John Elliott Rankin

(b. 1882)

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(b. Itawamba County, Mississippi, 29 Mar. 1882; d. Tupelo, Mississippi, 26 Nov. 1960)

US; member of the US House of Representatives 1920–52 Rankin worked for a time on a local newspaper but went to law school (at the local University of Mississippi) and thereafter practised as a lawyer. His political interests caused him to seek election to the House and he was elected for the first time in 1920. His career was marked by the fanatical espousal of segregation and opposition not only to blacks but also to Jews, liberals, organized labour, and Communists. (He served on the House Un-American Activities Committee.) He was a fervent supporter of the White Citizens Council Movement, formed to defend white supremacy. In this context Rankin was not only a stalwart opponent of civil rights but proposed legislation to ban racial intermarriage in Washington, DC.

Although Rankin's extremist views on race overshadowed his whole political career, his populism was on occasion of real benefit to his Mississippi constituency. He was an early advocate of the Tennessee Valley Authority and sponsored with Senator Norris the legislation establishing it; and he promoted regional TVA systems to spread electrification through Mississippi.

Rankin served briefly in the war but gave great support to veterans' causes and became a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and later its chairman. In this capacity he sponsored the GI Bill of Rights which gave special privileges to returning servicemen in the job market, in housing, and in education.

Rankin lost his congressional seat as a result of the redistricting of 1952.

Subjects: Politics.

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