Born in Wheatville, Texas, Morris Sheppard was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1902, succeeding his father. In 1913 he resigned his seat following his election by the Texas legislature to the U.S. Senate to fill a vacancy; he was subsequently reelected four times. At the time of his death in 1941, Sheppard was senior in overall service among all members of Congress.
During his years in the Senate, Sheppard was chairman of the Senate Military Affairs Committee, and he acted as Democratic whip between 1929 and 1933. He led the fight for adoption of the prohibition amendment to the Constitution and strongly supported women's suffrage. As a progressive Democrat, Sheppard advocated reform legislation promoting rural credit programs, child labor laws, and antitrust laws. Also among his list of accomplishments was the Sheppard-Towner Act, which provided for maternity and infant welfare, the Federal Credit Union Act, the Selective Service Act, and the Lend-Lease Act. Standing only five feet, four inches tall, he was a quiet man who was most effective behind the scenes rather than in active debate. Sheppard was a dedicated student of English literature who compiled an unpublished 35-volume work entitled Selected Comments of Shakespeare on Over 4,000 Subjects.