Norris Poulson

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C. Norris Poulson
Norris Poulson.jpg
36th Mayor of Los Angeles
In office
July 1, 1953 – July 1, 1961
Preceded by Fletcher Bowron
Succeeded by Sam Yorty
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 24th district
13th district (1943–1945 & 1947–1953)
In office
January 3, 1947 – June 11, 1953
Preceded by Ned R. Healy
Succeeded by Glenard P. Lipscomb
In office
January 3, 1943 – January 3, 1945
Preceded by Charles Kramer
Succeeded by Ned R. Healy
Personal details
Born (1895-07-23)July 23, 1895
Baker County, Oregon
Died September 25, 1982(1982-09-25) (aged 87)
La Jolla, California
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Erna J. Loennig
Residence Los Angeles, California

C. Norris Poulson (July 23, 1895 – September 25, 1982) served as the 36th Mayor of Los Angeles, California from 1953 to 1961, after having been a California State Assemblyman and then a member of the United States Congress for eight years. He was a Republican though the office of mayor is officially nonpartisan.

Biography[edit]

Born in Baker County, Oregon to Danish parents, Poulson attended Oregon State University in Corvallis for two years before he wed Erna June Loennig on December 25, 1916. The couple arrived in Los Angeles in 1923. Poulson became a certified public accountant through correspondence classes and night school at Southwestern Law School, which at that time had a business school.

Political career[edit]

California State Assembly and U.S. Congress[edit]

In 1938, he was elected to the 56th District seat of the California State Assembly. He won a congressional seat four years later. After losing the seat in the 1944 election, he returned to the United States Congress following the 1946 elections, remaining there until his election as mayor of Los Angeles.

During his years as a congressman, Poulson helped lead California in its fight against Arizona over Colorado River water. At the time of his departure from Congress, he was the chairman of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.

Los Angeles mayor[edit]

Poulson's victory in the Los Angeles mayoral race came after a contentious battle in which his opponent, incumbent mayor Fletcher Bowron, claimed that the Los Angeles Times wanted to control city government and, by endorsing Poulson, would have a puppet in the mayor's office. Poulson, for his part, challenged Bowron's support for public housing, in particular a project in the area known as "Elysian Park Heights" (a site on which Dodger Stadium would one day be built). With the support of the group Citizens Against Socialist Housing (CASH) and drawing on the anti-communist atmosphere of the time, Poulson promised to end support for such "un-American" housing projects and to fire city employees who were communists or who refused to answer questions about their political activities.

During his eight years as mayor, Los Angeles became the third largest city in the United States, with Poulson instrumental in leading the construction of the Los Angeles International Airport, expanding the Los Angeles Harbor, and, most notably, luring baseball's Brooklyn Dodgers westward—resulting in the Battle of Chavez Ravine. He helped integrate the city's fire and police departments and initiated a garbage recycling program that proved to be a factor in his defeat in 1961.

Perhaps the most memorable image of his mayoral career came in September 1959, when he addressed Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev during a public ceremony. The comments came after Khrushchev had constantly touted Russian superiority during his tour of the city by Poulson. Citing Khrushchev's phrase, "We will bury you," Poulson responded, "You shall not bury us and we shall not bury you. We tell you in the friendliest terms possible we are planning no funerals, yours or our own." Poulson received over 3,600 letters following the incident, many of them praising him for his comments.

He lost a reelection campaign in 1961 to Sam Yorty, partly due to having to explain the expenses incurred by the Dodgers' franchise shift. Efforts to blunt such criticism were limited due to a severe case of laryngitis, which prevented him from responding to the invitation from local television personality George Putnam to debate Yorty on his show. Poulson never recovered from the laryngitis and his campaign never recovered from the setback.

Following the defeat, Poulson briefly returned to accounting before moving to La Jolla, California in 1962.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Charles Kramer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 13th congressional district

1943–1945
Succeeded by
Ned R. Healy
Preceded by
Ned R. Healy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 13th congressional district

1947–1953
Succeeded by
Ernest K. Bramblett
Preceded by
None
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 24th congressional district

1953
Succeeded by
Glenard P. Lipscomb