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James Hamilton Lewis


United States Senator
from Illinois
In office
March 26, 1913 – March 4, 1919
Preceded by Shelby Moore Cullom
Succeeded by Joseph M. McCormick
In office
March 4, 1931 – April 9, 1939
Preceded by Charles S. Deneen
Succeeded by James M. Slattery

In office
1913 – 1919
Succeeded by Charles Curtis (R)

In office
1933 – 1939
Leader Joseph T. Robinson
Preceded by Simeon D. Fess (R)
Succeeded by Sherman Minton (D)

Born May 18, 1863(1863-05-18)
Danville, Virginia
Died April 9, 1939 (aged 75)
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Virginia
Profession Lawyer

James Hamilton Lewis (May 18, 1863 – April 9, 1939) was the first Senator to hold the title of Whip in the United States Senate. Lewis was born in Danville, Virginia, and also grew up in Augusta, Georgia. He was educated at the University of Virginia and studied law in Savannah, Georgia before he served in the Spanish-American War.

Congressional career

Lewis would become known as one of a very few politicians to represent two states in the United States Congress. Lewis went on to represent Washington (1897–1899) in the United States House of Representatives and Illinois (1913-1919, 1931-1939) in the United States Senate as a member of the Democratic Party. Lewis served as Majority Whip from 1913 until 1919. At some point in his congressional career, he became known to colleagues as "Ham".

A close ally of President Woodrow Wilson, Lewis was a leader in getting much of Wilson's "New Freedom" legislation passed. Upon his defeat for reelection in '18, Lewis was offered the ambassadorship to Belgium by the President, but he declined and returned to his private legal practice in Illinois.

He would hold the Majority Whip position again from 1933 until his death in 1939. He was defeated for reelection to the Senate in 1918, but regained his seat in the election in 1930. He ran unsuccessfully for governor of Illinois in 1908 and 1920, and continued to serve as Minority Whip in the Senate during the Depression and the New Deal era. Lewis won his last Senate election in 1936, and died in office in 1939.

In 1932, Lewis went to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, as the "favorite son" candidate of Illinois, at the behest of Chicago mayor Anton Cermak. Cermak's hope was to use Lewis to keep the Illinois delegates from supporting Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but Lewis later withdrew his name from consideration, and released his delegates, many of whom went to FDR and helped secure him the nomination.

Lewis was one of the first to befriend the new, and rather intimidated, Senator Harry S Truman. In 1935, during Truman's first few weeks in office, Lewis sat next to Truman and kindly said "Harry, don't start out with an inferiority complex. For the first six months you'll wonder how the hell you got here. After that you'll wonder how the hell rest of us got here."[1]

Lewis was known to be something of an eccentric in manner and dress, wearing spats well into the 1930s, and sporting Van Dyke whiskers and a "wavy pink toupee", but he was courtly in manner, and a talented orator. He was an authority on the U.S. Constitution and on foreign affairs, and a skillful legislative tactician. He died in office, and his funeral service was held in the Senate Chamber.

Lewis was buried in the Abbey Mausoleum near Arlington National Cemetery but his remains were later moved to an unknown location.


United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William H. Doolittle
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 2nd congressional district

1897–1899
Succeeded by
Francis W. Cushman
United States Senate
Preceded by
Shelby M. Cullom
United States Senator from Illinois
1913-1919
Succeeded by
Medill McCormick
Preceded by
Charles S. Deneen
United States Senator from Illinois
1931-1939
Succeeded by
James M. Slattery
Party political offices
Preceded by
(none)
United States Senate Majority Whip
1913-1919
Succeeded by
Charles Curtis
Preceded by
Simeon D. Fess
United States Senate Majority Whip
1933-1939
Succeeded by
Lister Hill

References

  1. ^ McCullough, David: Truman. Simon and Schuster, New York, New York. 1992. P. 214







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