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Stewart E. McClure: Chief Clerk, Senate Committee on Labor, Education, and Public Welfare


Photo of Stewart McClure

“'Senator, I'll tell you when to speak. This is not the time.'”

In his interview with Senate historian Donald Ritchie, McClure recalls how his boss, freshman Democrat Guy Gillette, was instructed by Republican senator Hiram Johnson on when to make his maiden speech.


McCLURE: I'll tell you the story (Gillette) told me of his early days in the Senate. At that time in 1937 there was what was called the "Cherokee Strip" in the Senate. There were so many Democrats that some of them had to sit on the Republican side of the aisle in the back row. He was sitting behind Hiram Johnson of California, Republican, and they got to be deskmates, you know, as those things happen. Gillette came one day with some notes; he was obviously preparing to make a statement on something. Johnson saw this and turned around and said: "Senator, I'll tell you when to speak. This is not the time.” All right said Senator Gillette. He was then 54 years old, he was no child. But Hiram was an old bull and Gillette knew who he was. So, a month or so later a farm bill, an appropriations bill dealing with farmers, was coming up, and Johnson turned around and said, "Now, this is the one you speak on. Prepare yourself to speak on this amendment. This will be your maiden speech." Which, of course, was exactly right and appropriate for a senator from Iowa, and that's the way he started.