27 Masters of Politics: In a Personal Perspective

By Raymond Moley | Go to book overview

Despite These Honors

JAMES F. BYRNES

JUST ABOUT 40 years ago, a frail looking court reporter in South Carolina closed his notebook and took to the tempest- ridden political trails. Over the red clay and through the pines he travelled and finally, in 1930, he knocked into political oblivion the great ranter of those days, Senator Cole Blease. Who was Who describes Blease as "The only South Carolinian who has been mayor of his city, senator from his county, speaker of the House, president of the State Senate, governor of the State and U. S. senator." Blease was also a blatant demagogue. Jimmy Byrnes, the man who beat Blease, redeemed the state of Calhoun and Hayne by topping the Blease record without resorting to the Blease methods.

Few men in America have enjoyed as diversified and satisfying a career in public life as has James F. Byrnes. He attained almost every governmental distinction except the Presidency, and he narrowly missed that. Leadership in the House and the Senate for 24 years; membership on the Supreme Court; the direction of the most important civilian war agency and, finally, Secretary of State--these appointments came not because he wielded political power in the usual sense or because he was a sycophant before the throne. They came because the people with whom he worked relied on his judgment and respected him. The Senate is a vital testing ground, and Byrnes had its support for 16 years.

In Congress Jimmy was superb. It was there that his unique skills reached their full development. It was from that body that he progressed into the Judicial and Executive branches of the Federal government. On leaving Congress he carried with him and applied the techniques he had practiced as a legislator.

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