POLITICAL LEADERS OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE
Iowa has had so many men
of influence in our national Government that it would take
many books to tell thoroughly of the work of all of them. The
discussion will therefore be limited to the men who have
served in Presidents' cabinets, and to those who have been
influential leaders in Congress. Even then it will be
necessary to mention some of them but briefly.
Iowa is the agricultural center of the United
States. It is but natural that Presidents should have looked
to it for leadership in the Department of Agriculture. Four
Iowans whose combined service has extended over a quarter of a
century have largely made the department what it is today.
These are James Wilson, Edwin T. Meredith, Henry C. Wallace,
and Henry A. Wallace.
Few men have done more to improve agricultural
conditions than James Wilson, familiarly called "Tama Jim,"
because he lived in Tama county. As a young man he was a
successful farmer in his home county. He served several terms
in the Iowa House of Representatives and was a member of the
national House of Representatives for three terms.
In 1891 he became professor of agriculture and
director of the agricultural experiment station at Iowa State
College. We can best tell of his work at Ames by quoting Mr.
H. C. Wallace, who said: "When Wilson went into the Iowa
agricultural college at Ames it was a poor sort of college.
There were few students in the agricultural department, and
they were called 'hayseeds.' He changed all this. He
popularized the agricultural work. . . .He set the experiment
station at work studying things Iowa farmers needed to know,
and in the six years he was at Ames he wholly changed the
spirit there and laid the foundation upon which has been built
probably the greatest all-round agricultural college in the
In 1897 President McKinley asked Mr. Wilson to
serve as Secretary of Agriculture. He accepted the position
and served for sixteen consecutive years under Presidents
McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and Taft. No other man has ever
served so many years in Presidents' cabinets.
When Mr. Wilson became secretary the
department was small and unimportant. There were only 2,444
people employed in it. Sixteen years later, when he left it,
there were 13,858 employees and the department had become one
of the most important in the national Government.
EDWIN T. MEREDITH
In January, 1920, Iowa was again called upon
to provide the Secretary of Agriculture. President Wilson
appointed to that position Mr. Edwin T. Meredith, publisher of
the farm magazine Successful Farming. This magazine
had a circulation of over a million.
Mr. Meredith served in the cabinet until March
4, 1921, when President Wilson's term expired.
Iowa has the unique distinction of having had
both a father and his son serve as secretary of the same
department. When President Harding took office on March 4,
1921, he asked another Iowa farm paper editor from Des Moines
to succeed Mr. Meredith. This time it was Henry C. Wallace,
Editor of Wallace's Farmer. The new secretary was a
leader in agricultural work in the Middle West.
Henry C. Wallace served ably as secretary
until his death on Oct. 25, 1924.
During the political campaign of 1932 Henry A.
Wallace, then editor of Wallace's Farmer, left the
party of his father and grandfather, who had been life-long
Republicans. "Henry A." supported the candidacy of Franklin
D. Roosevelt. When Mr. Roosevelt became President on March 4,
1933, he chose Henry A. Wallace as his Secretary of
Agriculture and, in 1938, he is still serving in that
OTHER CABINET MEMBERS
Several Iowa men have been chosen to positions
in the presidential cabinets, aside from those who served as
Secretary of Agriculture. In March, 1865, President Lincoln
asked James Harlan, then a United States Senator from Iowa, to
become his Secretary of the Interior. Mr. Harlan resigned as
senator to accept the position. He did not take office until
May 15th, however after Lincoln had been assassinated.
Secretary Harlan was very efficient. He
discharged some men who did little or no work. Their
political friends accused Mr. Harlan of graft. Because he did
not agree with President Johnson on certain plans, Mr. Harlan
resigned after serving but a few months.
Samuel Kirkwood, who served as governor of
Iowa during the Civil War, was appointed Secretary of the
Interior by President Garfield on March 4, 1881. He took an
active interest in Indian affairs. After the assassination
and death of President Garfield, Mr. Kirkwood tendered his
resignation to Mr. Arthur, the new President. He was
continued in office until the spring of 1882.
Others who have served as cabinet members are:
Frank Hatton of Burlington, Iowa, as Secretary
of War under President Arthur.
William W. Belknap, of Keokuk, Iowa, as
Secretary of War under President Grant, for seven years.
George W. McCrary, of Van Buren county, as
Secretary of War under President Hayes, for three years.
:Leslie M. Shaw, of Denison, Iowa, was made
Secretary of the Treasury by President Theodore Roosevelt. He
served ably for several years.
James W. Good, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was
appointed Secretary of War by President Hoover, on March 4,
1929. He died while in office about a year later.
OUTSTANDING IOWA CONGRESSMEN
Among the many Iowans who have served ably in
our national Congress, the names of four Senators stand out
because of the influence and power which they exerted in the
Senate. The first is that of William B. Allison of Dubuque.
After having served in the national House of Representatives
for four terms, he was elected to the United States Senate in
1872, and served there continuously until his death in 1908.
He was recognized as an authority on financial matters.
Three Presidents offered him a position in the cabinet but he
declined, preferring to stay in the Senate. In 1888 he was
one of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential
Jonathan P. Dolliver's long service in
Congress was about equally divided between the House of
Representatives and the Senate. He served in the lower branch
from 1889 until 1900, when he was appointed to the Senate to
fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator Gear. He
served in the upper house until his death in 1910. Mr.
Dolliver was an outstanding orator in Congress.
Albert B. Cummins was elected to the United
States Senate in 1908, after the death of Senator Allison. He
had previously served for three terms as governor of Iowa. He
continued his service in the Senate until his death in July,
William S. Kenyon was elected to the United
States Senate in 1911 and served until he resigned in 1922 to
accept an appointment from President Harding as judge of the
United States Circuit Court, Eighth District.
Two men from Iowa won conspicuous recognition
in the national House of Representatives. David B. Henderson
of Dubuque, who was elected to that body in 1882 and served
for twenty consecutive years, was chosen as Speaker of the
House of Representatives in 1899. He is the only man from
Iowa who ever served in that capacity and was the first man
from west of the Mississippi to be elected Speaker.
Robert G. Cousins of Tipton was elected to the
House of Representatives in 1892 and served eight terms. He
refused to run for a ninth term. Mr. Cousins soon won a
reputation in Washington as being one of the very best
speakers in Congress. He became one of the most popular
platform and chautauqua speakers of his day.