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Spence was born in Newport, Kentucky to Philip and Virginia (Berry) Spence. He was graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1894 with a degree in law and was admitted to the bar that same year. He married Ida Bitterman on September 6, 1919.
He was very active in local and state politics, serving first in the Kentucky Senate, 1904–1908, then as city solicitor of Newport, 1916-1924. In 1930 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the 5th District; he held this position from March 4, 1931 until January 3, 1963 when redistricting led to his retirement. Spence, was at the time of his retirement, one of the oldest members to serve in the House.
Spence chaired the U.S. House Banking and Currency Committee (1943–1963, except for four years when Republicans controlled Congress). He was a delegate to the 44-nation Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, to promote fair commerce. This led to creating the International Monetary Fund and Bank, and Spence's sponsoring legislation in Congress. Spence was a strong supporter of the New Deal and the Fair Deal. During President Roosevelt's administration, he supported the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Social Security Act, and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.
Altogether Spence was a quiet man, who was not a good public speaker. However, he was known for his impartial leadership and could get critical legislation passed. His background in banking is credited for leading him to sponsor the Export-Import Federal Deposit Insurance Act, which doubled insured savings accounts from $5,000 to $10,000.
The Brent Spence Bridge of I-75/I-71 which crosses the Ohio River at Covington, Kentucky is named for him. He resided in Fort Thomas, Kentucky at the time of his death. His funeral service was at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Newport, where he was a lifetime member, then buried in Evergreen Cemetery (Southgate, Kentucky).
"Brent Spence" in The Kentucky Encyclopedia, John E. Kleber, ed. (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky), 1993.
Hedlund, Richard. "Brent Spence and the Bretton Woods Legislation", The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 79 (Winter 1981).
- United States Congress. "Brent Spence (id: S000717)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- Kentucky Historical Markers
- Brent Spence at Find a Grave
- Brent Spence
- Guide to the Brent Spence papers, 1861-1967 housed at the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center
|United States House of Representatives|
J. Lincoln Newhall
|U.S. Representative from Kentucky's 6th congressional district
March 4, 1931-March 3, 1933
|U.S. Representative from Kentucky's At Large congressional district
March 4, 1933-January 3, 1935
Cap R. Carden
|U.S. Representative from Kentucky's 4th congressional district
January 3, 1935-January 3, 1963