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Theodore Francis Green

In office
January 3, 1937 – January 3, 1961
Preceded by Jesse H. Metcalf
Succeeded by Claiborne Pell

In office
January 3, 1933 – January 5, 1937
Lieutenant Robert E. Quinn
Preceded by Norman S. Case
Succeeded by Robert E. Quinn

Born October 2, 1867
Providence, Rhode Island
Died May 19, 1966 (aged 98)
Providence, Rhode Island
Resting place Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) none
Alma mater Brown University
Harvard Law School
University of Bonn
University of Berlin

Theodore Francis Green (October 2, 1867–May 19, 1966) was an American politician from the U.S. state of Rhode Island. A Democrat, Green served as governor of Rhode Island (1933-1937) and in the United States Senate (1937-1961). He was the grandnephew of Samuel G. Arnold, another Rhode Island Senator.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island to Arnold Green, a lawyer, and Cornelia Abby Burges, Green was the eldest child in a family descended from colonists who arrived in Rhode Island with Roger Williams in 1636. He graduated from Providence High School in 1883 and Brown University in 1887, receiving an Master of Arts degree from Brown in 1888. He attended Harvard Law School from 1888 to 1890 and studied at the University of Bonn and University of Berlin from 1890 to 1892. A lifelong bachelor, Green devoted himself to the law, politics, and civic, business, and cultural activities. Admitted to the Rhode Island Bar in 1892, he long practiced law, taking time during the Spanish-American War to serve as a first lieutenant in the infantry. He served as president of J. P. Coats Company from 1912 to 1923 and Morris Plan Banker's Association from 1900 to 1929.

Green began his long career in public life in 1907 as a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, displaying early a zeal to reform state politics and government, which he considered ethnically divided and antiquated. Active in Democratic Party politics as chairman of state committees and a delegate to Democratic National Conventions, he was an unsuccessful candidate for governor (1912, 1928, 1930) and the U.S. House of Representatives (1920). Party loyalty, perseverance, and the Great Depression won him election as governor in 1932. He served two terms (1933-1937).

Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson gives "The Treatment" to 90-year-old Rhode Island Senator Theodore F. Green in 1957

On New Years' Day 1935, Green broke the hold of the Republican Party over Rhode Island. By 1936 the Republicans, who were from the most rural areas of the state, held on to power only in the Rhode Island Senate, where they blocked legislation supported by progressive Republicans and Democrats. The state Senate had been skewed in favor of rural towns that would vote for Republicans. Taking advantage of two contested seats, both held by Republicans, Green refused to seat them until there was a recount. Green had the vaults where the ballots were kept opened and a recount was done. It turned out that both men were defeated and the Republicans (who had a two seat majority) lost power. These events led to the rise of the Democratic Party in Rhode Island. It became known as Rhode Island's "Bloodless Revolution."

Besides making the Democratic Party dominant in a traditionally Republican state, as governor he directed his energies to welfare and unemployment relief, forging a relief bill three weeks before the New Deal began. He enlarged the importance of the governor's office, reorganized state government, won control of federal patronage, and cooperated with the New Deal to strive for economic recovery. He ended a violent textile strike by calling out the National Guard without losing organized labor's support.

He was elected to the United States Senate in the Democratic landslide of 1936 and served four terms, retiring in 1961.

Described as "the president's man," he was loyal to the Democratic presidents with whom he served and, to a larger extent than many other northern Democrats, to the Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Green consistently displayed his faith in social measures, democracy, a strong national defense, and international cooperation.

Green vigorously supported domestic New Deal measures, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt's controversial Supreme Court retirement bill, braving the wrath of his constituents. He voted for the wages and hours and low-cost housing bills in 1937, and advocating farm and work relief, he sustained continuing appropriations for New Deal relief measures.

In view of the deteriorating international scene, Green advocated expansion of navy and army forces, revision of the neutrality laws despite isolationist opposition, and passage of the Lend-Lease Bill, which in one of his many radio talks he called "Aid to America." At times Green in his zeal outran both his constituents and the President, but vindicated by the Attack on Pearl Harbor, he won re-election in 1942.

During World War II Green vigorously objected to a proposal to exempt farm workers from the draft as a means to increase agricultural production and secured passage of a law releasing government-owned silver for war purposes. He supported a law providing for absentee voting for servicemen stationed in the United States and headed a Senate committee investigating violation of the Hatch Act that reported in favor of repealing the law.

Throughout his senatorial career Green supported civil rights legislation. He struggled to enact laws to ban the poll tax, to make lynching a federal crime, and to change Senate rules to make it easier to end filibusters. Consistently working closely with Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, he helped secure eastern liberal support for the Civil Rights Act of 1957. As the nation moved to the right at mid-century, Green retained his liberal faith, voting to uphold President Harry Truman's vetoes of the restrictive McCarran-Walter Immigration Bill of 1952 and the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950. During the McCarthy controversy, he voted for censure of his Republican colleague Senator Joseph McCarthy.

For twenty of his twenty-four years in the Senate, Green served on the Foreign Relations Committee, beginning in 1938 and interrupted from 1947 to 1949. An early and steadfast internationalist committed to the United Nations, he stoutly sustained President Truman's bold initiatives, including the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and intervention in Korea. At the 1952 meeting of the UN General Assembly, to which Truman appointed him as a delegate, Green expressed his faith in the world organization as the "last great hope of mankind." He stood with the minority of thirty-one senators who by one vote prevented the two-thirds majority necessary to pass an amendment initiated by Senator John W. Bricker to limit the president's powers in foreign policy.

Though wary of reductions in foreign aid programs with the coming of the Eisenhower administration, Green was one of the few northern Democrats to support administration measures in the Republican-dominated Senate of the Eighty-third Congress. In the Eighty-fifth Congress (1957-1958) Green served as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

In 1959, with his health failing, the 92-year-old Green resigned his chairmanship; he left the Senate at the conclusion of his term in 1961. Green died in Providence, Providence County, R.I., May 19, 1966. Interment at Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, R.I.

Rhode Island's main airport, T. F. Green Airport in Warwick, is named for him.


  • Green, Theodore Francis. American National Biography, 2000, American Council of Learned Societies.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Norman S. Case
Governor of Rhode Island
1933 – 1937
Succeeded by
Robert E. Quinn
Preceded by
Walter F. George
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
1957 – 1959
Succeeded by
J. William Fulbright
United States Senate
Preceded by
Jesse H. Metcalf
United States Senator (Class 2) from Rhode Island
January 3, 1937 – January 3, 1961
Served alongside: Peter G. Gerry, J. Howard McGrath,
Edward L. Leahy, John O. Pastore
Succeeded by
Claiborne Pell
Honorary titles
Preceded by
George Pepper
Oldest living U.S. Senator
May 24, 1961 – May 19, 1966
Succeeded by
John Heiskell


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