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Joseph Taylor Robinson


In office
January 16, 1913 – March 8, 1913
Preceded by George Washington Donaghey
Succeeded by William Kavanaugh Oldham

In office
March 4, 1913 – July 14, 1937
Preceded by William M. Kavanaugh
Succeeded by John E. Miller

In office
March 4, 1933 – July 14, 1937
Preceded by James Eli Watson
Succeeded by Alben W. Barkley

Born August 26, 1872
Lonoke, Arkansas
Died July 14, 1937 (aged 64)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Arkansas
University of Virginia

Joseph Taylor Robinson (August 26, 1872 – July 14, 1937) was an American politician from Arkansas, of the Democratic Party. He was a state representative, a U.S. Representative, the 23rd Governor of Arkansas, U.S. Senator, and Senate Majority Leader, and he was a candidate for Vice President in the 1928 U.S. presidential election.

Born in Lonoke, Arkansas, Robinson attended the University of Arkansas and studied law at the University of Virginia.

In 1894 Robinson was elected to the Arkansas Legislature and served one term. Robinson was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1902 from the Sixth District of Arkansas, and was re-elected to four subsequent terms, serving until 1913.

In 1912 he was elected Governor of Arkansas. He resigned his Congressional seat on 14 January 1913 and took office as governor on 15 January. In the meantime, however, Senator Jefferson Davis died on 3 January. Davis had been re-elected to a new term beginning 3 March 1913. That term was now open. On 27 January, only 12 days after Robinson took office as governor, the legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate for that term.

Robinson was the last Senator elected by a state legislature rather than by direct popular vote. The Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, requiring direct election, was ratified and took effect on 8 April 1913. Other Senators elected to terms starting in 1913 were elected earlier (Arkansas had to have a second election after Davis' death). Senator James H. Brady of Idaho was elected to fill a vacancy on 24 January; he was next to last.

Robinson resigned as governor on 10 March. Though he served as governor for only 55 days, his administration focused on providing funds to complete the new state capitol building, creating a labor statistics board, adopting an official state flag, and working to create a highway commission.

From the outset, Robinson impressed other senators with carefully crafted speeches. He mastered the Senate's complex rules and practices, possessed tenacious loyalty to friends and party, a passion for detail and a killer's instinct in debate. Wedded to his job, he arrived early each day, stayed late, and studied legislation at home.[1]

He staunchly supported the policies of Woodrow Wilson even as other Democrats faltered. He championed the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act and worked to enact bills to regulate railroads and other key industries. He led the Senate to arm merchant ships and voted to declare war on Germany.[2]

Robinson was re-elected to the Senate in 1918, 1924, 1930, and 1936. He was elected Senate Minority Leader for the 68th Congress (1923-1925), and remained leader of Senate Democrats till his death, becoming Senate Majority Leader in 1933 when the Democrats became the majority. He was the first Democrat to serve as formally designated Majority Leader. Some senators resented his autocratic style. In debate he could be terrifying. He would grow red in the face, pound his desk, gesture wildly, and stomp his feet.[1]

Richard L. Riedel, a Senate press gallery attendant in the 1920s and 1930s recalled, "When [Robinson] would go into one of his rages, it took little imagination to see fire and smoke rolling out of his mouth like some fierce dragon. Even when he kidded me, he spoke in loud gasps while puffing his cigar. Robinson could make senators and everyone in his presence quake by the burning fire of his eyes, the baring of his teeth as he ground out the words, and the clenching of his mighty fists as he beat on the desk before him."[3]

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt and Joseph Robinson in Washington D.C, 1933

The press referred to him as "scrappy Joe", and he nearly came to blows with Robert La Follette, Porter McCumber, Thomas Heflin, and Huey Long. His response to a guard who questioned his credentials at the 1920 Democratic National Convention was a punch in the face. Despite this temper, he maintained strong friendships across party lines.[4]

Robinson was a leading spokesman for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal legislation and his court-packing plan in 1937. Robinson's death effectively killed off the Roosevelt proposal to restructure the United States Supreme Court.

Robinson was the Democratic candidate for Vice President in 1928, as the running mate of Alfred E. Smith (see: U.S. presidential election, 1928).

Senator Robinson died in Washington, D.C.. He is buried at the Roselawn Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas. His home in Little Rock, the Joseph Taylor Robinson House, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1994.

Robinson is the namesake of Camp Joseph T. Robinson, Arkansas's primary National Guard base; Robinson Center in downtown Little Rock; and elementary, middle and high schools on the northwestern edge of Little Rock. Robinson's face appears on the front of the United States half dollar produced for the 1936 Arkansas Centennial; he was one of only four men to appear on a U.S. coin while living.

Robinson is mentioned in True Grit, a historically informed novel by Arkansas writer Charles Portis. In an aside that illustrates the complexities of Southern political allegiances during the relevant period, Portis's narrator Mattie Ross says: "[ Grover Cleveland ] brought a good deal of misery to the land in the Panic of ’93 but I am not ashamed to own that my family supported him and has stayed with the Democrats right on through, up to and including Governor Alfred Smith, and not only because of Joe Robinson."

Contents

Electoral history

U.S. Congressional Election - Arkansas 6th District Results 1902 - 1910
Year Democratic PCT Challenger Party Pct
1902 Joseph Taylor Robinson 89.3% W. H. Carpenter Republican 10.7%
1904 Joseph Taylor Robinson 62.0% R. C. Thompson Republican 38.1%
1906 Joseph Taylor Robinson 84.4% R. C. Thompson Republican 15.6%
1908 Joseph Taylor Robinson Unopposed
1910 Joseph Taylor Robinson 81.6% B. C. Thompson Republican 18.4%
Arkansas Gubernatorial Election Results
Year Democratic PCT Challenger Party Pct
1912 Joseph Taylor Robinson 64.7% Andrew I. Roland Republican 27.4%
Arkansas U.S. Senatorial Election (Class 2) Results 1918 - 1936
Year Democratic PCT Challenger Party Pct
1918 Joseph Taylor Robinson Unopposed
1924 Joseph Taylor Robinson 73.5% Charles F. Cole Republican 26.5%
1930 Joseph Taylor Robinson Unopposed
1936 James Taylor Robinson 81.8% G.C. Ledbetter Republican 16.4%

References

  1. ^ a b Bacon, 64.
  2. ^ Bacon, 69.
  3. ^ Riedel, 142.
  4. ^ Bacon, 65, 68.

Bibliography

  • Donald C. Bacon, "Joseph Taylor Robinson: The Good Soldier", in First Among Equals: Outstanding Senate Leaders of the Twentieth Century, Richard A. Baker & Roger H. Davidson, eds., Washington: Congressional Quarterly, 1991: 63-97.
  • Richard L. Riedel, Halls of the Mighty: My 47 Years at the Senate,. Washington and New York: Robert B. Luce, 1969.

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Stephen Brundidge, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 6th congressional district

March 4, 1903 – January 14, 1913
Succeeded by
Samuel M. Taylor
Political offices
Preceded by
George Washington Donaghey
Governor of Arkansas
January 15, 1913 – March 8, 1913
Succeeded by
William Kavanaugh Oldham
Preceded by
Oscar W. Underwood
United States Senate Minority Leader
March 4, 1923 – March 3, 1933
Succeeded by
Charles L. McNary
Preceded by
James Eli Watson
United States Senate Majority Leader
March 4, 1933 – July 14, 1937
Succeeded by
Alben W. Barkley
United States Senate
Preceded by
William M. Kavanaugh
Senator from Arkansas (Class 2)
1913 – 1937
Served alongside: James Paul Clarke, William F. Kirby,
Thaddeus H. Caraway, Hattie Caraway
Succeeded by
John E. Miller
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ollie M. James
Permanent Chairman of the Democratic National Convention
1920
Succeeded by
Thomas J. Walsh
Preceded by
Oscar W. Underwood
Alabama
Senate Democratic Leader
1923 – 1937
Succeeded by
Alben Barkley
Kentucky
Preceded by
Thomas J. Walsh
Permanent Chairman of the Democratic National Convention
1928
Succeeded by
Thomas J. Walsh
Preceded by
Charles W. Bryan
Democratic Party Vice Presidential nominee
1928
Preceded by
Thomas J. Walsh
Permanent Chairman of the Democratic National Convention
1936
Succeeded by
Alben W. Barkley
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