduated in law while earning money as a schoolteacher. He moved to Nebraska in 1885 and practised law. He served time as an elected judge until 1902, when he was elected to Congress as a Republican, serving until 1913. From the start he showed his independence. He was a key member of the insurgency group who curtailed the power of Speaker Cannon, in 1910. He proposed that the membership of the powerful Rules Committee, which determined much of the business of the House, be increased and elected on a geographical basis, with the Speaker ineligible for membership. The proposal was carried and weakened the Speaker's power. He was elected in 1908 by a margin of only 22 votes and had received little help from the Republican Party. He considered himself a self-made candidate and that he might as well go it alone. He had also been denied committee assignments by Cannon. Norris was elected to Senate in 1912, displacing the incumbent Senator Brown, who had the support of the party establishment.

Norris is one of the great American legislators in the twentieth century. Remarkably many of his accomplishments came after he was over 70. He played a major role in the Rural Electrification Act (1936) which provided electricity to farming homes, and the Farm Forestry Act (1937). He was behind the amendment to the Nebraska constitution which made it the only state to have a unicameral system. He was behind one of the first New Deal measures, Tennessee Valley Authority Act, and author of the twentieth amendment to the American constitution, which abolished the short session of Congress and defined the terms of office of President, Vice-President, Senators, and representatives. He was an individualist, not a clubbable or a party man. He supported Democratic candidates for the presidency in 1928, 1932, and 1936, but not the Democratic Party. In 1936 he defeated both Republican and Democratic opponents and was endorsed by the President. He was usually to be found supporting the rights of workers to form trade unions, conservation measures, constitutional reforms (including the abolition of the electoral college) and the public ownership of hydro-electric power. He stood as an independent in 1942 and lost.

Subjects: Politics.


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