Guy Gillette (politician)

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Guy Mark Gillette​

In office
November 4, 1936​ – January 3, 1945​
Preceded by Richard L. Murphy​
Succeeded by Bourke Hickenlooper
In office
January 3, 1949​ – January 3, 1955​
Preceded by George Allison Wilson​
Succeeded by Thomas Ellsworth Martin

U.S. Representative for Iowa's former 9th congressional district​
In office
March 4, 1933​ – November 3, 1936​
Preceded by Charles Edward Swanson​
Succeeded by Vincent F. Harrington​

Iowa State Senator
In office

Born February 3, 1879}​
Cherokee, Cherokee County, Iowa​
Died March 3, 1973 (aged 94)​
Cherokee, Iowa​
Resting place Oak Hill Cemetery in Cherokee
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Rose Freeman Gillette
Children Mark Freeman Gillette

Mark Daniel and Mary Hull Gillette

Alma mater Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa
Occupation Attorney; Farmer
Religion Presbyterian

For the American photographer, see Guy Gillette (photographer).​

Guy Mark Gillette (February 3, 1879 – March 3, 1973) was a Democratic U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from Iowa., known particularly for his disagreements with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[1]


A native of Cherokee in Cherokee County in northwestern Iowa, he was one of at least four children of Mark Daniel Gillette (1853-1936) and the former Mary Hull (1854-1932). He was married to the former Rose Freeman (1880-1956), and the couple had a son, Mark Freeman Gillette (1929-2013).[1]

In 1900, Gillette graduated from the law school at Drake University in the capital city of Des Moines.[2]


Upon his return from non-combat service in the United States Army during the five-month Spanish–American War, Gillette engaged in farming and for a year was the city attorney for Cherokee and then for two years the Cherokee County prosecuting attorney. He was a state senator from 1912 to 1916. In 1932, Gillette was elected to Iowa's since disbanded 9th congressional district in a heavily Republican area. In 1934, he won reelection in another strongly Democratic year but resigned before the expiration of his House term upon his victory in a special election to the U.S. Senate.[1]

Though he had initially voted for much of the New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt marked Gillette for defeat when the Iowan joined a bipartisan Senate majority in opposition to Roosevelt's failed court packing scheme, a plan to add new as many as six new liberal justices on the United States Supreme Court.[3] Roosevelt, however, was rebuffed as Gillette defeated Otha D. Wearlin, the president's primary preference. During his first full term beginning in 1937, Senator Gillette's differences with Roosevelt became more apparent. He opposed third and fourth terms for FDR, as had Roosevelt's first Vice President John Nance Garner of Texas.[4]

Gillette's brother, Captain Claude Sexton Gillette (1886-1959), was in charge of the naval yard at the time of the Japanese attack in 1941 on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. After the , Gillette became less isolationist in his foreign policy views.[2] In 1943, Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), a British man of letters, wrote a confidential analysis for the British Foreign Office of the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which Gillette served. Berlin described Gillette as a typical midwestern senator "with a moderately steady Isolationist voting record, although he is not an articulate opponent of the administration's policy. … He is a supporter of reciprocal trade pacts but shares his suspicion of the President. A simple, confused, but very honest Presbyterian of considerable character, he views the corn interest, which he represents, with an almost religious devotion. He leads the Senate Lobby interested in producing synthetic rubber out of corn, and coming from the Republican corn belt, is virtually a Republican in sentiment and conduct. He is not at all anti-British, but as isolationist as his general environment. ... On foreign policy he is not a bigoted anti-Rooseveltite but is exceedingly uncertain."[5]

Gillette lost his bid for a second full Senate term in 1944 to the Republican Governor Bourke Hickenlooper.[6] Despite their differences, Roosevelt nominated Gillette to be the chairman of the Surplus Property Board, but Gillette soon left the post the month after Roosevelt's death. He returned to the U.S. Senate for a third full term in 1949, having unseated in 1948 George Allison Wilson (1884-1953), a Republican former governor and U.S. Senator. In 1951, Gillette chaired a subcommittee which investigated campaign practices of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, who exposed communist subversion of the United States State Department and the U.S. Army.[2] Gillette was again unseated, unexpectedly, in 1954 by the Republican U.S. Representative Thomas Ellsworth Martin (1893-1971) of Iowa City.[7] With Gillette's defeat, every Iowa seat in Congress was in Republican hands, a feat that the GOP has yet to match.​

Later years

After leaving the Senate, Gillette served as counsel with the Senate Post Office and Civil Service Committee (955-1956) and the Senate Judiciary Committee (1956-1961).[2]

Gillette spent his later years back in Cherokee, where he died in 1973 at the age of ninety-four. He, his wife Rose, and their son are interred at Oak Hill Cemetery in Cherokee.[1] Gillette's parents are interrred at Riverside Cemetery in Crete in Saline County, Nebraska.[8] His brother Claude is interred at Maple Grove Cemetery in Bath, Maine, the hometown of his second wife.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Guy Gillette. Retrieved on June 9, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Gillette, Guy Mark (1879–1973). Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved on June 9, 2020.
  3. "Time Magazine, June 13, 1938.
  4. Time Magazine, July 24, 1939.
  5. Thomas E. Hachey (Winter 1973–1974). "American Profiles on Capitol Hill: A Confidential Study for the British Foreign Office in 1943". Wisconsin Magazine of History 57 (2): 141–153. Retrieved June 9, 2020. 
  6. "The New Senate, Time Magazine, November 13, 1944.
  7. "Gillette is Upset, GOP wins State," Waterloo Daily Courier, November 3, 1954, pp. 1-2.
  8. Mark Daniel Gillette. Retrieved on June 9, 2020.
  9. Claude Sexton Gillette. Retrieved on June 9, 2020.

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