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Sen. Lawrence Tyson

Lawrence Tyson (July 4, 1861 – August 24, 1929) was a Democratic United States Senator from Tennessee from 1925 until his death.



Tyson was born in Pitt County, North Carolina and attended Greenville (N.C.) Academy. He then was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating in 1883 and being commissioned as a second lieutenant. He took part in campaigns against the Apache Indians in the West. He was professor of military science at the University of Tennessee from 1891 to 1895. During that time, he also enrolled in the University's law school, graduating from it in 1894 and being admitted to the Tennessee bar that same year. Resigning his U.S. Army commission, he began the practice of law in Knoxville.

Upon the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, Tyson desired to return to active military duty. Receiving an appointment as a colonel, he organized and trained the 6th Regiment U.S. Volunteer Infantry. He and his unit were shipped to Puerto Rico, where they saw no direct combat. He returned to his law practice in Knoxville in 1899 and was also involved with a manufacturing concern. Simultaneously, he was serving as a brigadier general and inspector general of the Tennessee National Guard, which position he held from 1902 until 1908. From 1903 to 1905 he was Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.

In 1913 he made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate. Upon U.S. entry into World War I, he again applied to return to active military duty, and was appointed brigadier general over all Tennessee National Guard troops by governor of Tennessee Tom C. Rye. This commission was subsequently federalized by President Woodrow Wilson, and Tyson was assigned to the 59th Brigade, 30th Division, training troops at Camp Sevier near Greenville, South Carolina. He later was sent to Europe and saw combat in France and Belgium. Tyson's son McGhee, a Navy pilot, was lost over the North Sea while scouting for mines and Tyson left the front to help search for his son off the coast of Scotland. Tyson left active duty for the final time in 1919.

In 1920 he made an unsuccessful effort to receive the vice presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention. In 1924 he mounted a successful campaign for the U.S. Senate, receiving the Democratic nomination and then being elected in November. He was sworn in as a Senator on March 4, 1925. He died in 1929 in a sanitarium in Strafford, Pennsylvania and is buried in Old Gray Cemetery in Knoxville, the burial place of several prominent East Tennessee political figures. Tyson Park and Tyson Junior High School in Knoxville are named in his honor, as was Camp Tyson, the World War II U.S. Army training post near Paris, Tennessee. Tyson donated land for Knoxville's airport which was named after his son, McGhee. McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base is also named after Tyson's son, Charles McGhee Tyson. McGhee Tyson enlisted in the Naval Reserve Flying Corps in July 1917, and spent more than a year waiting in the United States. While in the States, he took many aviation courses and his superiors assured him he would end up with a nice desk job in Washington. He married a New York girl in June and heard word in August he too would be joining forces in Europe. On his 29th birthday, he boarded a ship for England. Upon arrival, it might have seemed a safe assignment, serving with an aerial base dropping mines in the North Sea. Unfortunately, by the time McGhee Tyson arrived at the naval base, the tides had already turned. Allied troops, which included his father's brigade, were marching into Belgium and the Netherlands. A few weeks later, McGhee Tyson was promoted to lieutenant. After being on duty for only two months, he applied for leave. His commanding officer asked for more volunteers for one final mission and Lt. Tyson agreed. What happened on that Friday October night is unclear as it has been debated for 80 years now. Some speculate that Tyson was the pilot on an anti-submarine mission show down by the Germans over the North Sea. The reports of 1918 say Tyson was the "second pilot" in a crew of four. Not long after takeoff, the plane spiralled into the ocean. For weeks after the incident, Tyson was reported as missing, probably drowned. About a month after the crash, his body was found and identified by his father Lawrence D. Tyson. McGhee Tyson is buried at the cemetery known as Old Gray.

Catharine Drew Gilpin, known professionally as Drew Gilpin Faust, a great-granddaughter of Lawrence D. Tyson, became Harvard University's 28th president in July 2007. Her parents were McGhee Tyson and Catherine (Mellick) Gilpin. Her father's mother was Isabella (Tyson) Gilpin, Lawrence's daughter.

United States Senate
Preceded by
John K. Shields
United States Senator (Class 2) from Tennessee
Served alongside: Kenneth D. McKellar
Succeeded by
William Emerson Brock

See also


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