Richard B. Russell, Jr., represented Georgia in the United States Senate from 1933 to 1971, a period of sweeping social change. Russell (1879-1971) was regarded by his fellow senators as the quintessential member of the Senate's establishment, and they dubbed him "a Senator's Senator" and "the Georgia Giant." So great was his popularity in Congress that Lyndon B. Johnson once said, "If the membership of the Senate were to cast a secret vote on the man they believed best qualifies to be president of the United States, they would choose Richard Russell."Gilbert Fite's masterful biography begins with Russell's upbringing in an elite Georgia family. The highly stratified and class-conscious society of his early years would later influence Russell's legislative agenda. In 1920, Russell was elected to the Georgia General Assembly, and in 1931 he became governor of Georgia. He held that office until 1933, when he began his thirty-eight years of service in the U.S. Senate.During Russell's long senatorial career, he was deeply involved in many of the most important episodes of our national life: the New Deal, World War II, the MacArthur investigation, the foreign aid debate, and the Warren Commission inquiry. His greatest contribution, according to Fite, was his fierce determination to maintain a strong national defense during the Cold War; in his sixteen years as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, he emerged as the acknowledged leader in Congress on defense matters. A career-long member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Russell also became one of the nation's strongest advocates of farm price supports. Under his sponsorship, the Senate enacted legislation establishing the school lunch program and distribution of food to the needy.But Russell never abandoned his dedication to the South's traditional values, and he became the leader of the Southern Bloc that staunchly fought to defeat civil rights legislation and maintain the structures of segregation. Russell's unwillingness to compromise on civil rights, says Fite, meant that his career was ultimately one of regional rather than national leadership.
About the Author
Gilbert C. Fite is Richard B. Russell Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Georgia.
What People are Saying About This
A carefully researched, well crafted, and fair-minded treatment of the man, the senator, and the changing political landscape of his time.Political Science Quarterly
"This splendid book happily satisfies a longstanding need for a detailed biography of Georgia's Richard B. Russell, one of the true giants of the twentieth-century Senate. It is simultaneously a compelling biography of a major politician, a fascinating account of the politics of the Senate, and an excellent introduction to the changing position of the South in national politics. This is a major work, beautifully written, which should find a wide and enduring audience.Merle Black, Emory University
Richard Russell left a mark that will always be prominent in the history of the United States Senate and in the memories of those, like myself, who served with him. More than anyone else I have ever met, Richard Russell should have been president of the United States. In this well-written study, Gilbert Fite skillfully reconstructs the life of a senator of uncommon integrity, fairness, and wisdom, who would have graced the Senate at any period in the broad sweep of its two-hundred-year history.Senator Robert C. Byrd