front cover of Raising Hell for Justice
Raising Hell for Justice
The Washington Battles of a Heartland Progressive
David R. Obey
University of Wisconsin Press, 2007
David Obey has in his nearly forty years in the U.S. House of Representatives worked to bring economic and social justice to America’s working families. In 2007 he assumed the chair of the Appropriations Committee and is positioned to pursue his priority concerns for affordable health care, education, environmental protection, and a foreign policy consistent with American democratic ideals.
     Here, in his autobiography, Obey looks back on his journey in politics beginning with his early years in the Wisconsin Legislature, when Wisconsin moved through eras of shifting balance between Republicans and Democrats. On a national level Obey traces, as few others have done, the dramatic changes in the workings of the U.S. Congress since his first election to the House in 1969. He discusses his own central role in the evolution of Congress and ethics reforms and his view of the recent Bush presidency—crucial chapters in our democracy, of interest to all who observe politics and modern U.S. history.
 
Best Books for Regional General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the Public Library Association
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Ralph W. Yarborough, the People's Senator
By Patrick L. Cox
University of Texas Press, 2002

Semifinalist, 22nd Annual Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, 2002
Finalist, Spur Award in western nonfiction biography, Western Writers of America, 2002

Revered by many Texans and other Americans as "the People's Senator," Ralph Webster Yarborough (1903-1996) fought for "the little people" in a political career that places him in the ranks of the most influential leaders in Texas history. The only U. S. Senator representing a former Confederate state to vote for every significant piece of modern civil rights legislation, Yarborough became a cornerstone of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs in the areas of education, environmental preservation, and health care. In doing so, he played a major role in the social and economic modernization of Texas and the American South. He often defied conventional political wisdom with his stands against powerful political interests and with his vocal opposition to the Vietnam War. Yet to this day, his admirers speak of Yarborough as an inspiration for public service and a model of political independence and integrity.

This biography offers the first in-depth look at the life and career of Ralph Yarborough. Patrick L. Cox draws on Yarborough's personal and professional papers, as well as on extensive interviews with the Senator and his associates, to follow Yarborough from his formative years in East Texas through his legal and judicial career in the 1930s, decorated military service in World War II, unsuccessful campaigns for Texas governor in the 1950s, distinguished tenure in the United States Senate from 1957 to 1970, and return to legal practice through the 1980s.

Although Yarborough's liberal politics set him at odds with most of the Texas power brokers of his time, including Lyndon Johnson, his accomplishments have become part of the national fabric. Medicare recipients, beneficiaries of the Cold War G. I. Bill, and even beachcombers on Padre Island National Seashore all share in the lasting legacy of Senator Ralph Yarborough.

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The Rebel in the Red Jeep
Ken Hechler's Life in West Virginia Politics
Carter Taylor Seaton
West Virginia University Press, 2017
The Rebel in the Red Jeep follows the personal and professional experiences of Ken Hechler, the oldest living person to have served in the US Congress, from his childhood until his marriage at 98 years of age.
 
This biography recounts a century of accomplishments, from Hechler’s introduction of innovative teaching methods at major universities, to his work as a speechwriter and researcher for President Harry Truman, and finally to his time representing West Virginia in the US House of Representatives and as the secretary of state.
 
In West Virginia, where he resisted mainstream political ideology, Hechler was the principal architect behind the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 and constantly battled big coal, strip-mining, and fellow politicians alike. He and his signature red jeep remain a fixture in West Virginia. Since 2004, Hechler has campaigned against mountaintop removal mining. He was arrested for trespassing during a protest in 2009 at the age of 94. 
 
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Reckless Legislation
How Legislators Ignore the Consitution
Bamberger, Michael A.
Rutgers University Press, 1999

Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution requires that every U.S. Senator and Representative, as well as all members of any state legislature, take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution. Legislators, after all, must accept the basic principles embodied in the Constitution and Bill of Rights when interpreting questions of law. The only way to change these principles is through amendments to the Constitution. But in an increasing number of cases, contends Michael A, Bamberger, our legislators are knowingly abdicating their responsibility to uphold the Constitution. Instead of considering the constitutionality of legislation, they vote for what is politically expedient and popular, leaving it to the courts to determine the legality of their actions. Bamberger argues that legislators have a duty to consider constitutionality and not “pass the buck” to the judiciary regardless of political pressures or even well-meaning intentions to achieve desirable policy objectives.

Reckless Legislation examines legislative consideration and avoidance of issues of constitutionality through a number of examples: the regulation of the Internet by Congress and two state legislatures; the reliance by legislatures of Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and Tennessee on “experts” to justify passage of unconstitutional laws; the repeated passage of unconstitutional laws in New York and Missouri relating, respectively, to religion and abortion to wear down the courts and the opposition; and the efforts by Congress to reverse Supreme Court decisions believed by it to be incorrect or harmful.

Bamberger urges legislators to avoid the political motives that lead to “reckless legislation,” recommending that they “make full use of the full panoply of available support services . . . for a better and deeper knowledge of the issues raised.”

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The Reed Smoot Hearings
The Investigation of a Mormon Senator and the Transformation of an American Religion
Michael Harold Paulos
Utah State University Press, 2022
This book examines the hearings that followed Mormon apostle Reed Smoot’s 1903 election to the US Senate and the subsequent protests and petitioning efforts from mainstream Christian ministries disputing Smoot’s right to serve as a senator. Exploring how religious and political institutions adapted and shapeshifted in response to larger societal and ecclesiastical trends, The Reed Smoot Hearings offers a broader exploration of secularism during the Progressive Era and puts the Smoot hearings in context with the ongoing debate about the constitutional definition of marriage.
 
The work adds new insights into the role religion and the secular played in the shaping of US political institutions and national policies. Chapters also look at the history of anti-polygamy laws, the persistence of post-1890 plural marriage, the continuation of anti-Mormon sentiment, the intimacies and challenges of religious privatization, the dynamic of federal power on religious reform, and the more intimate role individuals played in effecting these institutional and national developments.
 
The Smoot hearings stand as an important case study that highlights the paradoxical history of religious liberty in America and the principles of exclusion and coercion that history is predicated on. Framed within a liberal Protestant sensibility, these principles of secular progress mapped out the relationship of religion and the nation-state for the new modern century. The Reed Smoot Hearings will be of significant interest to students and scholars of Mormon, western, American, and religious history.
 
Publication supported, in part, by Gonzaba Medical Group.
 
Contributors: Gary James Bergera, John Brumbaugh, Kenneth L. Cannon II, Byron W. Daynes, Kathryn M. Daynes, Kathryn Smoot Egan, D. Michael Quinn
 
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front cover of Rise and Fall of the Confederacy
Rise and Fall of the Confederacy
The Memoir of Senator Williamson S. Oldham, CSA
Edited & Intro by Clayton E. Jewett
University of Missouri Press, 2006
Williamson S. Oldham was a shrewd and candid observer of the Civil War scene. Representing the always contrary and suspicious Texans in the Confederate Senate, he was a major opponent of President Jefferson Davis and spoke out vehemently against conscription—which he considered an abusive violation of individual rights—and against military interference in the cotton trade.
Oldham’s memoir provides a firsthand look at the Civil War from the perspective of a government insider. In it, he sheds light on such topics as military strategy, foreign relations, taxes, and conflicts between state officials and the Confederate government. Perhaps more important, his travels between Texas and Richmond—both during and after the war—allowed him to observe the many changes taking place in the South, and he made note of both the general sentiment of citizens and the effect of political and military measures on the country.
Throughout the memoir, Oldham consistently stresses the centrality of politics to a society and the necessity of legislating for the will of the people even in times of war. In assessing the Confederacy’s defeat, he points not to military causes but to Congress’s giving in to the will of the president and military leaders rather than ruling for and representing the people.
Clayton E. Jewett has edited and annotated Oldham’s memoir to produce the only fully edited publication of this important document, significantly expanded here over any version previously published. His introduction helps clarify Oldham’s position on many of the topics he discusses, making the memoir accessible to scholar and Civil War buff alike, while his annotations reflect his deep knowledge of the intrigue of wartime political life in both Texas and Richmond.
Oldham’s memoir offers important new insight into not only political leadership and conflicts in a young nation but also the question of why the South lost the Civil War, dispelling many myths about the defeat and bolstering interpretations of the Confederacy’s decline that point more to political than to military causes. Rise and Fall of the Confederacy is one of the major political and social documents of the Confederacy and will be a boon to all scholars of the Civil War era.
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The Rise of the Representative
Lawmakers and Constituents in Colonial America
Peverill Squire
University of Michigan Press, 2017
Representation is integral to the study of legislatures, yet virtually no attention has been given to how representative assemblies developed and what that process might tell us about how the relationship between the representative and the represented evolved. The Rise of the Representative corrects that omission by tracing the development of representative assemblies in colonial America and revealing they were a practical response to governing problems, rather than an imported model or an attempt to translate abstract philosophy into a concrete reality. Peverill Squire shows there were initially competing notions of representation, but over time the pull of the political system moved lawmakers toward behaving as delegates, even in places where they were originally intended to operate as trustees. By looking at the rules governing who could vote and who could serve, how representatives were apportioned within each colony, how candidates and voters behaved in elections, how expectations regarding their relationship evolved, and how lawmakers actually behaved, Squire demonstrates that the American political system that emerged following independence was strongly rooted in colonial-era developments.
 
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Robert C. Byrd
Child of the Appalachian Coalfields
ROBERT C. BYRD
West Virginia University Press, 2015

This autobiography follows West Virginia senator Robert C. Byrd’s experiences from his boyhood in the early 1920s to his election in 2000, which won him an unprecedented eighth term in the Senate. Within these pages, Senator Byrd offers commentary on national and international events that occurred throughout his long life in public service. 

His journey from the hardscrabble coalfields to the marbled halls of Congress has inspired generations of people in West Virginia and throughout the nation. From reading the stories of the Founding Fathers as a young boy by the light of a kerosene lamp to the swearing of an oath for more than a half-century to guard the US Constitution, Senator Byrd’s life is legendary. 

Until his death on June 28, 2010, Byrd stood by his principles, earning the affection of the people of his home state and the respect of Americans from all walks of life. With his beloved Erma ever by his side, Robert C. Byrd never forgot his roots, harkening back to those early lessons that he learned as a child of the Appalachian coalfields.

This new paperback edition includes a foreword by Gaston Caperton, governor of West Virginia from 1989–1997.

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Robert C. Byrd
Child of the Appalachian Coalfields
Robert C. Byrd
West Virginia University Press, 2005

This autobiography follows United States Senator Robert C. Byrd’s experiences from his boyhood in the early 1920s to his election in 2000, which won him an unprecedented eighth term in the Senate. Along the way, Senator Byrd offers commentary on national and international events that occurred throughout his long life in public service. Senator Byrd’s journey from the hardscrabble coalfields to the marbled halls of Congress has inspired generations of people in West Virginia and throughout the nation. From reading the stories of the Founding Fathers as a young boy by the light of a kerosene lamp to the swearing of an oath for more than a half-century to guard the United States Constitution, Senator Byrd’s life is legendary. Byrd always stands by his principles, earning the affection of the people of his home state and the respect of Americans from all walks of life. With his beloved Erma ever by his side, Robert C. Byrd has never forgotten his roots, harkening back to those early lessons that he learned as a child of the Appalachian coalfields.

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Robert Kennedy
Brother Protector
James Hilty
Temple University Press, 2000
For most of his life, Robert Kennedy stood in the shadow cast by his older brother, John; only after President Kennedy's assassination did the public gain a complete sense of Robert ("Bobby," we called him) as a committed advocate for social justice and a savvy politician in his own right. In this comprehensive biography, James W. Hilty offers a detailed and nuanced account of how Robert was transformed from a seemingly unpromising youngster, unlikely to match the accomplishments of his older brothers, to the forceful man who ran "the family business," orchestrating the Kennedy quest for political power.
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