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An Alben W. Barkley Fact Sheet
Barkley coined the term "Give 'em hell, Harry."

A Short Kentucky Senator Alben W. Barkley Fact List

(1) Alben William Barkley (November 24, 1877 - April 30, 1956) was an American politician in the Democratic Party who served as the 35th Vice President of the United States (1949-1953), under President Harry S. Truman.

(2) Prior to the Vice Presidency, Barkley served in the U. S. Senate from Kentucky for over twenty years, and was Majority Leader of that body from 1937 to 1947.

(3) Born in a log cabin near Lowes, Graves County, Kentucky.

(4) He graduated from Clinton, KY. Marvin College in 1897, where he excelled in speech and debate. He worked his way through college with a full-time janitorial job. Barkley later attended Emory College, in Oxford, Georgia. He was a member of Delta Tau Delta social fraternity, graduated in 1900, and then attended the University of Virginia School of Law.

(4) Barkley was admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1901 and commenced practice in Paducah, Kentucky. He was the prosecuting attorney for McCracken County from 1905 to 1909 and judge of McCracken County Court from 1909 to 1913. He built a reputation as a progressive who sided with the farmers more than the townspeople. His energetic, folksy campaigning and strong oratorical skills made him a power in the local Democratic party. He defeated three opponents in the 1912 congressional primary, won the Congressional election, and became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

(5) Barkley was elected to the Sixty-third and to the six succeeding Congresses (1913-1927) representing Kentucky's 1st district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

He gained statewide stature by leading a crusade against the coal and gambling special interests during his 1923 campaign for Governor of Kentucky. Barkley narrowly lost the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. However, that sole electoral defeat actually helped propel him into the U.S. Senate in 1926. The race gave him name recognition throughout Kentucky and won him the title "Iron Man," for his ability to give as many as sixteen speeches a day on the campaign trail.

(6) Barkley was first elected to the United States Senate in 1926; he would be reelected in 1932, 1938, 1944, and 1954.

(7) Barkley was the keynote speaker at the 1932 Chicago National Democratic Convention which chose Franklin Roosevelt as its party nominee for President. Barkley also served as keynoter at the 1936 and 1948 Democratic National Conventions in Philadelphia.

(8) Barkley during the 1930's Great Depression and Roosevelt's New Deal helped to secure legislation, such as the Securities and Exchange Act, National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act, and the Social Security Act, through the Senate in 1934-1936.

the park that bears his name(9) Barkley was elected to served as Senate majority leader from 1937 to 1947 and Senate Minority Leader from 1947 to 1949. He shepherded Roosevelt's domestic and war proposals through the Senate, sponsoring financing for World War II and the lend-lease bill, which prevented Great Britain from capitulating to the Nazis. However, he broke with Roosevelt in 1944 on tax issues. When Roosevelt vetoed a tax bill because the rates were too low, Barkley resigned his leadership position, and called for a veto override. The veto was overridden and Barkley was unanimously returned as Majority Leader, clearly demonstrating that he, not the President, controlled the Senate.

(10) During the 1944 Democratic convention, Barkley was passed over for the Vice Presidential nod in favor of Senator Harry S. Truman of Missouri. In spite of any prejudice, Barkley unwaveringly supported the Roosevelt/Truman ticket and continued his legislative service. Barkley worked extensively with Truman after Truman became President upon the death of Roosevelt in April 1945.

(11) During this time, Barkley continued to play an influential role in the Senate, helping to ensure passage of the United Nations Charter through that body. He also served as chairman of the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack and member of the Congressional Nazi War Crimes committee. His experiences in post-war Germany, his religious conviction, and his relationship with fellow Kentuckian and U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Louis D. Brandeis, led him to later support the formation of Israel as a recognized nation-state.

(12) Barkley was nominated for Vice President at the 1948 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia following a rousing keynote address that garnered some support for his nomination as President. President Truman was widely considered an unpopular candidate for re-election against Governor Thomas Dewey of New York.

Despite their underdog status, Truman and Barkley continued to campaign doggedly. Barkley coined the term "Give 'em hell, Harry" as Truman was leaving Washington on his "whistle-stop" train across the country. Barkley's "prop-stops" by airplane also initiated a new phase in presidential campaigning by air.
Barkley was 71 years old at the time of his inauguration on January 20, 1949, the oldest Vice President to date.

In an April 30, 1956, keynote address at the Washington and Lee Mock Convention, Barkley spoke of his willingness to sit with the other freshman senators in Congress, he ended with an allusion to Psalm 84:10, saying "I'm glad to sit on the back row, for I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty."(Source: Wikipedia)

He then collapsed onstage and died of a heart attack.


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