86 Facts About Alben Barkley


Alben William Barkley was an American lawyer and politician from Kentucky who served in both houses of Congress and as the 35th vice president of the United States from 1949 to 1953 under President Harry S Truman.

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When World War II focused President Franklin D Roosevelt's attention on foreign affairs, Barkley gained influence over the administration's domestic agenda.

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Alben Barkley resigned as floor leader after Roosevelt ignored his advice and vetoed the Revenue Act of 1943.

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Alben Barkley took an active role in the Truman administration, acting as its primary spokesman, especially after the Korean War required the majority of Truman's attention.

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When Truman announced that he would not seek re-election in 1952, Alben Barkley began organizing a presidential campaign, but labor leaders refused to endorse his candidacy because of his age, and he withdrew from the race.

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Alben Barkley retired but was coaxed back into public life, defeating incumbent Republican senator John Sherman Cooper in 1954.

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Alben Barkley's parents were tenant farmers who grew tobacco, and his father was an elder in the local Presbyterian church.

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Alben Barkley traced his father's ancestry to Scots-Irish Presbyterians in Rowan County, North Carolina.

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Alben Barkley worked on his parents' farm and attended school in Lowes, Kentucky, between the fall harvest and spring planting.

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Alben Barkley enrolled at a local seminary school, but did not finish his studies before entering Marvin College, a Methodist school in Clinton that accepted younger students, in 1892.

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Alben Barkley allowed Barkley to miss the first and last month of the academic year to help on the family farm.

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Alben Barkley earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1897, and his experiences at Marvin persuaded him to convert to Methodism, the denomination with which he identified for the rest of his life.

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Alben Barkley took a job teaching at Marvin College but did not make enough money to meet his basic living expenses.

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Alben Barkley resigned in December 1898 to move with his parents to Paducah, Kentucky, the county seat of McCracken County, where his father found employment at a cordage mill.

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In Paducah, Barkley worked as a law clerk for Charles K Wheeler, an attorney and congressman, accepting access to Wheeler's law library as payment for his services.

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Alben Barkley read law while completing his duties and was admitted to the bar in 1901.

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Alben Barkley practiced in Paducah where a friend of Hendrick's appointed him reporter of the circuit court.

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Alben Barkley continued studying law in the summer of 1902 at the University of Virginia School of Law.

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Alben Barkley organized his own campaign and made speeches across the county, showcasing his eloquence and likeability.

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Alben Barkley prosecuted two magistrates for approving contracts in which they had a conflict of interest.

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Smedley resigned, and Alben Barkley was appointed to a three-man commission to investigate the losses.

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Alben Barkley responded that he had no more responsibility for those wrongdoings than Hazelip had for the murder of William Goebel, a Democratic governor who had allegedly been assassinated by Republican conspirators in 1900.

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Alben Barkley pointed to his improvement of the county's finances through inspection of charges presented to his office and showed evidence that he had fulfilled his obligations as county attorney, a fact Hazelip conceded.

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At the Fiscal Court's January 1910 meeting, Alben Barkley laid out an agenda to reduce the county's debt, improve its roads, and audit its books annually.

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Alben Barkley appointed a purchasing agent and an inspector of weights and measures for the county, and allocated a salary for the county's almshouse keeper instead of relying on fees to fund the position.

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Alben Barkley replaced the corvee system – wherein residents either paid a tax or donated labor to build and repair county roads – with private contracts.

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Alben Barkley endorsed Wilson's New Freedom agenda, including the 1913 Federal Reserve Act and the 1914 Federal Trade Commission Act.

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Alben Barkley supported measures to extend credit to and fund road improvements in rural areas.

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Speaker for the Anti-Saloon League, Barkley co-sponsored the 1916 Sheppard–Barkley Act which banned alcohol sales in Washington, D C It was passed in 1917.

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Alben Barkley sponsored an amendment to the Lever Food and Fuel Act forbidding the use of grain – rendered scarce by World War I and a poor harvest in 1916 – to make alcoholic beverages.

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The Memphis Commercial Appeal noted in late 1917 that Alben Barkley had not declined the invitations, but his continued silence reduced the prohibitionists' enthusiasm.

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Alben Barkley showed little interest in the faction's attempts to recruit him to challenge anti-prohibitionist Ollie James in the 1917 Democratic Senate primary.

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Wilson supporters, including Alben Barkley, campaigned for his re-election in 1916, using the slogan "he kept us out of war".

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Alben Barkley campaigned for Cox and his running mate, Franklin D Roosevelt, but his speeches focused more on Wilson's progressive record than Cox's fitness for office.

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Republican Warren G Harding defeated Cox in the general election, and Barkley found common ground with him on issues such as the creation of the Veterans' Bureau and the passage of the progressive Sheppard–Towner Act.

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Alben Barkley thought the administration was too favorable to big business interests and in 1922 he proclaimed that if Harding had returned the country to normalcy, "then in God's name let us have Abnormalcy".

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Alben Barkley employed the slogan "Christianity, Morality, and Good Government", and he and Cantrill – colleagues in the House – agreed to refrain from personal attacks.

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Alben Barkley campaigned across the state, earning the nickname "Iron Man" for making up to 16 speeches in a day.

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Alben Barkley supported Cantrill in the general election, gaining goodwill within the Democratic Party.

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Alben Barkley was not acceptable to many of the members of the committee, and he refused to accept nomination by party leaders instead of the voters.

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Alben Barkley won another term in the House by a 2-to-1 margin over his Republican opponent in 1924, but Democratic divisions cost Stanley his Senate seat, and Alben Barkley became even more convinced of the value of party loyalty.

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Alben Barkley contrasted his impoverished upbringing with Ernst's affluent lifestyle as a corporate lawyer, and attacked him for supporting Michigan senator Truman Handy Newberry, who resigned due to allegations of election fraud.

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When Congress adjourned, Barkley accompanied Sherwood Eddy and fellow senators Burton K Wheeler and Bronson M Cutting to the Soviet Union in August 1930.

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Alben Barkley was impressed by the industrial development brought about by Joseph Stalin's first five-year plan but did not advocate closer diplomatic ties with the Communist nation, as some of his colleagues did.

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Alben Barkley was angered that Hoover refused to call a special legislative session to adopt relief measures after the regular congressional adjourned in early March 1931.

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Applause frequently punctuated the speech, with the longest interruption – a 45-minute near-riot – erupting after Alben Barkley called for a platform plank directing Congress to repeal prohibition.

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In July 1934, the Democratic National Committee chose Barkley to respond to Republican National Committee chairman Henry P Fletcher's radio attacks on the New Deal.

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Alben Barkley was again the keynote speaker at the 1936 Democratic National Convention.

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On one of these occasions – the retirement of Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland – Alben Barkley advised Roosevelt to appoint Solicitor General Stanley Reed instead.

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Alben Barkley pointed to his fiscal conservatism as governor, including reorganizing and downsizing the executive branch and reducing the state's debt.

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Alben Barkley criticized Barkley as "a stranger to the state" and obliquely referred to "fat, sleek senators who go to Europe and have forgotten the people of Kentucky except when they run for election".

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Chandler indirectly charged that a Alben Barkley supporter had poisoned his ice water, causing the illness.

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Alben Barkley ridiculed the suggestion, promising to appoint "an ice water guard" for his campaign.

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Alben Barkley was able to salvage an appropriations bill to cover overspending by the WPA, although it allocated much less funding than Roosevelt had wanted.

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Alben Barkley helped secure the Hatch Act, and The Washington Daily News called a 1940 amendment that prohibited campaigning by federally funded state employees a "monument to Alben Barkley's persistence and parliamentary skill".

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Barkley disagreed with Roosevelt's selection of Agriculture Secretary Henry A Wallace as his running mate; Libbey felt that "there is enough evidence from Barkley's tortuous private and public statements about the qualifications of Wallace to infer that Barkley wanted the vice presidency for himself", although he did not promote this idea to Roosevelt.

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Supreme Court Justice and fellow Kentuckian Louis Brandeis influenced Alben Barkley to adopt Zionism; during and after the war, Alben Barkley advocated creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and introduced a 1943 resolution demanding that the Nazis be punished for persecuting Jews.

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Alben Barkley regularly met with the chairmen of the Senate's standing committees, forming a sort of legislative cabinet.

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Alben Barkley advocated passage of a measure to outlaw poll taxes, but the bill was defeated.

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Alben Barkley announced that he would resign as floor leader and encouraged his legislative colleagues to override the veto.

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Alben Barkley stated that Roosevelt's characterization of the bill as "providing relief not for the needy, but for the greedy" was "a calculated and deliberate assault upon the legislative integrity of every member of the Congress of the United States".

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Roosevelt sent a letter to Alben Barkley insisting he had not intended to impugn Congress' integrity and urging him not to resign.

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The next morning, Alben Barkley resigned and left the Democratic Conference Room; minutes later, the caucus unanimously re-elected him.

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Alben Barkley was among 12 nominated at the 1944 Democratic National Convention to be Roosevelt's running mate in the presidential election that year, receiving six votes.

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Alben Barkley sponsored a resolution to create the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack and was chosen as chairman of the ten-person committee.

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Alben Barkley was the Democratic Speakers Bureau's most requested orator, surpassing Truman.

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Alben Barkley mentioned Truman only once, leading Truman to suspect that Barkley sought to supplant him as the party's presidential nominee, but no such attempt occurred.

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Alben Barkley was disappointed that he was not Truman's first choice as running mate, but over the next six weeks, he crisscrossed the country by plane, making over 250 campaign speeches in 36 states.

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Alben Barkley chaired the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and attended Truman's weekly legislative conferences.

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Alben Barkley acted as the administration's primary spokesperson, making 40 major speeches in his first eight months in office.

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Mark Hatfield's biographical sketch of Alben Barkley noted that he was "the last [vice president] to preside regularly over the Senate, the last not to have an office in or near the White House, [and] the last to identify more with the legislative than the executive branch".

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Alben Barkley studied the original debate on Rule XXII, which governed both cloture motions, before ruling in Lucas' favor.

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In 1949, Emory University chose Alben Barkley to deliver its commencement address and awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws.

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Alben Barkley tried to mentor Scott Lucas and Ernest McFarland, his immediate successors as floor leader, by teaching them to work with the vice president as he had during Truman's vice presidency, but Truman's unpopularity made cooperation between the executive branch and the legislature difficult.

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Alben Barkley felt ill when he arrived in Paducah on election day, and a doctor diagnosed him with a "tired heart".

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Truman surprised Alben Barkley, appearing on the Senate floor to present the medallion and a gavel made of timbers used to renovate the White House after the burning of Washington in 1814.

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On his 74th birthday, Alben Barkley traveled to the front lines on a fact-finding mission for the president.

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Exactly two months after Truman's announcement, Alben Barkley declared his availability to run for president while maintaining he was not actively seeking the office.

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Alben Barkley's advisors believed that Kefauver and Russell would knock each other out of the early balloting, allowing Alben Barkley to capture the nomination.

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At a meeting with labor leaders the next morning, Alben Barkley failed to persuade them to retract the statement, which caused delegations from large industrial states like Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania to waver on their commitments to Alben Barkley.

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Alben Barkley contracted with NBC to create 26 fifteen-minute commentary broadcasts called "Meet the Veep".

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In retirement, Alben Barkley remained a popular speaker and began working on his memoirs with journalist Sidney Shallett.

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Alben Barkley re-entered politics in 1954, challenging incumbent Republican senator John Sherman Cooper.

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Alben Barkley resumed his Iron Man campaign style, campaigning for up to sixteen hours a day, countering the "too old" charge that had cost him the 1952 Democratic presidential nomination.

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Alben Barkley joined the Broadway Methodist Episcopal Church, where he was a lay preacher, and several fraternal organizations, including Woodmen of the World, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Improved Order of Red Men.

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Many personal items owned by Alben Barkley are displayed on the second floor of the historic house Whitehaven in Paducah.

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