John C. Houk

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John Chiles Houk
John Chiles Houk.jpg
Former State Senator from Tennessee
From: 1917–1923
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Former State Senator from Tennessee
From: 1911–1913
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Former State Senator from Tennessee
From: 1897–1899
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Former U.S. Representative from Tennessee's 2nd Congressional District
From: December 7, 1891 – March 3, 1895
Predecessor Leonidas C. Houk
Successor Henry R. Gibson
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Minnie Obedience Young

John Chiles Houk (February 26, 1860 – June 3, 1923) (pron. HOWK) was an Eastern Tennessee Republican who was a brief U.S. representative and long-term state senator. Houk previously was a clerk in the Washington, D.C. pensions bureau under the patronage of his Stalwart father, Leonidas Houk.[1]


Houk was born in Clinton, Tennessee around a year before the start of the American Civil War to Leonidas Campbell Houk and the former Elizabeth Matilda Smith.[2] After completing local schools, he attended and graduated from the University of Tennessee. After his 1884 admission into the bar, Houk practiced law in Knoxville.

Political career

During the 51st Congress, Houk, not an elected member, served as assistant doorkeeper for the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. House of Representatives

His father, the incumbent congressman for Tennessee's 2nd congressional district, died in 1891 due to consumption of arsenic he mistook for a glass of water.[1][3] The younger Houk thus ran for the open seat, and handily won the November special election in a landslide.[4] The eastern, mountainous portion of Tennessee, where the area was located in, resisted the Confederacy during the American Civil War has consistently been solidly Republican since the mid to late 1800s.

Undated picture of Houk.

Houk was easily re-elected to a full House term in the 1892 elections.[5] His campaign was aided by the Republican National Congressional Committee, which appointed a subcommittee bolstering him along with fellow GOP congressmen John A. Caldwell, Binger A. Herman, and Henry P. Cheatham.[6]

He once said of GOP politics in Tennessee:[7]

The second Congressional district contains nearly one-half the Republican vote in East Tennessee and it casts about two-thirds of the Republican majority in the 34 counties of this section. In 1888 we carried 167 of the civil districts while the Democrats carried but one.

In the 1894 midterms, Houk was denied renomination by Henry R. Gibson, a previous law partner of his father.[1] He still ran in the general election as an Independent affiliated with the GOP, though lost to Gibosn by ten percentage points.[8]

State Senate

Following his congressional defeat, Houk was elected to the Tennessee State Senate several years later and served for a term from 1897 to 1899. He served for another term in 1911–13, and re-entered the legislature yet again in 1917.

Amidst intrapary GOP rivalry in the 1912 presidential election between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, Houk claimed in late April that Taft-allied Republican leaders conspired to "defeat Roosevelt out of his share of the Tennessee delegation" at the Republican National Convention.[9]

After leaving the state legislature in 1923, Houk returned to practicing law in Knoxville, though soon died in June that year at the age of sixty-three. He was survived at the time by his wife, the former Minnie Obedience Young.

See also

  • Roderick Butler, Republican U.S. representative from Tennessee's 1st congressional district


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hill, Ray (October 6, 2013). Congressman Leonidas Campbell Houk. The Knoxville Focus. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  2. Leonidas C. and John Chiles Houk Papers.. Knox County Tennessee Public Library. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  3. May 26, 1891. DEATH OF CONGRESSMAN HOUK.; TOOK ARSENIC BY MISTAKE FOR A GLASS OF ICE WATER.. The New York Times. Archived version available here. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  4. TN - District 02 Special Election Race - Nov 21, 1891. Our Campaigns. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  5. TN - District 02 Race - Nov 08, 1892. Our Campaigns. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  6. July 26, 1892. THE CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN.. The New York Times. Archived version available here. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  7. Queener, Verton M. The East Tennessee Republicans in State and Nation, 1870-1900. JSTOR. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  8. TN - District 02 Race - Nov 06, 1894. Our Campaigns. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  9. April 29, 1912. TENNESSEE FIGHT BITTER.; Roosevelt Leader Accuses Taft Men of Conspiracy.. The New York Times. Archived version available here. Retrieved October 7, 2021.

External links

  • Profile at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Profile at Find a Grave