Public Men in and out of Office

By J. T. Salter | Go to book overview

12
ADOLPH J. SABATH "Dean of the House"

BY JOHN R. BEAL

SINCE THE FIRST CONGRESS MET IN NEW YORK, ABOUT 9,000 persons have served as members of the House of Representatives. Of this number only one can boast of having been elected twenty times consecutively--Adolph J. Sabath of Illinois.

There are others who have served in Congress longer. Justin S. Morrill of Vermont served continuously for forty-three years and ten months, first in the House and then in the Senate, from 1855 to 1898. George W. Norris of Nebraska spanned nearly forty consecutive years in the two houses. Joseph Gurney (Uncle Joe) Cannon was in the House a total of forty-six years, although two defeats during his career broke the continuity. Cannon holds the all-time all-Congress record, and there is nothing in the actuarial prospects of the senior members of the Seventy-ninth Congress to indicate that his record will be surpassed within the near future.

Nevertheless, thirty-nine years of unbroken service is long enough to stretch back to Theodore Roosevelt's administration and by itself earns Sabath a niche, however small, in American legislative history. It has importance beyond its interest to amateurs of statistics because of the extent to which the seniority system is imbedded in the U.S. Congress. No member can serve that long without becoming chairman of an important committee, assuming his party controls the House. For Sabath it has meant chairmanship of what the newspapers frequently describe as "the powerful" House Rules Committee.

Sabath at seventy-nine is white-haired, short, stocky, and

-196-

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