George William Norris

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Norris, George William,

1861–1944, American legislator, b. Sandusky co., Ohio. After admission to the bar in 1883, he moved (1885) to Furnas co., Nebr., where he practiced law and was prosecuting attorney and then (1895–1902) judge of the district court. From 1903 to 1913 he served in the U.S. House of Representatives. A liberal Republican, Norris secured (1910), through an alliance of insurgent Republicans with Democrats, the passage of a resolution that reformed the House rules and wrested absolute control from the speaker of the House, Joseph G. CannonCannon, Joseph Gurney,
1836–1926, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (1903–11), b. Guilford co., N.C. A lawyer in Illinois, Cannon served as a Republican in Congress from 1873 to 1923, except for the years 1891–93 and 1913–15, when first the
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. Elected (1912) to the U.S. Senate, he opposed President Wilson's foreign policy, voted against U.S. participation in World War I, and denounced the Treaty of Versailles. He was at constant odds with the Coolidge administration, backed (1928) Democrat Alfred E. Smith for President, and favored President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's domestic and foreign policies. Norris was read out of the Republican party and became (1936) an independent. He was author (1932) of the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished the "lame duck" session of Congress and changed the date of the presidential inauguration. He sponsored (1932) the Norris–La Guardia Act, which forbade the use of injunctions in labor disputes to prevent strikes, boycotts, or picketing. An advocate of government water power development, he fathered the bills that created (1933) the Tennessee Valley Authority. He also supported farm relief measures. After serving 30 years in the Senate, he was defeated for reelection in 1942. His Fighting Liberal (1945, repr. 1961) is autobiographical.


See R. Lowitt, George W. Norris: The Triumph of a Progressive, 1933–1944 (1978); biography by N. L. Zucker (1966).

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Norris, George William

(1861–1944) U.S. representative/senator; born in York Township, Ohio. He received a law degree in 1882. Moving to Nebraska in 1885 to practice law, he served as a county prosecuting attorney (1892–96) and state judge (1896–1902). In 1902 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (Rep., Nebr.; 1903–13). In 1913 he began a stormy 30-year career in the U.S. Senate (1913–43). A progressive in domestic matters, he gained national notoriety for his opposition to U.S. entry into World War I and to U.S. participation in the League of Nations. In the 1930s he was a firm supporter of the New Deal. He was a sponsor of the Norris-LaGuardia Anti-Injunction Act of 1932, which protected labor's right to organize; his long years of work for public control of hydroelectric resources culminated in the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933. In 1936 he was elected to the Senate as an Independent, but he was defeated for reelection in 1942.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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George William Norris (1861-1944), a progressive Republican, denounced the decision to enter the war as a tragic mistake, promoted by rapacious Wall Street financiers.