Joseph Gurney Cannon (May 7, 1836 – November 12, 1926), also known as Joe Cannon, was a powerful Republican congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House from 1903–1911, preceding James Beauchamp Clark and succeeding David Henderson. He served 23 terms representing rural Illinois. He was first involved in politics when Abraham Lincoln appointed him as a regional prosecutor.
"Uncle Joe," as he was called, was a leader of the conservative wing of the Republican Party, and he kept President Theodore Roosevelt in check when the president veered left. Cannon worked well with conservative Republican President William Howard Taft.
Progressives led by George Norris in 1910 revolted against his strong rule as Speaker, and replaced some of the Speaker's power with a seniority system to choose powerful committee and subcommittee chairmen. Power in the House then went to those who served longest, regardless of how much or how little the leaders like them.
Cannon was born in Guilford, North Carolina (located in Guilford County) on May 7, 1836. After moving with his parents to a town in rural Indiana in 1840, he studied law at the Cincinnati Law School and was admitted to the bar in 1858, subsequently practicing in Terre Haute in 1858.
He moved to Tuscola, Illinois in 1859, and was the state's attorney for the twenty-seventh judicial district of Illinois from March 1861 to December 1868.
In 1878, he moved to Danville, Ill.
Cannon was elected as a Republican to the Forty-third and to the eight succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1891), but defeated in the Democratic landslide of 1890. He was the chairman of the powerful Committee on Appropriations (51st Congress, elected in 1888).
Elected to the 53rd and to the nine succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1893 – March 3, 1913), Cannon was the powerful chairman of the Committee on Appropriations (54th through 57th Congresses) and Committee on Rules (58th through 61st Congresses). As Speaker of the House of Representatives (58th through 61st Congresses), he received fifty-eight honorific votes for the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention at Chicago in 1908.
Defeated for reelection in 1912 to the 63rd Congress, Cannon was again elected to the 64th and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1915 – March 3, 1923), featured on the cover of the first issue of TIME Magazine in 1923.
Death and interment
Cannon died in Danville, Vermilion County, Ill., November 12, 1926, and is interred in Spring Hill Cemetery.