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Benjamin R. Tillman: A Featured Biography


Photo of Senator Ben Tillman

Fearsome in debate and pugnacious in style, Benjamin Tillman (1847-1918) won the nickname "Pitchfork Ben" for promising to go to Washington to stick a pitchfork in President Grover Cleveland to get the economy moving again. An agrarian populist, he served in the Senate as a Democrat from South Carolina. Tillman was once censured for fistfighting on the Senate floor but continued to win reelection.  Although Tillman spent most of his Senate career in the minority and was usually a voice of opposition, in 1906 he formed an unusual political coalition with Republican president Theodore Roosevelt, who enlisted Tillman's aid to win passage of tough new railroad regulation. In 1914 the Senate assisted the aging Senator Tillman by banning smoking in the Senate Chamber.