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George William Norris

Norris, George William, 1861–1944, American legislator, b. Sandusky co., Ohio. After admission to the bar in 1883, he moved (1885) to Furnas co., Nebr., where he practiced law and was prosecuting attorney and then (1895–1902) judge of the district court. From 1903 to 1913 he served in the U.S. House of Representatives. A liberal Republican, Norris secured (1910), through an alliance of insurgent Republicans with Democrats, the passage of a resolution that reformed the House rules and wrested absolute control from the speaker of the House, Joseph G. Cannon. Elected (1912) to the U.S. Senate, he opposed President Wilson's foreign policy, voted against U.S. participation in World War I, and denounced the Treaty of Versailles. He was at constant odds with the Coolidge administration, backed (1928) Democrat Alfred E. Smith for President, and favored President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's domestic and foreign policies. Norris was read out of the Republican party and became (1936) an independent. He was author (1932) of the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished the "lame duck" session of Congress and changed the date of the presidential inauguration. He sponsored (1932) the Norris–La Guardia Act, which forbade the use of injunctions in labor disputes to prevent strikes, boycotts, or picketing. An advocate of government water power development, he fathered the bills that created (1933) the Tennessee Valley Authority. He also supported farm relief measures. After serving 30 years in the Senate, he was defeated for reelection in 1942. His Fighting Liberal (1945, repr. 1961) is autobiographical.

See R. Lowitt, George W. Norris: The Triumph of a Progressive, 1933–1944 (1978); biography by N. L. Zucker (1966).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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