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Faith in Politics
Southern Political Battles Past and Present
Roy Herron
University of Tennessee Press, 2021

Roy Herron graduated with highest honors from the University of Tennessee at Martin, then studied New Testament and Ethics in Scotland before earning Divinity and Law degrees from Vanderbilt University. But he came home to West Tennessee and served the Volunteer State in both the Tennessee House and Senate. For four decades, Herron served as a legislator, attorney, teacher, and Methodist minister. In that work, he published op-ed essays and articles in Tennessee’s leading newspapers and publications from The Japan Times to The Wall Street Journal on various topics including constitutional liberties, economic justice, health care, politics, and more.

This informative volume collects the most powerful of these writings, adding helpful updates and contemporary insights. With an engaging, conversational style, Herron addresses voter ID laws, drunk-driving statutes, women’s rights and many recurring, contemporary issues. Whether describing the challenges facing his elderly mother as she attempted to exercise her right to vote, or the struggles of working women and men facing illnesses without health insurance, Herron demonstrates an earnestness and thoughtfulness all too rare in politics.

These nearly fifty essays and articles provide evidence that Herron’s Democratic Party and Christianity are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, Herron describes how faith brought him to politics and to fighting for justice, jobs, and constitutional freedoms for all citizens. Faith in Politics is a veritable guidebook on how faith and spirituality should affect decision making and advocacy in public life.

ROY HERRON was a Tennessee State Representative from 1987 to 1997 and State Senator from 1997 to 2013. He wrote Things Held Dear: Soul Stories for My Sons and God and Politics: How Can a Christian Be in Politics? He coauthored, with Cotton Ivy, Tennessee Political Humor: Some of These Jokes You Voted For. He lawyers and writes in West Tennessee and Nashville.


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My Story
Geraldine Ferraro with Linda Bird Francke and with a foreword by Marie Wilson
Northwestern University Press, 2004
In this memoir, Geraldine A. Ferraro reflects on her experience as the first and only woman nominated by a major party to run on the presidential ticket. This book reveals the process that led to her nomination as the 1984 Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate and gives a revealing behind-the-scenes look at campaign politics, especially the ruthless criticism directed at her and her family. Ferraro brings to life the dynamics of the women in Congress and how the different life experiences that they bring to the table affect the policy making process. She also gives a real understanding of the pioneering women, including Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Millie Jeffrey and many others who worked together to make sure that a women was on the Democratic ticket in 1984.

Ferraro's run for vice-president was an important moment in American history. The time is right for telling a new generation this story of women's collective political power and the difference women office holders can and do make to public policy.

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Fighting Bob La Follette
The Righteous Reformer
Nancy C Unger
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2008
Now in paperback with a new preface, this comprehensive biography weaves the triumph and the tragedy of the public and private lives of the most famous of Wisconsin leaders, Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette. As a U.S. representative, governor of Wisconsin, and U.S. Senator, La Follette's political legacies have been long lasting; among them are the election of senators by constituents, creation of the Department of Labor and the Federal Trade Commission, women's suffrage, and workers' compensation.
Through the personal letters, diaries, and documents of the La Follette family, Unger uses the private life of La Follette as a means for understanding the public figure. Thoroughly researched and documented, Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer is a testament to the progressive tradition in Wisconsin and its premier leader.

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Fly in the Buttermilk
The Life Story of Cecil Reed
Cecil A. Reed
University of Iowa Press, 1993
Born in 1913 in Collinsville, Illinois, Cecil Reed has lived all his life in the Midwest as a black man among whites. This self-styled fly in the buttermilk worked among whites with such skill and grace that they were barely aware of his existence—unless he wanted to get a bank loan or move into their neighborhood. Now, in his lively and optimistic autobiography, he speaks of his resilience throughout a life spent working peacefully but passionately for equality.

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Frank Blair
Lincoln's Conservative
William E. Parrish
University of Missouri Press, 1998

Known for his fearlessness in both the political arena and the battlefield, Frank Blair is a Missouri legend. As a member of one of the most prominent and powerful political families in America during the nineteenth century, possibly the equivalent of the twentieth-century Kennedys, Frank was steeped in politics at an early age. The youngest son of Francis Preston Blair, editor of Andrew Jackson's Washington Globe and adviser to Presidents Andrew Jackson through Andrew Johnson, Frank Blair was greatly influenced by his father, who had high political expectations of him.

Volatile and combative, Blair was either strongly admired or hated by the public figures of his day. He held adamantly to his opinions and fought hard for his political causes. He was an ardent supporter of Abraham Lincoln and championed the president's program in Congress and in Missouri against the frequent assaults of the Radicals. Credited with being the principal leader in saving Missouri for the Union in 1861, Blair later served with great distinction at Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and in the Sherman campaigns throughout Georgia and the Carolinas. He is one of only two Missourians ever honored by his state in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.

Frank Blair: Lincoln's Conservative reveals the full extent of Blair's importance as a national political figure. Specialists in nineteenth-century America, students of Missouri history, and Civil War buffs will welcome this study, which will long stand as the definitive work on this influential and colorful character.


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Frank J. Cannon
Saint, Senator, Scoundrel
Val Holley
University of Utah Press, 2020
Utah’s path to statehood was the most tortuous in U.S. history, due in no small part to the Mormon practice of polygamy. Frank J. Cannon, newspaperman, Congressional delegate, and senator, guided Utah toward becoming the forty-fifth state in the Union in 1896. But when he lost favor with the LDS Church, his contributions fell into obscurity. In the 1880s, Congress dealt with the intransigence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over polygamy by enacting punitive new laws. Mormon lobbyists who pleaded for relief in Washington came home empty-handed before Cannon finally broke the logjam. He persuaded President Grover Cleveland to appoint judges who would deal mercifully with convicted polygamists and dissuaded Congress from disenfranchising all members by pledging that the church would abandon polygamy. But when Utah elected Mormon apostle Reed Smoot to the U.S. Senate in 1903, Cannon condemned what he called the reneging of LDS Church pledges to stay out of politics. He wrote scathing denunciations of Smoot and Mormon president Joseph F. Smith, co-authored the exposé Under the Prophet in Utah, and spearheaded the National Reform Association’s anti-Mormon crusade. Utah’s subsequent displeasure with Cannon ensured that his critical role in its statehood would be buried by omission.

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Frankly Speaking
The Extraordinary Life of United States Senator Frank R. Lautenberg
Bonnie Lautenberg
Rutgers University Press, 2024
Frank Lautenberg was the embodiment of the American dream. The son of Eastern European immigrants who toiled in the factories of northern New Jersey, he rose to become a Fortune 500 CEO and eventually a five-term US senator. Yet his is not a simple rags-to-riches tale, but is rather the story of someone who used his newfound affluence and influence to improve the lives of ordinary Americans.
Told by one of the people who knew him best, his widow Bonnie, Frankly Speaking reveals the political strategies that made Lautenberg one of the Senate’s most powerful advocates for the health and safety of America’s citizens. He championed seemingly minor, unglamorous reforms that made a big difference to everyday lives, from raising the national drinking age to preventing domestic abusers from purchasing guns. These campaigns earned him powerful enemies in the alcohol, tobacco, and firearms industries, and he was subjected to some of the most brutal campaign mudslinging in American history.  Yet, as this inspiring biography reveals, New Jersey’s longest-serving senator was not afraid to take big political risks if it meant standing up for his principles, whether that meant opposing the Iraq War or protecting LGBTQ and women’s rights. 

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From Batboy to Congressman
Thirty Years in the US House
John Duncan, Jr.
University of Tennessee Press, 2021

On October 10, 2002, Congressman John J. Duncan Jr. cast a vote in the U.S. House that he thought might end his political career. Going against his own party, he was one of only six House Republicans who voted against the Iraq War resolution. Constituents in his district were shocked, but over time Duncan felt his least popular vote became his most popular one—and probably the most significant in his thirty-year political career.

Congressman Duncan served as U.S. Representative for Tennessee’s Second Congressional district from 1988 to 2019. While he could have written a dense political memoir, in From Batboy to Congressman, Duncan employs a journalistic flair to provide just the right insight into a series of anecdotes from his storied life. Duncan’s family, early life, and time as a lawyer and judge all figure into the generous narrative, shared with both warmth and a self-deprecating sense of humor. He details unique experiences meeting celebrities, presidents, and sports stars; and, of course, he shares insights into the decisions that charted his Congressional career on issues such as Iraq, NAFTA, and concern for fiscal responsibility. Over his decades-long career, Duncan was known for his commitment to constituent service—even among constituents who disagreed with his views—so he offers a refreshing perspective on bipartisanship and connections across the aisle; indeed, he names conservatives, moderates, and liberals alike among his closest friends.

While this book contains timely reflections on issues of war and poverty, of leadership and the lack of it, of the proper relationship between citizens and government, its intention is to highlight moments in a singular career. “As you will read in this book,” writes Congressman Duncan, “every job gave me strange, funny, unusual stories.”


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From Slave to State Legislator
John W. E. Thomas, Illinois' First African American Lawmaker
David A. Joens
Southern Illinois University Press, 2012
As the first African American elected to the Illinois general assembly, John W. E. Thomas was the recognized leader of the state’s African American community for nearly twenty years and laid the groundwork for the success of future black leaders in Chicago politics. Despite his key role in the passage of Illinois’ first civil rights act and his commitment to improving his community against steep personal and political barriers, Thomas’s life and career have been long forgotten by historians and the public alike. This fascinating full-length biography—the first to address the full influence of Thomas or any black politician from Illinois during the Reconstruction Era—is also a pioneering effort to explain the dynamics of African American politics and divisions within the black community in post–Civil War Chicago. In From Slave to State Legislator, David A. Joens traces Thomas’s trajectory from a slave owned by a doctor’s family in Alabama to a prominent attorney believed to be the wealthiest African American man in Chicago at the time of his death in 1899. 

Providing one of the few comprehensive looks at African Americans in Chicago during this period, Joens reveals how Thomas’s career represents both the opportunities available to African Americans in the postwar period and the limits still placed on them. When Thomas moved to Chicago in 1869, he started a grocery store, invested in real estate, and founded the first private school for African Americans before becoming involved in politics. From Slave to State Legislator provides detailed coverage of Thomas’s three terms in the legislature during the 1870s and 1880s, his multiple failures to be nominated for reelection, and his loyalty to the Republican Party at great political cost, calling attention to the political differences within a black community often considered small and homogenous. Even after achieving his legislative legacy—the passage of the first state civil rights law—Thomas was plagued by patronage issues and an increasingly bitter split with the African American community frustrated with slow progress toward true equality.

Drawing on newspapers and an array of government documents, Joens provides the most thorough review to date of the first civil rights legislation and the two controversial “colored conventions” chaired by Thomas. Joens cements Thomas’s legacy as a committed and conscientious lawmaker amid political and personal struggles. In revealing the complicated rivalries and competing ambitions that shaped black northern politics during the Reconstruction Era, Joens shows the long-term impact of Thomas’s friendship with other burgeoning African American political stars and his work to get more black representatives elected. The volume is enhanced by short biographies of other key Chicago African American politicians of the era.

Superior Achievement from the Illinois State Historical Society, 2013

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