B. Carroll Reece

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B. Carroll Reece
B. Carroll Reece.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1921 – March 3, 1931
Preceded by Sam R. Sells
Succeeded by Oscar Lovette
In office
March 4, 1933 – January 3, 1947
Preceded by Oscar Lovette
Succeeded by Dayton E. Phillips
In office
January 3, 1951 – March 19, 1961
Preceded by Dayton E. Phillips
Succeeded by Louise Goff Reece
Personal details
Born (1889-12-22)December 22, 1889
Butler, Tennessee, U.S.
Died March 19, 1961(1961-03-19) (aged 71)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Resting place Monte Vista Burial Park
Johnson City, Tennessee, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Louise Goff Reece
Profession Attorney, banker

Brazilla Carroll Reece (December 22, 1889–March 19, 1961) was an American politician from Tennessee. He served in the United States House of Representatives for all but six years from 1921 to 1961.

Early life[edit]

Reece was born on a farm near Butler, Tennessee as one of thirteen children of John Isaac and Sarah Maples Reece. He was named for Brazilla Carroll McBride, an ancestor who served in the War of 1812, but never used his first name.[1] His brother, Raleigh Valentine Reece, was a reporter for the Nasvhille Tennessean and the teacher who replaced John Thomas Scopes at Rhea County High School in Dayton, Tennessee following the infamous "Monkey Trial."

He attended Watauga Academy in Butler, and Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee.[2] At Carson-Newman he played basketball and football. After graduating from Carson-Newman in 1914 as class valedictorian, he worked as a high school principal for one year, then enrolled in New York University, where he earned a master's degree in economics and finance in 1916.[1] He also studied at the University of London.


He was an assistant secretary and instructor at New York University in 1916 and 1917.

In April, 1917 Reece enlisted for World War I and attended officer training in Plattsburg, New York. During the war he served initially with the 166th Infantry Regiment, a unit of the 42nd Infantry Division.[3] He later transferred to 102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th Infantry Division. He commanded a company, then commanded the regiment's 3rd Battalion, and attained the rank of Captain.[4][5] He was discharged in 1919, and was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Purple Heart, and French Croix de Guerre with Palm.[6][7]

He was director of the School of Business Administration of New York University in 1919 and 1920, and also studied law there.

He then passed the bar exam and opened a successful law practice in Johnson City, where he was also a banker and publisher.

He was married to Louise Goff, daughter of United States Senator Guy Despard Goff of West Virginia.

Congressional service[edit]

In 1920, Reece won the Republican nomination for Tennessee's 1st Congressional District, based in the Tri-Cities region in the northeastern part of the state. The region had voted not to secede at the state convention in 1861. This region was heavily Republican—in fact, Republicans had represented this district for all but four years since 1859, and was one of the few regions in the former Confederacy where Republicans won on a regular basis. He won handily in November and was reelected four more times before being defeated for renomination in 1930 by Oscar Lovette. However, he defeated Lovette in 1932 and returned to Congress, serving until 1947, when he stepped down to devote his full energies to serving as chairman of the Republican National Committee, a position he had held since 1946. A member of the conservative "Old Guard" faction of the Republican Party, Reece was a strong supporter of Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft, the leader of the GOP's conservative wing. In 1948 and 1952 Reece was a leading supporter of Taft's candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination; however, Taft lost the nomination both times to moderate Republicans from New York.

Reece served as a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1928, 1932, 1936, 1940, 1940, and 1948. He was a member of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution in 1945 and 1946.

Reece was the Republican nominee for an open Senate seat in 1948, but lost to Democratic Congressman Estes Kefauver, who had unseated incumbent Democrat Tom Stewart in the party primary. Kefauver carried the support of the influential editor Edward J. Meeman of the since defunct Memphis Press-Scimitar, who had for years fought to topple the Edward "Boss" Crump political machine in Memphis. Crump supported Stewart.[8]

In 1950, Reece ran against the man who succeeded him in the House, Dayton Phillips, and defeated him in the Republican primary. This all but assured him of a return to Congress in the heavily Republican district. He was reelected five more times. When the Republicans gained control of the House after the 1952 elections, Reece served as chairman of the Special Committee on Tax Exempt Foundations, losing this post after the Democrats regained control in 1955. During his time in Congress, he was a social and fiscal conservative who supported isolationism and civil rights legislation. He was a rarity in politics at the time—a truly senior Republican congressman from a former Confederate state.

International controversy[edit]

During the Cold War, Reece's statement that "The citizens of Danzig are German as they always had been" caused a reply from Jędrzej Giertych, a leading Polish emigrant in London and writer, publicist, and publisher of National Democratic background.[9]

Reece Committee[edit]

Main article: Reece Committee

Reece led the House Special Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations which investigated the use of funds by tax-exempt organizations (non-profit organizations) to see if they were being used to support communism.[10] Parents were shocked by socialistic professors brain washing their collegiate sons and daughters. Congress set up a number of committees to investigate the matter. The Cox Committee, the Jenner committee and the Reece Committee looked into the letters of complaint. B. Carroll Reece of Tennessee chose an attorney, Norman Dodd to be the chief investigator, investigating the major tax-exempt foundations for eighteen months. After the time was up, the papers were boxed up and investigator Dodd retained them for many years. In 1982, he gave W. Cleon Skousen six boxes of papers of great historical value. Here is a statement by former Congressman B. Carol Reece, a member of the Cox committee, the predecessor of the Reece Committee: The evidence that has been gathered by the staff pointed to one simple underlying situation namely that the major foundations, by subsidizing collectivistic-minded educators, had financed a socialist trend in American government.” Ralph Epperson, The Unseen Hand, Tucson, Arizona: Publius Press, 1985, p. 208. Epperson was able to examine the papers in all six boxes and found many interesting items. This is a letter to the Reece Committee. The letter demonstrates how a major tax-exempt foundation exerted control over an educational system: C.H. McNie 1633 Highland Ave. Wilmette, Ill. May 14, 1954

Chairman Reece (R. Tenn.) Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir; Last July this writer was in Los Angeles. The local papers were full of fight, waged by a lone lady member of the School Board. She had finally induced the Los Angeles School Board to refuse a rather large grant of money from the FORD Foundation. The papers indicated that the FORD Foundation would grant a large amount of money to be used in paying the salaries of some fifty to one hundred or more teachers for the Los Angeles schools. Each teacher who was to have a five-year uncancelable contract, would be hired by the Foundation and receive all instructions from the Foundation as to subjects and manner of teaching. This lady indicated that the Board could use the money, but felt that the Los Angeles teachers should be under the direction and control of the local board. That looked serious and dangerous to this writer. Thought you might be interested . . . Yours truly, C. H. McNie

On November 12-13, 1977, Michael Loyd Chadwick interviewed Norman Dodd, who was in charge of research for the Reece Committee in 1954. Here is a verbatim transcript of their interview. MLC: How did you begin your investigation? ND: When we got to Washington we wanted to find out how many foundation we were called upon to investigate, but nobody knew. The best guess at that time as to the number of foundations was 7,000. We knew perfectly well that it was impossible in any serious way to investigate 7,000 foundations in the time spans we were allotted and with the size of our appropriations. My assistant and I therefore assumed that since the Congress was interested in knowing what effect the foundations had exerted upon the country, we would work primarily with those foundations which had been in existence the longest. It turned out that we then had to investigate twelve. This brings me to two experiences that I will describe to you. The first was my response to an invitation during November 1953 from President Roman Gaither of the Ford Foundation, to meet in his office in New York. Upon arriving there, I was greeted with following: “Mr. Dodd, we invited you to come because we thought that perhaps, off the record, you would be kind enough to tell us why the Congress is interested in the operations of foundations such as ourselves.” Before I could think of how best to reply, he volunteered this: “Mr. Dodd, we operate here under directives . . . which emanate from the White House. Would you like to know what the substance of their directives is?” “Yes, Mr. Gaither, I would like very much to know.” Whereupon he said: “The substance of the directives under which we operate is that we shall use our grant-making power to alter life in the United States so that we can be comfortably merged with the Soviet Union.” Needless to say, I nearly fell off the chair. . . . I said, “Mr. Gaither, legally you are entitled to use your grant-making power for this purpose, but I do not think you are entitled to withhold this information from the American people to who you are beholden for your tax exemption. So why do you not tell the American people what you have just told me?” His answer was: “Mr. Dodd, we would not think of doing that.” [11]

Death and legacy[edit]

Reece died of lung cancer on March 19, 1961 in Bethesda, Maryland, just two months after being sworn in for his 18th term.[12] He served in the House longer than anyone else in Tennessee history (though Jimmy Quillen, who eventually succeeded him as the 1st District's congressman, holds the record for the longest unbroken tenure in the House for a Tennessee congressman), and only Kenneth McKellar served in both houses longer. Reece's wife, Louise, was elected to serve the remainder of his unexpired term in Congress. Both are buried at Monte Vista Memorial Park in Johnson City, Tennessee.

He received several honorary degrees, including LL.D.s from Cumberland University and Tusculum College, and an L.H.D. from Lincoln Memorial University.[13]


  1. ^ a b Michael Rogers, "Brazilla Carroll Reece, 1889-1961," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
  2. ^ "REECE, Brazilla Carroll, (1889 - 1961)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved September 16, 2012. 
  3. ^ Bowers, F. Suzanne (2010). Republican, First, Last, and Always: A Biography of B. Carroll Reece. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 12–14. 
  4. ^ Winship, A. L. (1919). The Book of Salutation to the Twenty-sixth ("Yankee") Division of the American Expeditionary Forces. Boston, MA: Everett Press. pp. 27, 39. 
  5. ^ "From the Museum" (PDF). Now and Then, Volume 5, Number 2 (Johnson City, TN: East Tennessee State University): p. 7. 1988. 
  6. ^ "Biography: B. Carroll Reese". Magazine of Sigma Chi, Volume 67, Issue 3 (Evanston, IL: Sigma Chi Fraternity): p. 13. 1948. 
  7. ^ Lancaster, Frank H.; Birmingham, Ernest F. (1925). Congressman's Brother to Teach at Dayton High School. Fourth Estate: A Weekly Newspaper for Publishers, Advertisers, Advertising Agents and Allied Interests (New York, NY: Fourth Estate Publishing Company). p. 130. 
  8. ^ "Edward John Meeman". The Tennessee Encyclopedia. January 1, 2010. Retrieved May 24, 2015. 
  9. ^ Jędrzej Giertych, Poland and Germany: A Reply to Congressman B. Carroll Reece of Tennessee. (1958). p. 15
  10. ^ World News Digest: Foundations Probe: Reece Unit vs. Foundations; Other Developments (subscription required)
  11. ^ Ken Bowers, Hiding In Plain Sight. 2010
  12. ^ "Tennessee's Rep. Reece, 71, Dies of Cancer". Chicago Tribune. March 19, 1960. 
  13. ^ Reece, B. Carroll (1965). Peace Through Law: A Basis for an East-West Settlement in Europe. New Cannan, CT: The Long House, Inc. p. 6. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Sam R. Sells
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 1st congressional district

March 4, 1921 - March 3, 1931
Succeeded by
Oscar B. Lovette
Preceded by
Oscar B. Lovette
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 1st congressional district

March 4, 1933 - January 3, 1947
Succeeded by
Dayton E. Phillips
Preceded by
Dayton E. Phillips
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 1st congressional district

January 3, 1951 - March 19, 1961
Succeeded by
Louise Reece
Party political offices
Preceded by
Herbert Brownell Jr.
Chairman of the Republican National Committee
1946 - 1948
Succeeded by
Hugh D. Scott Jr.