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First Among Equals

Richard A. Baker and Roger H. Davidson (1991) 

This volume is the first major study of the Senate leadership to be cast in a biographical perspective.  It highlights nine outstanding twentieth-century Senate floor leaders in essays written by noted historians, journalists, and political scientists. Each essay places its subject in the context of the political environment and Senate institutional setting of his era, and describes his personal qualities, performance in office, contributions to the Senate, and place in the nation’s political history.

Since 1913, Senate Democrats and Republicans have selected 26 persons to lead their parties.  The nine profiles here include five Democrats: John Kern, Joseph Robinson, Alben Barkley, Lyndon Johnson, and Mike Mansfield–and four Republicans: Henry Cabot Lodge, Charles McNary, Robert Taft, and Everett Dirksen.  (Former Leaders Robert C.  Byrd, Howard Baker, Bob Dole, and George Mitchell served too recently to fall within the scope of this broadly historical account.)

Together these essays offer a broadly insightful account of a dynamic American political institution.  They have also illuminated the phenomenon of leadership—so essential to the performance of legislative institutions—in the context of the individualistic Senate where to lead is to serve as first among equals.