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Byron Patton Harrison

In office
March 5, 1919 – June 22, 1941
Preceded by James K. Vardaman
Succeeded by James Eastland

In office
January 6, 1941 – June 22, 1941
Preceded by William H. King
Succeeded by Carter Glass

Born August 29, 1881 (1881-08-29)
Crystal Springs, Mississippi
Died June 22, 1941 (1941-06-23) (age 59)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Mississippi
Louisiana State University
Profession Lawyer

Byron Patton "Pat" Harrison (August 29, 1881 - June 22, 1941) was a Mississippi politician who served as a Democrat in the United States House of Representatives from 1911 to 1919 and in the United States Senate from 1919 until his death.

He was born at Crystal Springs, Mississippi. Following an education in the local Mississippi public schools, he briefly attended the University of Mississippi and Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1902, and practiced in Leakesville, Mississippi. After four years as district attorney on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Harrison won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1911 and was re-elected three times. He strongly supported Woodrow Wilson's Mexican and German policies. In 1918, he defeated for reelection Senator James K. Vardaman, an enemy of Wilson. Harrison was a highly effective politician, a brilliant orator, who listened to his district--and in return, he provided information, services, and patronage. In 1928 he supported New York Governor Al Smith for President and campaigned for him across the South. At the 1932 Democratic convention, he swung the Mississippi delegation to Franklin D. Roosevelt on the crucial third ballot, and became welcome at the White House.

As chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, Harrison was one of the three or four key people behind the creation of the Social Security system in 1935. He promoted low tariffs and reciprocal trade agreements. When the Senate majority leader’s job opened up in 1937, Harrison went after it. Nose counts put him in a tie with Kentucky’s Alben Barkley. Harrison’s campaign manager asked Theodore G. Bilbo, the other member from Mississippi, to consider voting for his fellow Mississippian. Bilbo, a race-baiting demagogue whose base was among tenant farmers, hated the upper-class Harrison, who represented the rich planters and merchants. Bilbo said he would vote for Harrison only if he were personally asked. Harrison replied, “Tell the son of a bitch I wouldn’t speak to him even if it meant the presidency of the United States.” When the ballots were in, Pat Harrison lost by one vote, 37-to-38, but his reputation as the senator who wouldn’t speak to his home-state colleague remained intact.

Harrison served on the Committee on Finance and was chairman of that body from 1933 to 1941 (Seventy-third through Seventy-seventh Congresses). He served as President pro tempore of the Senate during the Seventy-seventh Congress. He was a supporter of the Conservative coalition.


  • Coker, William S. "Pat Harrison - Strategy for Victory". Journal of Mississippi History 1966 28(4): 267-285.
  • Coker, William Sidney. "Pat Harrison: the Formative Years." Journal of Mississippi History 1963 25(4): 251-278.
  • Davis, Polly. "Court Reform and Alben W. Barkley's Election as Majority Leader". Southern Quarterly 1976 15(1): 15-31.
  • Edmonson, Ben G. "Pat Harrison and Mississippi in the Presidential Elections of 1924 and 1928". Journal of Mississippi History 1971 33(4): 333-350.
  • Grant, Philip A., Jr. "Editorial Reaction to the Harrison-Barkley Senate Leadership Contest, 1937". Journal of Mississippi History 1974 36(2): 127-141.
  • Grant, Philip A., Jr. "The Mississippi Congressional Delegation and the Formation of the Conservative Coalition, 1937-1940". Journal of Mississippi History 1988 50(1): 21-28.
  • Finley, Keith M. Delaying the Dream: Southern Senators and the Fight Against Civil Rights, 1938-1965 (Baton Rouge, LSU Press, 2008).
  • Swain, Martha H. Pat Harrison: The New Deal Years (Jackson, Miss., 1978), the standard biography
  • Swain, Martha. "Pat Harrison and the Social Security Act of 1935". Southern Quarterly 1976 15(1): 1-14.
  • Swain, Martha H. "The Lion and the Fox: the Relationship of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Senator Pat Harrison". Journal of Mississippi History 1976 38(4): 333-359.
  • Thomas, Phyllis H. "The Role of Mississippi in the Presidential Election of 1916" Southern Quarterly 1966 4(2): 207-226.


  • Lewis Lord, U. S. News & World Report, June 17, 1996, p. 12.
United States Senate
Preceded by
James K. Vardaman
United States Senator (Class 2) from Mississippi
Served alongside: John Sharp Williams, Hubert D. Stephens, Theodore G. Bilbo
Succeeded by
James O. Eastland
Political offices
Preceded by
William H. King
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
January 6, 1941–June 22, 1941
Succeeded by
Carter Glass
Preceded by
Reed Smoot
Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance
Succeeded by
Walter F. George

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