Jamie L. Whitten

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Jamie L. Whitten
Jamie L. Whitten.jpg
42nd Dean of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by George H. Mahon
Succeeded by John Dingell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by Thomas Abernethy
Succeeded by Roger Wicker
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 2nd district
In office
November 4, 1941 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by Wall Doxey
Succeeded by David R. Bowen
Personal details
Born (1910-04-18)April 18, 1910
Cascilla, Mississippi
Died September 9, 1995(1995-09-09) (aged 85)
Oxford, Mississippi
Political party Democratic

Jamie Lloyd Whitten (April 18, 1910 – September 9, 1995) was a United States Representative from Mississippi. He was the second-longest serving U.S. Representative ever and the fifth longest serving U.S. member of Congress ever.

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Jamie Whitten was born in Cascilla, Mississippi. He attended local public schools and the University of Mississippi, and he briefly served as an educator before joining the bar in 1932. A Democrat, he served in the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1931 and 1932. From 1933 to 1941 he was District Attorney of Mississippi's 17th District, which included his home county of Tallahatchie.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Elections[edit]

In 1941, Whitten was elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives in a special election to represent the state's 2nd District, in the northern part of the state. The seat had come open as a result of incumbent Congressman Wall Doxey's election to the United States Senate. He was elected to a full term in 1942 and was re-elected 25 more times.

In 1966, Whitten faced a challenge from Seelig Wise, a cotton and soybean farmer from Coahoma County, the first Republican to be elected to the Mississippi State Senate since Reconstruction. Whitten won easily, and Wise was defeated for reelection to the state Senate in 1967, as the second Rubel Phillips gubernatorial campaign went down to crushing defeat statewide.[1]

Whitten's district was renumbered as the 1st District after the 1970 Census.

Tenure[edit]

His service from November 4, 1941 to January 3, 1995 set a record for length of service in the House, which remained unbroken until February 11, 2009, when Michigan Congressman John Dingell surpassed it. Whitten is also the 5th Longest serving Congressman (House and/or Senate) behind Daniel Inouye, Carl T. Hayden, Robert Byrd and John Dingell.

Whitten was originally a very conservative segregationist, as were many of his colleagues from Mississippi and the rest of the South. He signed the Southern Manifesto condemning the U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education, which desegregated public schools. Along with virtually the entire Mississippi congressional delegation, he voted against the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, 1964, 1965 and 1968. Whitten later apologized for these votes, calling them a "mistake" caused by severe misjudgment. He voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

Later in his career he shifted to the left, supporting a number of liberal issues and frequently clashed with the Reagan administration on policy matters. He voted against Reagan's economic plans, tax cuts, increased defense spending, balanced budget initiative, tort reform, welfare reform, abortion restrictions, missile defense system, and the Persian Gulf War. Although Whitten represented a district that grew increasingly suburban and Republican from the 1970s onward, his opposition to Reagan's program did not affect him at the ballot box. Indeed, his seniority and popularity resulted in him facing only "sacrificial lamb" opponents on the occasions he faced any opposition at all. Nonetheless, it was taken for granted that he would be succeeded by a Republican when he retired.

Declining to run for reelection to a historic 28th term in 1994, Whitten retired from the House as America's longest serving Congressman (53 years and two months). He retired to his home in Oxford, Mississippi and died there on September 9, 1995, aged 85, eight months after he was indeed succeeded by a Republican, Roger Wicker.

Committee assignments[edit]

Throughout most of his tenure in the House, Whitten served on the Appropriations Committee, ultimately serving as Chairman from the 1979 retirement of George H. Mahon until newly elected Democrats in the House Democratic Caucus removed him in favor of William Huston Natcher after the 1992 election.

Publications[edit]

Whitten authored That We May Live, written largely as a pro-development, pro-chemical pesticide answer to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the seminal 1962 book that helped spur the modern environmental movement.

Honors[edit]

The Jamie Whitten Historical Site is located at the bridge of the Natchez Trace Parkway over the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, two projects that Whitten had successfully fought to fund over his house tenure, overcoming strong opposition from Conservatives to their construction using federal funds.

In June 1995, Congress renamed the main headquarters building of the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC the Jamie L. Whitten Building in his honor.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Billy Hathorn, "Challenging the Status Quo: Rubel Lex Phillips and the Mississippi Republican Party (1963-1967)", The Journal of Mississippi History XLVII, November 1985, No. 4, p. 262
  2. ^ "Histories of the USDA Headquarters Complex Buildings". U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2004. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Wall Doxey
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 2nd congressional district

1941–1973
Succeeded by
David R. Bowen
Preceded by
Thomas G. Abernethy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 1st congressional district

1973–1995
Succeeded by
Roger F. Wicker
Honorary titles
Preceded by
George H. Mahon
Dean of the House
1979–1995
Succeeded by
John Dingell