Wright Patman
Populism, Liberalism, and the American Dream
Texas History
6 x 9, 472 pp.
19 b&w photos. 4 political cartoons.
Pub Date: 09/01/2000
  cloth
Price:        $34.95

978-0-87074-453-2

Published by Southern Methodist University Press
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Wright Patman

Populism, Liberalism, and the American Dream

By Nancy Young

Nancy Beck Young's is the first book-length assessment of Texas Congressman Wright Patman's public life. Based on exhaustive research, this crisp congressional biography analyzes one of the twentieth century's most colorful and controversial legislators. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1928 and serving until his death in 1976, Patman combined populism with liberalism to fashion his own vision of how best to preserve the American Dream.

Patman often operated on the margins of Washington politics, but through the force of his personality and his effectiveness as a speaker, he was able to coerce his colleagues to address his reform agenda. His abilities as a campaigner and his dependability as a Democratic vote in Congress on all questions except civil rights made him an important though sometimes unwelcome ally for the Democratic presidents under whom he served.

From his earliest days in Congress Patman sought payment of a "bonus" for World War I veterans, to fulfill a debt to the men who fought for their country as well as to provide a depression relief and reform program that would expand the nation's currency. His assault on chain stores stemmed from his concern that they were destructive of mom-and-pop ventures as well as traditional American values and communities. During and after World War II he lobbied for programs beneficial to the small businesses he believed were victims of a federal policy that encouraged large multinational corporations.

In the 1960s and 1970s he added a new dimension to his attack on elite privileges, maintaining that most large foundations existed not for charitable purposes but as tax dodges for the wealthy families that established them. His perennial crusade against the Federal Reserve and against high interest rates intensified as interest rates and inflation grew. Perhaps the most obvious evidence of his partisanship came with his aborted attempt to investigate Richard Nixon's activities in the Watergate affair prior to the 1972 election.

The last major fight of his career was his futile effort to retain his chairmanship of the Banking and Currency Committee in 1975. His defeat was a testimonial to the changes liberalism underwent during his career in Washington, D.C. A new generation of reformers no longer cared about the economic populism that drove much of his agenda for forty-seven years.

This book is essential reading for anyone interested in twentieth-century politics and policy development.

A Dallas area native, NANCY BECK YOUNG is an assistant professor of history at McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois. She specializes in twentieth-century American political history and the history of American women. Coauthor of Texas, Her Texas: The Life and Times of Frances Goff, she is currently working on a new book, Forgotten Feminist: Lou Henry Hoover as First Lady, under contract to the University Press of Kansas.

What Readers Are Saying:

"This masterful biography . . . does full justice to Patman's extraordinary career. . . . Congressional biography does not get any better than this." --Lewis L. Gould

"For half a century, Wright Patman prowled Capitol Hill, transforming the congress as an institution and crusading for a vanishing political and economic order. Nancy Beck Young's penetrating and impeccably researched biography chronicles Patman's storied career, simultaneously explicating the institutional history of the House of Representatives and elucidating the odyssey of American liberalism." --Bruce J. Schulman

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