Wednesday, August 22, 2012


August 22, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today we continue our report on Senator John F. Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize winning book, "Profiles In Courage."  

JFK's book highlights the stories of eight United States Senators who risked their political careers to pursue justice.

In the introduction to the Memorial Edition, Robert Kennedy writes:

"Courage is the virtue that President Kennedy most admired.  That is why this book so fitted his personality, his beliefs."

                     JFK Library Image

The title of Chapter VIII is George Norris.*

*George Norris (1861-1944) was born in Ohio. He earned his law degree at Valparaiso University in 1883 & practiced law in Beaver City, Nebraska.

Norris was elected as a Republican member of the US House of Representatives in 1903 & served until 1913 when he was elected to the US Senate.

George Norris served in the Senate for 30 years from 1913 to 1943.

An avid supporter of FDR's New Deal, Norris sponsored the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933 & the Rural Electrification Act.

Norris Dam & the town of Norris, Tennessee were named in his honor.

    Representative John E. Rankin &
         Senator George Norris with
                President Roosevelt
Signing the Rural Electrification Act

Senator Kennedy begins this chapter by telling how in 1910 Congressman Norris of Nebraska succeeded in having an amendment adopted which challenged the power of House Speaker "Czar" Joe Cannon.**

**Joseph G. Cannon (1836-1926), born in North Carolina, was admitted to the bar in 1858 & elected to the US House of Representatives from Illinois in 1873.  He served in that body until 1923.  His power as Speaker was so great he became known as "Czar."

                   Joseph G. Cannon
      Photo by Fred Hartsook (1915)
          Library of Congress Image

Ultimately, Norris, assisted by 42 progressive Republicans & 149 Democrats,  was able to force the resignation of "the most ruthless & autocratic Speaker in the history of the House of Representatives."

JFK tells us that while Norris was interested in ending Cannon's dictatorship as Speaker, he had no personal interest in punishing Cannon himself.

Years later, JFK writes, Cannon said to Norris:

"I do not recall a single instance in which you....(were) unfair.  I cannot say this of many of your associates; &.....if any member of your damned gang had to be elected to the Senate, I would prefer it be you more than any of them."