|Walter Franklin George|
November 22, 1922 – January 3, 1957
|Preceded by|| Rebecca Latimer Felton|
(interim for Thomas E. "Tom" Watson)
|Succeeded by||Herman Talmadge|
President pro tempore of the
United States Senate
January 5, 1955 – January 3, 1957
|Preceded by|| Styles Bridges|
of New Hampshire
|Succeeded by||Carl Hayden of Arizona|
Associate Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court
|Born|| January 29, 1878|
Preston, Webster County
|Died|| August 4, 1957 (aged 79)|
Vienna, Dooly County,
|Resting place||Vienna City Cemetery|
|Spouse(s)||Lucy Heard George (1882–1958)|
|Children|| Heard Franklin George (1904–1988)
Joseph Marcus George (1911–1943)
|Alma mater|| Mercer University|
Mercer Law School
Walter Franklin George (January 29, 1878 – August 4, 1957) was a United States Senator from Georgia from 1922 until 1957. He declined to seek reelection in 1956 and died five months after leaving the Senate. During his last two years in office, he was the Senate President pro tempore, the longest-serving senator in the majority party.
Early life and career
George was born to sharecroppers near rural Preston in Webster County, just west of Americus, Georgia. He graduated in 1900 from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. After competing law school at Mercer in 1901, he launched his private practice of law. From 1917 to 1922, he was a justice on the Georgia Supreme Court but resigned to run for the U.S. Senate.
George supported most of the domestic and foreign policies of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, voting for most New Deal policies up until 1937. Exceptions to this support was his neutrality in the 1932 Democratic nomination contest and five years later his strong opposition to FDR's "court packing" plan. In 2021, President Joe Biden appointed a commission to "study" a renewal of Roosevelt's "court packing" plan, which would have allowed up to fifteen justices if each member over the age of seventy did not then retire from the bench.
George consistently blocked anti-lynching legislation, though differed from demagogic Southern colleagues (most notably Theodore Bilbo and Ellison D. "Cotton Ed" Smith) in directly condemning lynching and using constitutional arguments rather than racial ones, such as when participating in the Southern filibustering of the 1935 Costigan–Wagner Act (also known as the Anti-Lynching Bill of 1935). In 1937, he joined Southern senators Richard Russell, Jr., Tom Connally, and Claude Pepper in filibustering the Wagner–Van Nuys Act.
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee from 1941 to 1946, he also supported FDR's policies during World War II. Twice for brief periods, he was the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He signed the Southern Manifesto, which voiced House and Senate opposition to the 1954 United States Supreme Court legal opinion, Brown v. Board of Education, a decree that outlawed school segregation in the South. George still declined to renounce Brown publicly. He was succeeded by former Governor Herman Talmadge, who served four Senate terms until his own defeat in the 1980 general election by the Republican Mack Mattingly, the first Republican U.S. Senator from Georgia since Reconstruction.
In his 1938 re-election, the incumbent Sen. George faced two main opponents in the Democratic primary: Eugene Talmadge, a virulent racist and opponent of the New Deal, and Lawrence S. Camp, a staunch supporter of the New Deal backed by President Roosevelt. George, despite being on Roosevelt's "purge list", ultimately won with a plurality of 44% of the vote, with Talmadge finishing second at 32% and Camp at 24%.
George was highly regarded in both political parties and by liberals and conservatives. He is also remember for his support of vocational education and fiscal conservatism. Formerly an isolationist in foreign entanglements, he became with the war a supporter of FDR's branch of internationalism. He worked for adoption of the United Nations Charter in 1945. President Dwight Eisenhower named George as special ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, Belgium, a post that he filled for only six months because of serious illness.
He died on August 4, 1957 at the age of seventy-nine. Eisenhower ordered flags at all U.S. federal buildings lowered to half-mast in George's memory. Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas attended George's funeral in Vienna, Georgia.
- Walter Franklin George. findagrave.com. Retrieved on March 1, 2021.
- New Deal. New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- Luther Harmon Zeigler, "Senator Walter George's 1938 Campaign," The Georgia Historical Quarterly (Vol. 43; issue 4), pp.333-352.
- Greenbaum, Fred (1967). "The Anti-Lynching Bill of 1935: The Irony of "Equal Justice—Under Law"," p. 79–82. Internet Archive. Retrieved December 3, 2022.
- Filibuster against anti-lynching bill. Washington, D.C., Jan. 27. Members of the bloc of Southern Senators who have been filibusting against the anti-lynching bill for the last 20 days and are still going strong, left to right: Senator Tom Connaly, of Texas, Sen. Walter F. George, of Ga.; Sen. Richard Russell of Ga.; and Sen. Claude Pepper of Florida, 1/27/38. Library of Congress. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- GP-CRECB-1956-pt4-3.pdf. Congressional Record. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- James H. Cockfield, A Giant From Georgia: The Life of U.S. Senator Walter F. George, 1878-1957, (Macon, Georgia:Mercer University Press, 2019), pp. 452-453, isbn=978-0-88146-676-8, pages=452–453.
- GEORGE FOR STATE RIGHTS; Bureaucracy a Threat to Freedom, He Says of New Deal. The New York Times. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- GA US Senate - D Primary. Our Campaigns. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- Biography at New Georgia Encyclopedia