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If he had written a book about his career, he could have titled it "Great Statesmen I Have Overruled," suggested U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen in the late 1940s.

He was born in 1879, in Mount Ida (Montgomery County), the oldest of seven children, and graduated from Mount Ida Normal Academy in 1900. Although he attended the Law Department in Little Rock (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law), it's not certain he graduated.

He clerked for Jeff Davis from 1899 to 1901, while Davis was attorney general and governor of Arkansas. In 1905, he served Arkansas Sen. James P. Clarke in Washington as a stenographer, secretary and committee clerk. He became the bill clerk of the Senate in 1914 when Clarke was elected president pro tempore. When Clarke died in 1916, he went to work for Arkansas Sen. Joe T. Robinson. Three years later, he was appointed journal clerk of the Senate.

Prior to 1935, the Senate position of parliamentarian did not exist and presiding officers, including the vice president, frequently had little experience with correct procedure and usually relied on the clerks in the chamber for advice when making rulings. When, in 1923, the principal clerk, Henry Rose, became ill, our Notable Arkansan took on that role.

He possessed a photographic memory and an "almost uncanny capacity to apply a correct interpretation of the Senate rules to every given situation," Sen. John L. McClellan would later say. Because of his practice of turning around in his chair and whispering advice to the presiding officer, who, in making a ruling, would repeat his words verbatim, newspaper reporters began referring to him as the "Senate's ventriloquist."

He became the Senate parliamentarian in 1937, when the position was first established, serving until his retirement in 1964, at the age of 85. Two years later, he died and was buried in Mount Ida Cemetery.

Who was this groundbreaking public servant who refused to write a memoir because he felt it would violate too many senatorial confidences?

See Notable Arkansans — Answer


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