Georgia Lee Lusk
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|Georgia Lee Lusk|
|Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from New Mexico's At-large district (Seat 1)
January 3, 1947 – January 3, 1949
|Preceded by||Clinton P. Anderson|
|Succeeded by||John E. Miles|
May 12, 1893|
Carlsbad, New Mexico
|Died||January 5, 1971
Albuquerque, New Mexico
|Alma mater||Highlands University|
She was born Georgia Lee Witt (her maiden name often shortened to 'Lee') on a ranch near Carlsbad, New Mexico. After graduation from Carlsbad High School in 1912 she attended Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Colorado State Teachers College at Greeley. She graduated from the New Mexico State Teachers College in Silver City in 1914. The following year she married a prominent rancher-banker named Dolph Lusk and taught school in Eddy County. When her husband died in 1919, Georgia Lusk was pregnant and already had two sons, but she overcame these obstacles as a widow and became manager of the family ranch while continuing to teach and raise her children.
In 1924, women across New Mexico shook up local politics. The first female member of the New Mexico House of Representatives was elected, famed suffragist Adelina Otero-Warren shocked the state by winning the Republican nomination to run - unsuccessfully - for New Mexico's 1st Congressional District, and Georgia Lusk took her first steps into politics, being elected as superintendent of Lea County.
Lusk served in that capacity until 1929, as she made an unsuccessful bid for state Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1928. Though she lost her initial bid, she came back two years later in 1930 to win that office, and serve there until 1935. She briefly left politics to continue raising her children. She returned and during 1941 and 1942 Lusk was a rural school supervisor in Guadalupe County.
Lusk again served as State Superintendent from 1943 to 1947. It was during this time that Lusk provided New Mexico public schools with free textbooks and successfully lobbied the state legislature to fund a school construction plan, raise teacher salaries and institute a teacher's retirement program. These reforms drastically improved New Mexico's public education, and are perhaps Lusk's greatest mark upon the state.
Lusk attended the Democratic National Conventions of 1928 - the first woman to do so for New Mexico - and 1948 as a New Mexico delegate.
In 1946 she entered the campaign for the Democratic nomination for one of New Mexico's two at-large seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. She beat all odds to win the primary over six rivals, all of which were notable Democratic bosses. Lusk somehow defied and prevailed over the heavily entrenched patronage in the State Democratic Party, which sent shock waves through state politics but was overshadowed when she handily won the general election and became the first woman ever to represent New Mexico in the United States Congress.
As a member of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Lusk supported many of the President Harry S. Truman's administration's domestic programs (although she voted to override President Truman's veto of the Taft-Hartley Act) and was a staunch backer of the administration's foreign policy proposals, voting for assistance to Greece and Turkey and endorsing universal military training. She also supported establishment of a cabinet-level Department of Education. Lusk ran for renomination to her at-large seat in the June 1948 primary but the enemies she made in 1946 did her in. She fell just short of the vote received by former Governor John E. Miles. Another woman would not serve New Mexico in Congress until Heather Wilson in 1997.
In September 1949 President Truman appointed her to the War Claims Commission, where she served with other Democratic appointees until their dismissal by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in December 1953. Returning to New Mexico, Lusk was elected to two additional terms as state superintendent and served from 1955 to 1960.