After forty years of congressional service, five terms in the House and five in the Senate, George William Norris (1861–1944) was going home to Nebraska. Norris had lost the 1942 Senate race and felt the defeat keenly. But as his train rolled westward, he was forcefully reminded of what his legislative efforts had wrought, from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to the Rural Electrification Act (REA), which brought power to the land unfolding before him. It is here that authors Gene A. Budig and Don Walton begin their journey with this great statesman, perhaps the last progressive Republican, a tireless champion of “public power” and the common man.
This book carries readers back through Norris’s career and accomplishments: the establishment of the TVA and the REA as well as the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution and the shaping of Nebraska’s unique unicameral legislature. Norris recalls the battles he waged, one of which landed him in John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, and the alliances he formed with leading political figures of his day, from Fiorello La Guardia to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The result is a contemporary perspective on a man who fiercely defended the public interest and followed his convictions to the lasting benefit of his state and his country.