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George Norris: A Featured Biography

Senator George Norris of Nebraska

Nebraska’s George Norris was a teacher, county attorney, district judge, and five-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives before he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1912. Throughout his political career, Norris was a leading progressive voice championing efforts to reform corrupt practices in government and industry, improve labor conditions, and modernize infrastructure. Widely considered one of the greatest senators in history, Norris’ legislative accomplishments included the Norris-La Guardia Act of 1932, which strengthened labor unions, and the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933. A staunch isolationist, Norris opposed American involvement in the First World War and became one of the “Irreconcilables” who fought President Woodrow Wilson’s efforts to join a League of Nations in 1919. Fiercely independent, this western progressive routinely bucked the leaders of his Republican Party. In 1936, he left the party and ran as an Independent in his successful bid for a fifth Senate term. His independence and political courage later prompted Senator John F. Kennedy to include Norris in his 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage.

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