Kenneth S. Wherry

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Kenneth S. Wherry
Kenneth wherry.jpg
Senate Minority Leader
In office
January 3, 1949 – November 29, 1951
Deputy Leverett Saltonstall
Preceded by Alben W. Barkley
Succeeded by Styles Bridges
Senate Majority Whip
In office
January 3, 1947 – January 3, 1949
Leader Wallace H. White, Jr.
Preceded by Lister Hill
Succeeded by Francis Myers
Senate Minority Whip
In office
January 3, 1943 – January 3, 1947
Leader Charles L. McNary
Wallace H. White, Jr.
Preceded by Felix Hebert
Succeeded by Scott Lucas
United States Senator
from Nebraska
In office
January 3, 1943 – November 29, 1951
Preceded by George W. Norris
Succeeded by Fred A. Seaton
Member of the Nebraska Senate
In office
Personal details
Born (1892-02-28)February 28, 1892
Liberty, Nebraska
Died November 29, 1951(1951-11-29) (aged 59)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Republican

Kenneth Spicer Wherry (February 28, 1892 – November 29, 1951) was an American businessman, attorney, and politician. A member of the Republican Party, he served as a U.S. Senator from Nebraska from 1943 to 1951. He was Senate Minority Leader from 1949 to 1951.

Early life[edit]

Wherry was born in Liberty, Nebraska, to David Emery and Jessie (née Comstock) Wherry.[1] He received his early education at public schools in Pawnee City, and graduated from the University of Nebraska (where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi) in 1914.[2] From 1915 to 1916, he studied business administration at Harvard University.[1] During World War I, he served in the U.S. Navy Flying Corps (1917–18).[3]

Following his military service, Wherry began a business career selling automobiles, furniture, and livestock; he was also a licensed undertaker with offices in Nebraska and Kansas.[1] He also studied law and, after being admitted to the bar, entered private practice in Pawnee City.[3]

Political career[edit]

Wherry entered politics as a member of the Pawnee city council, serving in 1927 and 1929.[2] He was mayor of Pawnee City from 1929 to 1931, simultaneously serving as a member of the Nebraska State Senate from 1929 to 1932.[2] He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor in 1932 and for U.S. Senator in 1934.[1]

In 1938, Wherry was again elected mayor of Pawnee City, serving until 1943.[2] He was chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party from 1939 to 1942, and Western Director for the Republican National Committee from 1941 to 1942.[3]

U.S. Senator[edit]

In 1942, Wherry was elected to the U.S. Senate after defeating incumbent George W. Norris. He was reelected in 1948 and served until his death. He served as Republican whip from 1944 to 1949 and Senate Minority Leader from 1949 to 1951. He was also one of the few postwar politicos to see the plight of the defeated Germans. "The American people should know once and for all that as a result of this government’s official policy they are being made...accomplices in the crime of mass starvation...Germany is the only nation subjected to a deliberate starvation policy..."

In 1945, Wherry was among the seven senators who opposed full United States entry into the United Nations.[4]

Wherry was the unsuccessful leader in the fight to block the Marshall Plan in Congress in early 1948. Congress, under the control of conservative Republicans, agreed to the program itself and the funding for multiple reasons. The 20-member conservative isolationist wing of the party was led by Wherry. He was outmaneuvered by the internationalist wing, led by Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg. Wherry and his men argued that it would be "a wasteful "operation rat-hole"; that it made no sense to oppose communism by supporting the socialist governments in Western Europe; and that American goods would reach Russia and increase its war potential. Vandenberg admitted there was no certainty that the plan would succeed, but said it would halt economic chaos, sustain Western civilization, and stop further Soviet expansion. Senator Robert A. Taft, The most prominent conservative, hedged on the issue. He said it was without economic justification; however it was "absolutely necessary" in "the world battle against communism." In the end only 17 senators voted against it on 13 March, 1948[5]

Wherry was openly opposed to homosexuals, telling Max Lerner in a 1950 interview that "You can't hardly separate homosexuals from subversives" and "But look Lerner, we're both Americans, aren't we? I say, let's get these fellows [closeted gay men in government positions] out of the government."[6] He also publicized the fear that Adolf Hitler had given Joseph Stalin a list of closeted homosexuals which he believed Stalin would use to blackmail them into becoming Soviet spies.[7]

He died in Washington on November 29, 1951, while serving as Republican Floor Leader.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Kenneth S. Wherry". Nebraska State Historical Society. 
  2. ^ a b c d "WHERRY, Kenneth Spicer, (1892 - 1951)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. 
  3. ^ a b c "Kenneth S. Wherry". Pawnee County History. 
  4. ^ "UNO Bill Approved By Senate, 65 to 7, With One Change". The New York Times. December 4, 1945. Retrieved December 27, 2016. 
  5. ^ John C. Campbell, The United States in World affairs: 1947-1948 (1948) pp 500-505; quotes on pages 504, 505.
  6. ^ Lerner, Max, The Unfinished Country: A Book of American Symbols Simon and Schuster, 1959 pp 313–316
  7. ^ Von Hoffman, Nicholas, Citizen Cohn Doubleday, 1988, pp 130

External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
George William Norris
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Nebraska
Served alongside: Hugh A. Butler
Succeeded by
Fred Andrew Seaton
Party political offices
Preceded by
Felix Hebert
Rhode Island
(Position vacant 1935 - 1944)
Senate Republican Whip
Succeeded by
Leverett Saltonstall
Preceded by
Wallace H. White Jr.
Senate Republican Leader
Succeeded by
Styles Bridges
New Hampshire