Louise Goff Reece

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Louise Despard Goff Reece
Louise Goff Reece.jpg
Former U.S. Representative from Tennessee's 1st Congressional District
From: May 16, 1961 – January 3, 1963
Predecessor B. Carroll Reece
Successor James H. "Jimmy" Quillen
Party Republican
Spouse(s) B. Carroll Reece

Louise Despard Goff Reece (November 6, 1898 – May 14, 1970) was a Tennessee Republican from the state's 1st congressional district who represented the area in the United States House of Representatives for a brief period in the early 1960s, succeeding her late husband Brazilla Carroll Reece, a longtime congressman who died in 1961. She was the daughter and granddaughter of West Virginia U.S. senators Guy D. Goff and Nathan Goff respectively.[1]

Reece's story is similar that of Irene Baker (the stepmother of later Tennessee senator Howard Baker, Jr.), who succeeded her late husband Howard Baker, Sr. in the House around the same time period for the state's neighboring second congressional district.[2]

Political involvement

Ever since the former Louise Despard Goff married B. Carroll Reece at St. Thomas' Episcopal Church, she began to become actively involved in her husband's political career.[3] Due to the fact that Carroll Reece never drove, she frequently was his chauffeur. Following the death of Louise's father Guy Goff in 1933, the couple inherited a large sum of wealth.[4]

U.S. House of Representatives

In mid-March 1961, Reece's husband died,[5] reportedly of lung cancer. She soon announced her candidacy for the special election to succeed him, which local Republican politicians threw their support for. The only primary challenge was from oilman Leland Davis, and Reece handily won the primary.[5] She stated during the campaign:[5]

I thought of a lot of back roads my husband had forgotten.

Reece won the special election by a landslide over Democrat opponent William W. Faw,[6] who received the endorsement of U.S. senator Carey Estes Kefauver, who had defeated B. Carroll Reese for the Senate in the 1948 general election.[5] Upon entering the House, she established a record of conservatism and supporting business interests, advocating for President John F. Kennedy to bring back tariffs on certain products made from glass.[5][7] Reece also opposed using federal money to increase the salaries of teachers, saying:[5]

If that comes, the next thing they will do is to tell us what to teach.

This is somewhat similar to her husband's anti-Communist attitudes towards subversion; B. Carroll Reece was the chair and namesake of the Reece Committee during the 83rd Congress which investigated subversion among tax-exempt foundations.

Louise Goff Reece low-res bioguide picture.jpg
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During the forty-fifth anniversary of the 19th Amendment which granted suffrage for women, Reece stated:[5]

I feel highly honored to be a Member of the present delegation from the great Volunteer State that made this contribution to the progress of our country and to women in particular.

Reece did not run for re-election to a full term in the 1962 midterms, asserting to reporters:[5]

A younger person, who can start building up some seniority for the district, ought to be here in Washington.

She was succeeded by James Henry "Jimmy" Quillen, who would represent the district for over three decades.


Reece was considered a trailblazer for women in GOP politics, and can be viewed as a forerunner to the current representative from Tennessee's 1st district, Diana Harshbarger. Historian Ray Hill of The Knoxville Focus commented in 2020:[8]

She left a legacy of devotion to the 1st District, the people of the 1st District, and you know, with her wealth, she did a lot of philanthropy that still remains there today, like the Archives of Appalachia and the Reece Museum, their papers are still there. They were just devoted – she and Carroll – were devoted to the people of the 1st Congressional District. You can’t really find a bigger or finer legacy than somebody who genuinely is devoted to their people.


  1. Reece, Louise Goff, 1898-1970. Social Networks and Archival Context. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
  2. Hill, Ray (July 19, 2020). Congresswoman Irene Baker. The Knoxville Focus. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
  3. Hill, Ray (March 28, 2021). Carroll Reece: Tennessee’s ‘Mr. Republican’ Pt5. The Knoxville Focus. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
  4. Hill, Ray (July 18, 2021). Carroll Reece: Tennessee’s ‘Mr. Republican’ Part 13. The Knoxville Focus. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 REECE, Louise Goff. US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
  6. TN District 1 - Special Election Race - May 16, 1961. Our Campaigns. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
  7. Reece, Louise Goff (1898–1970). Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
  8. Marais, Bianca (October 13, 2020). First woman to represent Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District inspires new generations. WJHL. Retrieved August 10, 2021.

External links

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