Jimmy Byrnes' first entrance on the national stage was followed by something of an embarrassment: he caught the mumps. Shortly after delivering his maiden speech in 1911 to the House of Representatives—in which he pledged to join in the upcoming "battle of the ballots" to toss out Republican rule in 1912—a case of the childhood disease began making the rounds among congressional pages. Byrnes, who was self-conscious about his slight build and youthful appearance among the House's senior statesmen, felt himself becoming feverish; and to his discomfort, the self-proclaimed warrior was kept out of action for several weeks while he recovered from a pair of swollen glands. "Mr. Byrnes, of South Carolina," noted the Congressional Record with a nice diplomacy, "by unanimous consent, was granted a leave of two weeks on account of important business." Byrnes thereby was given time to recuperate—and what posterity didn't know, as far as he was concerned, probably wouldn't hurt it.
The leave also afforded Jimmy and Maude Byrnes more time to make themselves a home in Washington. They had already seen much in that city that was pleasingly familiar to two young people who had grown up