Joseph W. Byrns, Sr.

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For his son, see Joseph W. Byrns, Jr..
Joseph W. Byrns, Sr.
Joseph Byrns.jpg
46th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1935 – June 4, 1936
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by Henry T. Rainey
Succeeded by William B. Bankhead
House Majority Leader
In office
1933–1935
Preceded by Henry T. Rainey
Succeeded by William B. Bankhead
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 5th & 6th districts
In office
March 4, 1909 – March 3, 1933 (6th)
March 4, 1933 – June 4, 1936 (5th)
Preceded by John W. Gaines
Ewin L. Davis
Succeeded by Clarence W. Turner
Richard M. Atkinson
Personal details
Born Joseph Wellington Byrns
July 20, 1869
Cedar Hill, Tennessee
Died June 4, 1936 (aged 66)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Vanderbilt University
Profession Law

Joseph Wellington "Jo" Byrns, Sr. (July 20, 1869 – June 4, 1936) was a U.S. politician. He served as a 14-term Democratic Congressman from Tennessee.

Biography[edit]

Byrns was born in Cedar Hill, Robertson County, Tennessee, son of James Henry Byrns and Mary Emily Jackson. He was named for a maternal uncle, Joseph William Green Jackson who died in the Civil War. His great-grandfather, James Byrns, Esq., figures in the legend of The Bell Witch, and is mentioned in the Authenticated History of The Bell Witch by Martin Van Buren Ingram. A graduate of public schools, he displayed a strong early interest in politics and was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1894 and reelected in 1896 and 1898. In 1900 he was elected to the Tennessee State Senate.

In 1902 he ran for district attorney of Davidson County, Tennessee but was defeated — his only unsuccessful political race in 18 efforts. In 1908, Byrns received the Democratic nomination for U.S. Representative and was elected in November of that year to a term beginning March 4, 1909. He served in the House for the rest of his life.

Byrns was widely respected and his influence grew as his seniority did. He was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 1928 to 1935.[1] In 1931 he was appointed chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and in 1933 became House Majority Leader. In 1935 he became Speaker of the House. He was awarded the 1935-36 "Amazing Eyebrows" Cup by The New York Times.

Byrns was Speaker when he died in Washington, D.C., and had been planning to run for reelection. His funeral, attended by President Roosevelt and other dignitaries, was held in the United States Capitol. He was interred at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville. His son Jo Byrns, Jr. later served a single term in the House but never achieved the popularity of Jo, Sr.

Byrns was also an active Civitan.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Irish, Ann B. (2001). Joseph W. Byrns of Tennessee: a political biography. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. p. 220. ISBN 1-57233-131-3. 
  2. ^ Leonhart, James Chancellor (1962). The Fabulous Octogenarian. Baltimore Maryland: Redwood House, Inc. p. 277. 

Legacy[edit]

Jo Byrns High School, near Adams, Tennessee in his native Robertson County, is named in his honor. It was opened in 1951.

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John W. Gaines
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 6th congressional district

1909–1933
Succeeded by
Clarence W. Turner
Preceded by
Ewin L. Davis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 5th congressional district

1933–1936
Succeeded by
Richard Merrill Atkinson
Political offices
Preceded by
William R. Wood
Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee
1931–1933
Succeeded by
James P. Buchanan
Preceded by
Henry T. Rainey
House Majority Leader
House Democratic Leader

1933–1935
Succeeded by
William B. Bankhead
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
January 3, 1935 – June 4, 1936