Kenneth Spicer Wherry, a U.S. senator from Nebraska, had a colorful and varied career in business before shifting his energy to politics in 1927. Born in Liberty, Nebraska, he practiced law and at various times ran the family furniture and automobile businesses. He also became a mortician, cattleman, and farm implements salesman.
Wherry served simultaneously as the mayor of Pawnee City and as a member of the Nebraska state senate; later he became western director for the Republican National Committee. In 1942 Wherry defeated incumbent George Norris for a seat in the U.S. Senate. There, Wherry distinguished himself by sponsoring legislation to change the line of presidential succession, placing the Speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate before presidential cabinet members. Wherry persistently advocated flood control and irrigation projects, supported a strong air force, and defended General Douglas MacArthur during his confrontations with the Truman administration. Elected Republican whip in 1944, just two years after his arrival in the Senate, Wherry was instrumental in the movement to broaden the Senate's cloture rules to limit filibusters. According to fellow Republican Robert Taft, Wherry was a "good salesman," having carried his gift of persuasiveness with him from his business career. Wherry acted frequently as party leader during the illness of Majority Leader Wallace White, later serving as Republican leader in his own right. He died in office in 1951.