Last modified on May 28, 2023, at 16:25

Wallace H. White

Wallace Humphrey White, Jr.
Wallace H. White, Jr. portrait.jpg
Former Senate Majority Leader
From: January 3, 1947 – January 3, 1949
Predecessor Alben Barkley
Successor Scott Lucas
Former Senate Minority Leader
From: February 25, 1944 – January 3, 1947
Predecessor Charles McNary
Successor Alben Barkley
Former U.S. Senator from Maine
From: March 4, 1931 – January 3, 1949
Predecessor Arthur B. Gould
Successor Margaret Chase Smith
Former U.S. Representative from Maine's 2nd Congressional District
From: March 4, 1917 – March 4, 1931
Predecessor Daniel J. McGillicuddy
Successor Donald B. Partridge
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Anna Pratt (died 1914)
Nina Lunn
Religion Congregationalist[1]

Wallace Humphrey White, Jr. (August 6, 1877 – March 31, 1952) was a Republican from Maine who served as the state's U.S. senator from the early 1930s until the late 1940s. He was previously a U.S. representative from the 2nd congressional district.

White was considered among colleagues in the Senate has having been one of the most fair-minded people in the institution.[2]


White was born on August 6, 1877 to Helen Elizabeth Fyre (1858–1926)[3] and Wallace Humphrey White, Sr. (1848–1920).[4] His maternal grandfather William Pierce Frye (1830–1911),[5] who helped guide him,[2] was a conservative Republican who succeeded corrupt Half-Breed James Gillespie Blaine in the U.S. Senate. Interestingly, Frye also was previously a U.S. representative from Maine's 2nd district like his grandson.

White graduated from Bowdoin College in 1899 and became a Senate Commerce Committee clerk, later being a secretary to his grandfather. After being admitted to the bar, White practiced law in Lewiston.

Political career

Rep. White in 1924.

White was first narrowly elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1916[6] after newspapers in Maine touted his family relationship with Frye.[2] The Lewiston Journal stated:

By inheritance, education, culture, initiative and personality, Mr. White is all that the voters . . . can ask.

In 1922, Rep. White, along with the vast majority of House Republicans, voted in favor of anti-lynching legislation that year (the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill) sponsored by his Missouri "Old Guard" colleague Leonidas C. Dyer.[7]

White would be re-elected six times before retiring from the House to run for Senate.[8] He chaired the Committees on Women's Suffrage and Merchant Marine and Fisheries, in addition to working on legislation important to the economy of his Northeastern home state.[2] White helped author important bills such as the Radio Act of 1927, which regulated radio frequencies,[9] as well as the Merchant Marine Act of 1928, which ordered the proper education of young cadets for ships which accept U.S. mail subsidies.[2]

U.S. Senate

Following the announced retirement of Sen. Arthur Gould, White ran for the open seat.[2] He easily swept over every county in the state for a landslide victory over Democrat opponent Frank H. Haskell.[10] This was despite heavy defeats for Republicans in the election cycle, as Maine during the time was solidly Republican. However, White would only be re-elected in the 1936 Senate elections (which included the concurrent presidential election that year) very narrowly.[11]

Along with his colleague Frederick Hale, White generally opposed the New Deal agenda of the Roosevelt Administration.[12] He was one of only sixteen senators to vote against the confirmation of left-wing Democrat Hugo Black to the United States Supreme Court in 1937.[13] Black had a previous membership in the Ku Klux Klan which was only revealed after his Senate confirmation.

Sen. White in 1939.

White was easily re-elected in the 1942 midterms.[14]

Although he was the leader of Senate Republicans in the 1940s following the death of Charles Linza McNary, White deferred to his Ohio colleague Robert A. Taft on practically all issues.[9] This was partially due to the Maine Republican's lack of natural ability for public speaking, instead preferring to focus on matters in the Committees on Interstate Commerce and Foreign Relations.

After continuously being heavily pressured by Senate GOP colleagues into constant leadership tasks rather than cherished committee assignments[2] due to his reluctance to push back against being treated as a workhorse, White's increased stress worsened his frail health, contributing to a breakdown which led to his duties later handed over to conservative colleague Kenneth S. Wherry.[9] Retiring from Congress in the 1948 election cycle, he was succeeded by Moderate Republican Margaret Chase Smith, the widow of congressman Clyde H. Smith.

He missed 15% of all roll call votes during his Senate tenure.[15]


Three years after leaving the Senate, White died in his sleep in 1952, with his health worsened by an ailment in the heart.[2] Former colleagues from the Committee on Interstate Commerce several weeks prior sent a letter regarding him as:[2]

...the man, whose friendliness, charm, courtesy, and painstaking consideration in all things marked him as a true gentleman and a noble American patriot.

White is interred at Mount Auburn Cemetery.

See also


  1. Congregationalist Politicians in Maine. The Political Graveyard. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Senate Leaders. United States Senate. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  3. Helen Elizabeth Frye White. Find a Grave. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  4. Wallace Humphrey White. Find a Grave. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  5. William Pierce Frye. Find a Grave. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  6. ME District 2 Race - Sep 11, 1916. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  7. TO PASS H. R. 13.. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  8. Candidate - Wallace H. White, Jr.. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 FascinatingPolitics (July 8, 2018). Leaders In Name Only: When the Leader is Not in Charge. Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  10. ME US Senate Race - Sep 08, 1930. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  11. ME US Senate Race - Sep 14, 1936. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  12. How the Northeast Became Democratic, Part IV: Maine (Sort of). Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History. Retieved June 14, 2021.
  14. ME US Senate Race - Sep 14, 1942. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  15. Sen. Wallace White Jr.. Retrieved June 14, 2021.

External links

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