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William Proxmire

(1915—2005)


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(b. Lake Forest, Illinois, 11 Nov. 1915, d. Washington D.C., 15 Dec. 2005)

US; member of the Wisconsin State Assembly 1951–2; US Senator 1957–88 The son of a wealthy doctor, Proxmire attended Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, Yale, and the Harvard Business School. He served in military intelligence in the Second World War and worked as a labour reporter in Madison, Wisconsin, as a preparation for a political career. In a surprise victory he was elected to the State Assembly in 1950 and then ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 1952, 1954, and 1956. Following the death of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy he won a special election to fill the vacant seat and was regularly re-elected until retirement in 1989.

In the Senate Proxmire acquired a reputation for independence. Although a hawk in the Vietnam War, he was a scourge of excessive government spending, especially in the field of defence. His monthly ‘Golden Fleece’ award was given for conspicuous examples of projects which in his view were a waste of public money. As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and Housing and Urban Affairs, he became a powerful influence both in the debates about the regulation of the banking industry and the financial problems of America's cities.

His dislike of unnecessary government waste was paralleled by personal austerity both in lifestyle and campaign spending. He was a strong advocate of improved consumer protection especially in the field of financial matters. Yet he was difficult to categorize on social issues. An early supporter of civil rights, he was nevertheless an opponent of bussing and abortion. In his last period in the Senate he successfully campaigned for Senate approval of a treaty outlawing genocide.

Subjects: Politics.


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