David John Lewis

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David John Lewis
David John Lewis, Harris-Ewing photo.jpg
Born (1869-05-01)May 1, 1869
Nutals Bank, Centre County, Pennsylvania
Died August 12, 1952(1952-08-12) (aged 83)
Resting place Hill Crest Cemetery
Known for Introducing the Social Security Act to the House Of Representatives
Political party Democratic Party

David John Lewis (May 1, 1869 – August 12, 1952) was an American politician.

Born near Osceola Mills, Centre County, Pennsylvania to Welsh immigrants,[1] Lewis worked in the local coal mines from 1878 to 1892. He studied law and Latin in his spare time, was admitted to the bar in 1892, and commenced practice in Cumberland, Maryland.

Lewis served as a member of the Maryland State Senate from 1902 to 1906, and was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for election to the Sixty-first Congress in 1908. In 1910, he was elected as a Democrat to the Sixty-second, Sixty-third, and Sixty-fourth Congresses, serving the sixth district of Maryland from March 4, 1911 to March 3, 1917. During the Sixty-third and Sixty-fourth Congresses, he served as chairman of the House Committee on Labor. He was not a candidate for renomination in 1916, but was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for election to the United States Senate.

President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into law, August 14, 1935. (Lewis at far right)

From April 1917 to March 1925, Lewis was a member of the United States Tariff Commission. He was again an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate in 1922, and resumed the practice of law in Cumberland. He was again elected to the Seventy-second and to the three succeeding Congresses, serving the sixth district of Maryland from March 4, 1931 to January 3, 1939, but was not a candidate for renomination in 1938, having run for senator, challenging incumbent Millard Tydings in the Democratic primary. Lewis was more sympathetic to the New Deal than Tydings and won the backing of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Nevertheless, his third bid for the Senate was again unsuccessful, and instead he served as a member of the National Mediation Board from 1939 to 1943. He died in Cumberland and is interred in Hillcrest Cemetery.

Social Security Act[edit]

David John Lewis was the leading expert on social insurance legislation on the House Ways & Means Committee. He introduced the Social Security bill into the House on January 17, 1935. However, Chairman Doughton, exercising what he took to be the Chairman's privileges, made a copy of Lewis' bill and submitted it himself. Then he persuaded the House clerk to give him a lower number than Lewis' copy. Newspapers then began calling the bill "The Wagner-Doughton bill." When Lewis found out, he sputtered and swore, then went to work to understand every sentence and master the arguments in favor of the bill. And when David Lewis walked down the aisle of the House to debate on the bill's behalf, he received a standing ovation – a subtle rebuke to Chairman Doughton's high-handed treatment.


  • United States Congress. "David John Lewis (id: L000277)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • Signing the Social Security Act of 1935
  1. ^ "United States Census, 1880", FamilySearch, retrieved March 30, 2018
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
George Alexander Pearre
Representative of the 6th Congressional District of Maryland
Succeeded by
Frederick Nicholas Zihlman
Preceded by
Frederick Nicholas Zihlman
Representative of the 6th Congressional District of Maryland
Succeeded by
William Devereux Byron