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George Senator

George Senator

George Senator was born in Gloversville on 4th September, 1913. Later he moved to New York where he worked for a company producing women's dresses.

During the Second World War Senator served in the United States Army. After leaving the service in September, 1945, he returned to New York where he worked for a company called Denise Foods. After the failure of his marriage Senator moved to Miami where he found employment in a restaurant. Later he worked in Milwaukee (Rhea Manufacturing) and Chicago (Smoler Brothers).

In 1954 Senator moved to Dallas where he worked as a traveling salesman. Later he sold picture postcards. In 1962 Senator moved in with Jack Ruby. He paid no rent but in return he did occasional work in Ruby's Carousel Club. According to the attorney, Jim Martin, Senator was "overwhelmed with fear" after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and talked about leaving Dallas.

Senator told the Warren Commission that on 24th November, 1963, that Ruby received a phone call from Little Lynn, a Carousel stripper who lived in Fort Worth, at about 10.20 p.m. that morning. Ruby left the apartment soon afterwards. When Ruby testified before the commission he told Arlen Specter that he told Senator that morning that he intended to kill Lee Harvey Oswald. This is supported by the fact that Senator phoned Jim Lawyer, a Dallas lawyer, five minutes before Ruby shot Oswald.

Larry Craford testified before the Warren Commission that on 23rd November, 1963, he went with Ruby and Senator to photograph an "Impeach Earl Warren" billboard in Dallas. Ruby said he wanted to photograph the billboard because of its similarity to an anti-Kennedy advert that appeared in newspapers on the day of the assassination. This information created some interest as it had not been mentioned by either Ruby or Senator.

On the day that Oswald died, Bill Hunter of the Long Beach Press Telegram and Jim Koethe of the Dallas Times Herald interviewed Senator. Also there was Ruby's attorney Tom Howard. Earlier that day Senator and Howard had both visited Jack Ruby in jail. That evening Senator arranged for Koethe, Hunter and Howard to search Ruby's apartment.

It is not known what the journalists found but on 23rd April 1964, Hunter was shot dead by Creighton Wiggins, a policeman in the pressroom of a Long Beach police station. Wiggins initially claimed that his gun fired when he dropped it and tried to pick it up. In court this was discovered that this was impossible and it was decided that Hunter had been murdered. Wiggins finally admitted he was playing a game of quick draw with his fellow officer. The other officer, Errol F. Greenleaf, testified he had his back turned when the shooting took place. In January 1965, both were convicted and sentenced to three years probation.

Jim Koethe decided to write a book about the assassination of Kennedy. However, he died on 21st September, 1964. It seems that a man broke into his Dallas apartment and killed him by a karate chop to the throat. Tom Howard died of a heart-attack, aged 48, in March, 1965.

George Senator died in 1992.

Shortly after dark on Sunday night, November 24, 1963, after Ruby had killed Lee Harvey Oswald, a meeting took place in Jack Ruby's apartment in Oak Cliff, a suburb of Dallas, Texas. Five persons were present. George Senator and Attorney Tom Howard were present and having a drink in the apartment when two newsmen arrived. The newsmen were Bill Hunter of the Long Beach California Press Telegram and Jim Koethe of the Dallas Times Herald. Attorney C.A. Droby of Dallas arranged the meeting for the two newsmen, Jim Martin, a close friend of George Senator's, was also present at the apartment meeting. This writer asked Martin if he thought it was unusual for Senator to forget the meeting while testifying in Washington on April 22, 1964, since Bill Hunter, who was a newsman present at the meeting, was shot to death that very night. Martin grinned and said: "Oh, you're looking for a conspiracy."

I nodded yes and he grinned and said, "You will never find it."

I asked soberly, "Never find it, or not there?"

He added soberly, "Not there."

Bill Hunter, a native of Dallas and an award-winning newsman in Long Beach, was on duty and reading a book in the police station called the "Public Safety Building." Two policemen going off duty came into the press room, and one policeman shot Hunter through the heart at a range officially ruled to be "no more than three feet." The policeman said he dropped his gun, and it fired as he picked it up, but the angle of the bullet caused him to change his story. He finally said he was playing a game of quick draw with his fellow officer. The other officer testified he had his back turned when the shooting took place.

Hunter, who covered the assassination for his paper, the Long Beach Press Telegram had written:

"Within minutes of Ruby's execution of Oswald, before the eyes of millions watching television, at least two Dallas attorneys appeared to talk with him."

Hunter was quoting Tom Howard who died of a heart attack in Dallas a few months after Hunter's own death. Lawyer Tom Howard was observed acting strangely to his friends two days before his death. Howard was taken to the hospital by a "friend" according to the newspapers. No autopsy was performed.

Dallas Times Herald reporter Jim Koethe was killed by a karate chop to the throat just as he emerged from a shower in his apartment on Sept. 21, 1964. His murderer was not indicted.

What went on in that significant meeting in Ruby's and Senator's apartment?

Few are left to tell. There is no one in authority to ask the question, since the Warren Commission has made its final report, and the House Select Committee has closed its investigation.

In light of the strange, unsettling sequence of events that unfolded over the next ten months, some independent assassination researchers have put heavy emphasis on the assumption that Koethe and Hunter were in the apartment before police had a chance to search it. Clearly, this would have heightened the chance of the two reporters finding something while there and could only make an intriguing tale even more so.

Unfortunately, however, it simply isn't true.

In reality, homicide detective Gus Rose arrived at Ruby's apartment at about 2 p.m. that Sunday . accompanied by two other Dallas officers and armed with a search warrant issued by Justice of the Peace Joe Brown, Jr.

"I showed the manager the warrant and she let us right in," Rose recalled in an October 1992 interview. "We were there for about an hour and a half, and we searched the place thoroughly." . According to Rose, the search failed to turn up anything of significance . .

"We collected a few notes and telephone numbers that had been written on pads, but that was about all we took. Once we were finished, we just locked the place back up and left again."

"If Rose was there in the afternoon, he was there long before we were," Droby concludes. "I just never realized it because nothing was messed up."

Hunter covered the Kennedy assassination more or less on a lark. He was a police reporter for the Long Beach paper and a good one, with a knack for getting along with cops. He drank with them, played cards with them in the press room-- he was a sharp and lucky player - and they would often call him at home when a story broke. Hunter was a big man, described by friends as rough, jovial, "very physical," with an attractive wife and three children.

There was no real need for the Long Beach paper to send a reporter to Dallas, but Hunter, who grew up there, managed to promote a free trip for himself with the city desk. In Dallas he ran into Jim Koethe, with whom he had worked in Wichita Falls, Texas. Koethe asked him to come along to the meeting in Ruby's apartment; they arrived to find Senator and Tom Howard having a drink.

George Mitchell

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George Mitchell, in full George John Mitchell, (born Aug. 20, 1933, Waterville, Maine, U.S.), American politician and diplomat who served as a member of the U.S. Senate (1980–95), including service as majority leader (1989–95), and who later was special adviser to the peace process in Northern Ireland under U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton (1995–2000) and was special envoy to the Middle East under Pres. Barack Obama (2009–11).

Mitchell earned a B.A. from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine (1954), before enlisting in the U.S. Army, where he served as a counterintelligence officer in Berlin. After completing his service in 1956, he returned to the United States and earned a law degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. (1960). Mitchell remained in Washington, working as an attorney for the Department of Justice’s antitrust division (1960–62) and as an assistant to U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie (1962–65). Mitchell left Washington to work for a law firm in Maine, but he maintained his political ties. He chaired the Maine Democratic Party (1966–68) and worked on Muskie’s 1968 vice-presidential campaign, as well as Muskie’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination four years later. Mitchell ran for governor of Maine in 1974 but was narrowly defeated by independent candidate James Longley. In 1977 Mitchell was named U.S. attorney for Maine, a position he held until he was appointed to the U.S. district court of Maine by Pres. Jimmy Carter in 1979.

When Muskie was named secretary of state in 1980, Mitchell was chosen to complete the final two years of Muskie’s term in the Senate. He won the seat outright in 1982 and rose to national prominence in 1987 with his incisive criticism of Oliver North at the Senate hearings over the Iran-Contra Affair. The following year Mitchell was elected Senate majority leader, and he assumed that role when the 101st Congress began its session in January 1989. A moderate liberal on most issues, he was respected by lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle. In 1994 Mitchell was offered the U.S. Supreme Court seat vacated by retiring justice Harry A. Blackmun, but he declined the nomination, stating that he wished to devote his time to health care reform. Mitchell retired from the Senate in 1995.

In late 1995 Mitchell accepted a position as special adviser to Pres. Bill Clinton on the conflict in Northern Ireland. Over the next five years, Mitchell crossed the Atlantic more than 100 times, mediating a conclusion to the hostilities that had plagued the region for generations. His work culminated in the Good Friday Agreement (Belfast Agreement) of 1998 and, ultimately, the decommissioning of the Irish Republican Army. For his efforts, Mitchell in 1999 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the UNESCO Peace Prize, and an honorary knighthood in the Order of the British Empire. In 2000 he was selected to chair an international committee on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The group’s analysis, completed in 2001, called for concessions from both sides, and it provided a framework for future negotiations.

Mitchell lent his diplomatic skills to the corporate sphere, where, as chairman of the Disney Company (2004–07), he averted a stockholder rebellion and helped guide the entertainment giant through a contentious leadership transition. In 2006 Bud Selig, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, asked him to lead an investigation of the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs by players. Mitchell’s report, issued in December 2007, stated that drug abuse was pervasive throughout the league, and it identified 89 current and former players, including marquee names such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, as users of banned substances. The report led to the creation of a permanent substance-abuse investigations department within Major League Baseball.

Mitchell returned to public service in January 2009, when Pres. Barack Obama named him special envoy to the Middle East. His efforts to negotiate a peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians were unsuccessful, however, as hostilities between the two sides appeared to increase. In May 2011 Mitchell stepped down from his post.

George McGovern

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George McGovern, in full George Stanley McGovern, (born July 19, 1922, Avon, South Dakota, U.S.—died October 21, 2012, Sioux Falls, South Dakota), American politician who was an unsuccessful reformist Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency in 1972. He campaigned on a platform advocating an immediate end to the Vietnam War and for a broad program of liberal social and economic reforms at home.

After service as a pilot in World War II, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, George McGovern earned a Ph.D. in history at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, and later taught at Dakota Wesleyan University, Mitchell, South Dakota. He was active in Democratic politics beginning in 1948 and served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1957–61). After losing an election for a Senate seat in South Dakota in 1960, he served for two years as the director of the Food for Peace Program under U.S. Pres. John F. Kennedy. Stressing farm-support programs, McGovern won election to the U.S. Senate in 1962 and was reelected in 1968. By then he had emerged as one of the leading opponents to the United States’ continued military involvement in Indochina.

As chairman of a Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection prior to the Democratic National Convention in 1972, McGovern helped enact party reforms that gave increased representation to minority groups at the convention. Supported by these groups, he won the presidential nomination but alienated many of the more traditional elements in the Democratic Party. McGovern was unable to unify the party sufficiently to offer an effective challenge to the incumbent Republican president, Richard M. Nixon, who defeated him by an overwhelming margin.

McGovern was reelected to the Senate in 1974, but he lost his seat in 1980 to a Republican opponent supported by right-wing groups. After lecturing as a visiting professor in foreign policy at several universities, including Northwestern University, McGovern declared himself a candidate for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination, but he decided to drop out of the race after a third-place finish in the Massachusetts primary—the only state that he had carried in the 1972 election. Although unsuccessful, his 1984 bid for the nomination did serve to reassert his status as a noted American spokesman for liberal causes.

McGovern wrote a number of books, including the autobiography Grassroots (1977) and What It Means to Be a Democrat (2011).

This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeff Wallenfeldt, Manager, Geography and History.


Origins Edit

Mitchell was born in Waterville, Maine. His father, George John Mitchell Sr. (born Joseph Kilroy), was born in Ireland and adopted by a Lebanese American when he was orphaned. [8] [9] Mitchell's father was a janitor at Colby College in Waterville, where Mitchell was raised. Mitchell's mother, Mary (née Saad), was a textile worker who immigrated to the United States in 1920 from Bkassine, Lebanon, at the age of eighteen. [9] [10]

Mitchell was raised a Maronite Catholic and in his childhood served as an altar boy at St. Joseph's Maronite Church in Maine. [11] [12] Throughout junior high school and high school, he worked as a janitor. [13] In the family of five children, all three of his brothers were athletes though a talented student as a child, he found himself overshadowed by his brothers' athletic achievements. [13]

Education and military service Edit

After graduating from high school at the age of sixteen, [8] Mitchell attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where he worked several jobs and played on the basketball team. [8] He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1954, intending to attend graduate school and then teach, but instead served in the United States Army from 1954 to 1956, rising to First Lieutenant. In 1961, Mitchell received his Bachelor of Laws from Georgetown University Law Center by attending its part-time program at night. He has since received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Bates College.

Early legal career Edit

After having performed well academically at Georgetown, Mitchell served as a trial attorney for the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice in Washington from 1960 to 1962, and then as executive assistant to Senator Edmund S. Muskie from 1962 to 1965, where he first gained interest in the political world. [13] Afterwards, Mitchell practiced law with Jensen & Baird [14] in Portland, Maine, from 1965 to 1977 and was assistant county attorney for Cumberland County, Maine, in 1971.

From judge to senator Edit

In 1974 Mitchell won the Democratic nomination for governor of Maine, defeating Joseph E. Brennan. He lost in the general election to independent candidate James B. Longley, but was appointed United States Attorney for Maine by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. Mitchell served in that capacity from 1977 to 1979.

Mitchell was nominated by President Carter on July 31, 1979, to the United States District Court for the District of Maine, to a new seat authorized by 92 Stat. 1629. He was confirmed by the Senate on October 4, 1979, and received his commission on October 5, 1979. His service terminated on May 16, 1980, due to his resignation.

Mitchell was appointed to the United States Senate in May 1980 by the governor of Maine, Joseph Brennan, when Edmund Muskie resigned to become US Secretary of State.

After serving out the remainder of Muskie's term, Mitchell was elected to his first full term in 1982 with approximately 61 percent of the vote against Congressman David Emery, and rose quickly in the Senate Democratic leadership. He was elected as the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 1984, helping the Democrats regain control of the Senate in 1986 with a net eight new seats and a 55—45 majority in the Senate. He served as Deputy President pro tempore in the 100th United States Congress, because of the illness of President pro tempore John C. Stennis, and remains the only senator other than Hubert Humphrey to have held that post.

The position of Deputy President pro tempore was created specifically to be held by a current Senator who is a former President or former Vice President of the United States. Humphrey is a former Vice President of the United States and Mitchell is the only person to have been Deputy President pro tempore who has never held one or both of the two highest offices of the US government.

In 1988 Mitchell was reelected with 81 percent of the vote, the largest margin of victory in a Senate election that year and the largest majority ever for a senator from Maine.

Mitchell voted in favor of the bill establishing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday and the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 (as well as to override President Reagan's veto). [15] [16] [17] Mitchell voted against the nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court, stating explicitly that he believed Thomas’ nomination constituted a racial quota. [18]

Senate Majority Leader Edit

Mitchell served as Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995. While in this role, Mitchell led the movement to reauthorize the Clean Air Act in 1990 and pass the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Additionally, under his leadership, the Senate approved the North American Free Trade Agreement and the formation of the World Trade Organization.

In 1994, he turned down an offer of appointment by President Bill Clinton to the United States Supreme Court, [8] to replace the retiring Harry A. Blackmun so that he could continue helping with efforts in the Senate to pass significant health-care legislation. The seat ultimately went to Stephen Breyer. Nevertheless, Congress was not able to pass any significant health-care legislation at the time, and Mitchell did not run for reelection in 1994.

Political leanings Edit

For 1994, Mitchell's last year in the Senate, the American Conservative Union gave him a rating of 0.00 on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being most conservative. [19] For the same year, the Americans for Democratic Action gave him a score of 90 on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being most liberal. [20]

Mitchell has served as a director of companies including Walt Disney Company FedEx Xerox Unilever Staples, Inc. Starwood and the Boston Red Sox baseball team. After leaving the Senate, Mitchell joined the Washington, D.C., law firm Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand he later became the firm's chairman. He was criticized for lobbying on behalf of the firm's Big Tobacco clients. [21] [22] He is also senior counsel to Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau, Pachios, Orlick & Haley in Portland, Maine. He is Partner and Chairman of the Global Board of DLA Piper, US LLP, a global law firm. Mitchell served as an Advisor of ZeniMax Media Inc. [23] He has also served on the Advisory Board of The Iris Network, a nonprofit blindness rehabilitation agency in Portland. [24]

In 2007, Mitchell joined fellow former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Bob Dole, and Tom Daschle to found the Bipartisan Policy Center, a non-profit think tank that works to develop policies suitable for bipartisan support. [25]

Democratic politics Edit

Mitchell was reportedly among those considered by Al Gore as a running mate for his 2000 presidential run, but Gore selected Joe Lieberman. [26] Had Mitchell been nominated and had the Democratic ticket won that year, he would have been the first Arab American to serve as the Vice President of the United States, and only the second Vice President from Maine, after Hannibal Hamlin. He also was mentioned in both 2000 and in 2004 as a potential Secretary of State for a Democratic administration, due to his role as Senate Leader and the Good Friday agreements.

Education Edit

Since 2002, Mitchell has been a Senior Fellow and Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University's Center for International Conflict Resolution, where he works to help end or avert conflicts between nations. He was the Chancellor of the Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, until his resignation in April 2009, and namesake of the George J. Mitchell Scholarship, which sponsors graduate study for twelve Americans each year in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

He is the founder of the Mitchell Institute, in Portland, Maine, whose mission is to increase the likelihood that young people from every community in Maine will aspire to, pursue and achieve a college education. [27] In 2007, he became a visiting Professor in Leeds Metropolitan University's School of Applied Global Ethics, and the University is developing a new Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution bearing his name. [28]

Mitchell Report (Arab–Israeli conflict) Edit

Mitchell led an American fact-finding commission initiated under President Bill Clinton in 2000 intended to find solutions for solving the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. Mitchell's report, published in 2001, stressed the need for Israel to halt the expansion of its settlements in the Palestinian territories and for the Palestinians to prevent violence. Interest in the report was renewed when Mitchell was named Special Envoy for Middle East Peace in 2009. [29]

United Nations Edit

Mitchell served as co-chairman (with Newt Gingrich) of the Congressionally mandated Task Force on the United Nations, which released its findings and recommendations on June 15, 2005, after having been formed that January.

World Justice Project Edit

George J. Mitchell serves as an Honorary Co-Chair for the World Justice Project. The World Justice Project works to lead a global, multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the Rule of Law for the development of communities of opportunity and equity.

Northern Ireland peace process Edit

Since 1995, Mitchell has been active in the Northern Ireland peace process, having served as the United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland under President Bill Clinton. He first led an international body to review options for paramilitary arms decommissioning, which produced the Mitchell Principles that regulated access to subsequent all-party peace talks. Mitchell then co-chaired the all-party talks, leading to the Belfast Agreement, signed on Good Friday 1998 (known since as the "Good Friday Agreement"). Mitchell's mediation between the parties was crucial to the success of the talks. [ citation needed ] He was succeeded as special envoy by Richard Haass.

For his involvement in the Northern Ireland peace negotiations, Mitchell was awarded the Liberty Medal (on July 4, 1998) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (on March 17, 1999). In accepting the Liberty Medal, he stated: "I believe there's no such thing as a conflict that can't be ended. They're created and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings. No matter how ancient the conflict, no matter how hateful, no matter how hurtful, peace can prevail." [30]

Chairman of Disney Edit

On March 4, 2004, Disney's board of directors, on which Mitchell had served since 1995, named him Michael Eisner's replacement as Chairman of the Board after 43% of the company's shares were voted against Eisner's reelection (35% was the minimum for disposal). Mitchell himself received a 24% negative vote, [31] a fact that led dissident Disney shareholders Roy E. Disney and Stanley Gold to criticize the appointment of Mitchell, whom they saw as Eisner's puppet.

Having already served on the boards of companies including Xerox, Starwood, FedEx, and Staples, Inc., Mitchell assumed his new role at a particularly tumultuous time in the company's history, needing to face such issues as Comcast's hostile takeover attempts and a possible split with Pixar. [31] Mitchell played an important role in the selection of Robert A. Iger as Eisner's successor as CEO in 2005. [31] On June 28, 2006, Disney announced that its board had elected one of its members, John Pepper Jr., former CEO of Procter & Gamble, to replace Mitchell as chairman effective January 1, 2007. [32]

Baseball's steroids investigation Edit

In 2006, Mitchell was tapped by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to lead an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs by Major League Baseball players. The investigation derived largely from charges against Barry Bonds, and revelations in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) trials of Victor Conte and Greg Anderson. Selig has said that revelations brought forth in the 2005 book Game of Shadows were, by way of calling attention to the issue, in part responsible for the league's decision to commission an independent investigation. To this day Mitchell is known to have held meetings with only two active players, Jason Giambi, who was ordered to meet Mitchell by Commissioner Selig in light of his public admissions on the issue, and one additional player whose name was initially not made public but was later revealed to be Frank Thomas. [33] Mitchell did however hold extensive meetings with several known steroid dealers, club attendants, personal trainers, and others who had ties to all players named in the report. Even though the union that protects the players had pressured all but Giambi and Thomas into maintaining the culture of silence that had helped the drug problem remain a secret, there was plenty of other evidence against those named in his report.

Mitchell released a 409-page report of his findings on December 13, 2007. [34] The report includes the names of 89 former and current players for whom it claims evidence of use of steroids or other prohibited substances exists. This list includes names of Most Valuable Players and All-Stars, such as Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, Denny Neagle, Paul Lo Duca, David Justice, Barry Bonds, Éric Gagné, Todd Hundley, Randy Velarde, and Benito Santiago.

Mitchell was criticized for having a conflict of interest with the report as he was a director of the Boston Red Sox, especially because no prime Red Sox players were named in the report, [35] despite the fact that Red Sox stars David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were later accused of using performance-enhancing substances during the 2003 season, as reported by The New York Times on July 30, 2009. [36] Likewise, the report was commissioned by Selig, and no members of the Milwaukee Brewers, whom Selig once owned, appeared in the report. The Los Angeles Times reported that Mitchell acknowledged that his "tight relationship with Major League Baseball left him open to criticism". [37] Mitchell responded to the concerns by stating that readers who examined the report closely "will not find any evidence of bias, of special treatment of the Red Sox". [37]

Opposing Involvement in Vietnam

As the United States increased its involvement in Southeast Asia, McGovern expressed skepticism. He felt the conflict in Vietnam was essentially a civil war in which the United States should not be directly involved, and he believed the South Vietnamese government, which American forces were supporting, was hopelessly corrupt.

McGovern openly expressed his views on Vietnam in late 1963. In January 1965, McGovern drew attention by delivering a speech on the Senate floor in which he said he did not believe the Americans could reach a military victory in Vietnam. He called for a political settlement with North Vietnam.

McGovern's position was controversial, especially as it put him in opposition to a president of his own party, Lyndon Johnson. His opposition to the war, however, was not unique, as several other Democratic senators were expressing misgivings about American policy.

As opposition to the war increased, McGovern's stance made him popular to a number of Americans, especially younger people. When opponents of the war sought a candidate to run against Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 Democratic Party primary elections, McGovern was an obvious choice.

McGovern, planning to run for re-election for the Senate in 1968, chose not to enter the early running in 1968. However, after the assassination for Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968, McGovern attempted to enter the contest at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Hubert Humphrey became the nominee and went on to lose to Richard Nixon in the election of 1968.

In the fall of 1968 McGovern easily won re-election to the Senate. Thinking of running for president, he began to utilize his old organizing skills, traveling the country, speaking at forums and urging an end to the war in Vietnam.


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George W. Bush: Post-Presidency

Following the January 2009 presidential inauguration of Barack Obama (1961-), Bush left office as a polarizing figure. He and first lady Laura Bush returned to Texas, where they divided their time between homes in Dallas and Crawford. In 2010, Bush released a memoir, �ision Points,” in 2010, but otherwise maintained a low national profile.

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George Senator - History

Since 1968 the Nebraska State Historical Society has operated the Senator George Norris State Historic Site. The site has been designated a National Historic Landmark and serves as the preeminent interpretive site for George W. Norris and his career. The site hosts several events each year including quilt shows, needlework shows, garden tours, and holiday tours. If you have any questions about George W. Norris or the Senator George Norris State Historic Site just .

George W. Norris and His Career

Senator George Norris. [N855-91]

George Norris represented Nebraska in Congress for over forty years. Although he was a Republican for most of his life, he believed firmly that it was his duty to act and vote according to his conscience, and not on the basis of his party affiliation. His fierce independence set him apart from many of his contemporaries and his uncommon integrity continues to inspire us today.

After a lifelong career in government, it was to his modest home in McCook, Nebraska, that George Norris returned, no richer or less humble than when he entered public life forty years earlier.

Senator George Norris State Historic Site.

Norris was born in 1861 in York Township, Sandusky County, Ohio. When he was only three years old both his older brother and his father died, leaving his mother, Mary Magdalene Norris, to raise and provide for George and his six sisters. At the time, Mary Norris was forty-six years old and pregnant for the twelfth time. The Norris family farmed and lived in near poverty. Mrs. Norris instilled in young George a strong religious faith, a respect for education, and a fierce sense of right and wrong. These qualities returned to help George Norris time and again throughout his career in government.

George Norris and his mother, Mary Magdalene Norris. [N855-26]

By 1883 Norris had graduated from law school at the Northern Indiana Normal School at Valparaiso. To help finance his college education he taught school off and on for several years. Armed with his law degree and his farming and teaching experience, Norris headed west in 1885. He made a short and unforgettable trip to Washington state before deciding to settle in Nebraska. Norris had relatives in Nebraska and his mother held the deed to an eighty acre farm in Johnson County, near Tecumseh, Nebraska. After a short time in southeast Nebraska, Norris moved again this time to Beaver City, Nebraska, in the beautiful Republican River valley.

George Norris and friends in Beaver City. [N855-524]

Pluma Lashley Norris. [N855-525]

It was in Beaver City that Norris began to put down roots and develop a successful professional career. He met and married Pluma Lashley, daughter of a locally prominent citizen. They had three children together. Over the next decade Norris prospered as he developed his law practice and speculated in land. He built a building in Beaver City and began his life of public service.

The Norris building in Beaver City. [N855-249]

In 1892 Norris was elected prosecuting attorney for Furnas County and three years later was elected district judge for Nebraska's Fourteenth District. To be closer to the center of his district Norris moved to McCook in 1899 and bought the house at 706 Main Avenue (now Norris Avenue) that would be his home until he died in 1944.

In 1901 tragedy struck when Norris's wife, Pluma, died leaving George with three young daughters to raise. Many lesser men would have withdrawn, but not George Norris. The next year he ran for the United States House of Representatives and won. In 1903 Norris married again. His new wife was a local schoolteacher and principal, Ellie Leonard. She was to be his lifelong companion.

Ellie Leonard Norris. [N855-112]

Norris spent ten years representing his district in the House of Representatives. In 1910, during his fifth term in the House, Norris launched a campaign to end what he believed to be an undemocratic practice. The Speaker of the House was entitled to control the flow of all bills that were introduced because he controlled the committee on rules.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, "Boss" Joseph Cannon. [N855-111]

In 1910 the Speaker was "Boss" Joseph Cannon, a Republican who ruled with an iron fist. After a bitter floor debate and skillful parliamentary maneuvering led by Norris, a group of reformers from both parties passed a resolution limiting the Speaker's autocratic powers. Norris had broken ranks with his party over an ethical question and earned a reputation as a man of integrity. Back home the Nebraskans who had elected Norris to the House of Representatives rewarded his crusading efforts by nominating and then electing him to the Senate in 1912. For the next thirty years Norris used his position in the Senate to fight to improve the lives of farmers and working people.

In 1917, as the United States was preparing to enter World War I, Norris once again found himself on the unpopular side of an issue. Based on his feelings that pro-war sentiment was being promoted by big business, he voted against U.S. entry into the conflict. For this act of conscience he was vilified throughout the nation and at home. He returned to Nebraska to confront his critics. When he addressed Nebraskans he said simply, "I have come home to tell you the truth," and honestly explained his feelings and beliefs. After his address, Nebraskans responded with respect and enthusiasm for his honesty and they again returned him to the Senate.

In the early years of his public life George Norris was a leader of the wing of the Republican Party known as the Progressives. The Progressives believed that government needed to become more responsive to the needs of the ordinary citizen. For most of Norris's career as a senator he promoted Progressive values, even long after the movement had ceased to be popular. One of the Progressive causes Norris championed was the "Lame Duck" amendment to the Constitution. Written and sponsored by Norris, the Twentieth Amendment eliminated the lame duck sessions of Congress in which outgoing members continued to hold office and vote for four months before the newly elected members took their seats. This amendment applied to both houses of Congress as well as to the offices of President and Vice-President.

Nebraska state capitol.

In Nebraska George Norris promoted the concept of the non-partisan, one-house legislature-the Unicameral. He believed that a one-house system would curb abuses of the conference committees. These committees allowed the ruling party to rewrite legislation to favor its own positions. In 1934 Nebraska voters enthusiastically endorsed the idea and in 1937 Nebraska became the first and only state to have a unicameral legislature.

During the mid-1930s Norris led the effort to create two federal programs that have had far-reaching effects on America's rural population. In 1933 the law creating the Tennessee Valley Authority passed, culminating a twelve year effort by Norris. The TVA was a plan to build dams on the Tennessee River and its tributaries to control flooding and to generate low-cost electricity.

Norris Dam marker. [N855-823]

Norris also sponsored legislation that called for bringing electricity to rural areas throughout the country. The Rural Electrification Act stipulated that power generation and delivery systems would be owned by the public for the common good, instead of by private companies. This was a very controversial idea in the 1930s. Automobile giant Henry Ford and other industrialists criticized Norris for introducing a plan that they considered socialistic and therefore un-American.

Norris defended his plan: "Every stream in the United States that flows from the mountains through the meadows to the sea has the possibility of producing electricity for cheap power and cheap lighting. This natural resource was given by an all-wise Creator to His people and not to organizations of greed."

Senator Norris in front of Norris Dam. [N855-415]

The Tennessee Valley Authority and the Rural Electrification Act were George Norris's finest hours as a United States Senator. He believed that the controversy that surrounded them and the criticism that was leveled at him was a price well worth paying. The legislation's benefits to America's farmers seem unremarkable today. But in the 1930s life on a farm with no electricity was not much improved over what it had been in the Middle Ages-long days of back-breaking labor for both men and women.

As the United States entered the Great Depression of the 1930s, Norris once again faced difficult moral choices. In 1932 George Norris broke ranks with the Republican Party. The issue was Franklin Delano Roosevelt's candidacy for President. Norris believed that Roosevelt, a Democrat, would be better for the common people than conservative Republican Herbert Hoover. Norris campaigned for Roosevelt and suffered the wrath of the Republicans. In Norris's next election of 1936 he ran as an Independent and was returned to the Senate.

Senator Norris campaigning with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. [N855-43a]

In 1942 George Norris was seeking his sixth term as a senator. In this election he was running as an Independent for the second time. This time Norris wasn't as fortunate. For the first time since 1902 Nebraska voters failed to send him back to Washington. His political career was over and he came home to McCook.

Norris returning home in 1942. [N855-304]

Less than two years later, on September 2, 1944, George Norris died. He was buried in the McCook Cemetery.

Norris grave site in McCook.

In 1961 Norris was selected to be the first person honored by having his bust placed in the Nebraska Hall of Fame at the State Capitol in Lincoln.

Nebraska Hall of Fame bust of Senator Norris. [N855-24]

While many politicians find ways to enrich themselves through their powerful and wealthy allies, George Norris went to Washington a man of modest means and that is how he returned. His overriding concern was to help improve the lives of America's common folk-the working men and women, the farmers and small businessmen. Many of the simple things that most of us take for granted in our lives today, like electric lights and refrigerators, were out of reach for many of America's citizens in the early years of the Twentieth Century. George Norris couldn't accept that situation and spent his life working to improve the lives of all Americans. His honesty and integrity continue to be an inspiration to Nebraskans and Americans.

Senator George Norris. [N855-435]

George Hearst

George Hearst was born and raised in Franklin County, Missouri in 1820. Growing up he received very little in the way of formal education but he did learn a lot about the so-called “lay of the land,” particularly with regard to mining. He observed copper mining, which was well established in Missouri. According to legend local Indians referred to him as the “boy that earth talks to.”

Despite many hardships, his tenacity, talent, and ambition yielded brilliant results. George established himself in as a powerful miner and rancher in the Western United States. A self-made millionaire, he owned interest in some of the most important claims in the U.S., including the Comstock Lode in Nevada, the Ontario silver mine in Utah, the Homestake gold mine in South Dakota and the Anaconda copper mine in Montana. The Comstock, Homestake and Anaconda claims would become three of the largest mining discoveries in American history. His business acumen was shown in his understanding of what is now called “vertical integration,” which links all phases of production from beginning to end.

As a rancher and prospector, George Hearst continually acquired large portions of land throughout the United States, especially in California and the West. One acquisition was 48,000 acre Piedra Blanca Rancho at San Simeon in 1865. He later purchased the adjoining Santa Rosa and San Simeon Ranchos. George Hearst would use this land throughout his life as a place to retreat with his family for lavish camping trips.

In 1862, George, at the age of 41, married Phoebe Apperson Hearst. In 1863, the couple had their first and only child, William Randolph.

Later in life George Hearst served as a United States Senator from California from 1887 until his death in 1891. During this time he acquired the small San Francisco Examiner as a repayment for a gambling debt. Although he had little interest in the publishing business this would prove to be an important event in the Hearst legacy. While he had hoped William would manage the family’s mining and ranching holdings, his only son wanted to become the proprietor of the Examiner. An elderly George Hearst relented and relinquished control of the paper to him.

The Senator died in Washington, D.C. in 1891.

“Hearst Castle”, “Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument”, “La Cuesta Encantada”, and “The Enchanted Hill”
are registered trademarks of Hearst Castle®/California State Parks.

George Bush and the Americans with Disabilities Act

When George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990, he did so with a great sense of enthusiasm and ceremony. The President viewed the legislation as a humanitarian gesture that would nonetheless pay substantial political dividends. In this regard, the legislation fit a long historical pattern. As with other forms of social welfare legislation, however, the President and his party failed to collect the political dividends. 1

The Ceremony

On July 18, only five days after the legislation had cleared Congress, the White House Office of Public Liaison mailed thousands of letters to leaders of the disability rights movement inviting them to a special ceremony on the South Lawn. At first, White House staff had contemplated using the East Room for the event. That location had the advantages of protection from the fierce mid-summer heat and of a fitting historical resonance: it was the site on which President Lyndon Johnson had signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. That 1964 legislation was the closest analogue to the ADA since the ADA did for people with disabilities what the 1964 law had done for other minorities. In the minds of the leaders of the disability rights movement, the advantages of the East Room were outweighed by its small size. They contemplated a ceremony with as many as 3,000 people, and the White House obliged.

The event itself went off without a hitch. No one in the audience, composed largely of people in wheel chairs and people with sensory impairments, succumbed to the heat, even though the temperature was in the 80s and would reach 92 degrees by the afternoon. In keeping with the spirit of the legislation and the time of the year, the White House chose an Independence Day theme for the ceremony. The Marine Band played such Fourth of July standards as “Stars and Stripes Forever” before launching into “Hail to the Chief.”

The tone of the ceremony was both presidential and partisan. Appearing on a raised stage with the Ellipse and the Washington Monument as a backdrop, the President claimed the ADA as one of his administration’s proudest accomplishments. He linked the legislation with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Just as the Berlin Wall represented an obstacle to freedom, so economic and social barriers kept people from disabilities from enjoying lives of “Independence, freedom of choice, control … and the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the right mosaic of the American mainstream.” The Americans with Disabilities Act promised to lower those barriers. “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down,” said the President as he lifted his pen to sign the legislation.

In the speech and in the pictures of the event, the White House kept the focus on Republicans. Instead of mentioning the many Democratic Congressmen who had worked on the legislation, the President chose to single out Republican Minority Leader Robert Dole for special praise. Not only did Dole work hard on the legislation, he also belonged to the group that would benefit from it.

On the platform with President and Mrs. Bush were three other key Republicans and members of the disability rights community. Justin Dart, the son of one of President Reagan’s closest friends, a former businessman, and a wheelchair user, had served in both the Reagan and Bush administrations and had convened special hearings to gather support for the ADA from coast to coast. Sandra Parrino, the mother of a disabled child, chaired the National Council on Disability, the federal agency most responsible for the legislation. Evan Kemp, the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a lawyer and a wheelchair user, had counseled President Bush on disability issues for the greater part of a decade and urged him to become an advocate of disability rights.

On this particular day, Kemp introduced the President to the crowd by comparing him to another Republican president. “Like Lincoln,” said Kemp, President Bush had the courage to take an unpopular stand in favor of civil rights. The metaphor of breaking the chains of slavery was adopted by Reverend Harold Wilkie in his opening prayer. Born without hands, Reverend Wilkie symbolized the inherent ability and dignity of people with disabilities.

The Contents of the Law

The legislation that President Bush signed contained four significant titles. Title I prohibited discrimination in hiring and on the job against qualified individuals with disabilities. It required businesses of more than fifteen employees to provide “reasonable accommodations” to people with disabilities unless the accommodations posed an “undue hardship” for the business. Title II outlawed discrimination in governmental and public activities, including public transportation. Among other things, it mandated that all new buses purchased for public transportation be made accessible to people with mobility impairments. The third title concerned public accommodations and required that such entities as hotels, restaurants, theaters, and shops be available for use by people with disabilities. Stopping short of requiring that all architectural barriers be removed, the title established the standard that removal be “readily achievable,” “able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.” Title IV sought to ensure that interstate and intrastate telecommunication relay systems were available for use by speech and hearing impaired individuals.

Civil Rights as a Republican Issue

The scope of the law meant that President Bush endorsed, supported, and signed the most ambitious piece of civil rights legislation in the nation’s history. Here was an important paradox. The Republicans and George Bush used civil rights as a wedge issue to separate majority whites from minority blacks, yet Republicans and particularly George Bush viewed civil rights for people with disabilities as ideologically compatible with the Republican approach toward government. The differences in the presidential rhetoric were striking. President Bush did not hesitate to link civil rights proposals with the establishment of hiring quotas. Two months before signing the ADA, he called quotas “wrong… they violate the most basic principles of our civil rights tradition and the most basic principles of the promise of democracy.” At the same time, the President regarded the ADA as a means toward allowing people with disabilities “to achieve their highest priority, namely, the independence necessary to achieve control over their own lives and integration into the mainstream of American life.”

In the President’s view, the ADA brought civil rights law back to its original promise as a force of integration, not as a form of special treatment that amounted to segregation. According to this construction of the problem, it made as much sense for President Bush to support the ADA as it did for conservative Republican Everett Dirksen to back the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In both cases, Republicans provided crucial leadership that made the difference between victory and defeat.

Deep in the middle of the fight for the ADA, James Brady contributed an op-ed piece for the New York Times that argued the case for the ADA as a Republican piece of legislation. First, Brady, the former Press Secretary for President Reagan and a highly visible member of the disability rights movement after the attempt on the President’s life had involuntarily brought him into that status, noted that he was a Republican and a fiscal conservative. Second, he declared his pride that the legislation had been developed by a group he described as 󈫿 Republicans appointed to the National Council on Disability by President Reagan.” Third, he pointed to a historical tradition of Republican support for disability rights. He explained that President Eisenhower had urged that people with disabilities “become taxpayers and consumers instead of being dependent upon costly Federal benefits.” He concluded that ADA was an outgrowth of Eisenhower’s philosophy and that it would “save taxpayers billions of dollars by outlawing discrimination, putting disabled people on the job rolls and thereby reducing Government disability payments.”

Although Brady probably did not know it, President Eisenhower made disability legislation a centerpiece of his domestic program in 1954. In place of those who urged that Social Security be extended to pay benefits to people with disabilities, Eisenhower advocated the extension of vocational rehabilitation. The proponents of Social Security wanted to pay people with disabilities not to work Eisenhower proposed instead that they receive special counseling and other services, if necessary by means of federal funds, in order to get jobs.

Eisenhower’s 1954 program demonstrated that the Republican version of the welfare state, even in the 1950s, emphasized the provision of opportunity, rather than the maintenance of income. Twenty-five years later, the ADA appealed to the Republican Brady as a logical extension of the opportunity society. To use the sports cliché, the ADA would help to level the playing field and enable people with disabilities to compete in the labor market. As such people obtained jobs, they would leave the welfare and Social Security rolls and, as Brady noted, save billions of dollars. In this manner, civil rights in the 1980s and 1990s served the same purpose as vocational rehabilitation in the 1950s. The ADA, in sum, was not a cost to society, as the Republicans believed quotas were, but rather a source of opportunity.

The Antecedents to the ADA

More immediate legislative antecedents to the ADA than the vocational rehabilitation program were two recent civil rights laws. The development of the ADA could be described in a historical equation: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 plus the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 equaled the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. By setting the basic terms of civil rights legislation in America, the 1964 law provided goals for the disability rights movement to reach. Simply put, people with disabilities wanted to obtain parity with blacks and women, and the 1964 law, more than other single statute, defined what these other minority groups had gained. The 1973 law both brought the same protections as provided in Title VI (affecting the recipients of aid from federal programs) of the 1964 law to people with disabilities.

More importantly, the process of implementing the 1973 law forced government officials to think about how to put the notion of civil rights for people with disabilities into operation. What made sense for women and blacks did not necessarily make sense for people with disabilities. The classic example of a difference concerned the blind bus driver. Even if blind people were otherwise qualified for the job, they would make bad bus drivers. Regulators had therefore to discriminate among groups of the handicapped in ways that had no clear analogue in other civil rights statutes. Similarly, regulators faced the problem of how to balance costs and benefits. Some architectural modifications to gain handicapped accessibility, such as widening the staircases on a 17th century building, would be prohibitively expensive. The solution was to establish an “undue hardship” standard. If the modification constituted an “undue hardship,” then it need not be made. Through the development of these legal terms, the government officials who wrote the regulations for the 1973 law created an operational vocabulary for disability rights: a translation of the 1964 law into concepts that made sense for people with disabilities.

It took until 1977 for Joseph Califano, Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, to sign the regulations putting the civil rights portions of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act into operation. As a result of this delay, civil rights for people with disabilities did not reemerge as a significant legislative issue until the Reagan administration. That administration maintained an initial wariness and distance from taking the next logical steps of extending civil rights for people with disabilities to cover employment and public accommodations. In time, however, the Reagan administration came to rediscover civil rights for people with disabilities as a Republican measure.

George Bush was a prominent member of the Reagan administration, and the issue of disability rights crossed his path several times. As the head of a Task Force for Regulatory Relief, Bush had reason to want to abolish the elaborate regulations attached to the 1973 law. In response to this threat, leaders of the disability rights movement shifted their rhetoric. During the Carter years, they spoke of entitlements. In the Reagan years, they learned to stress their desire for independence. Working through Republicans such as Evan Kemp, disability rights activists succeeded in persuading George Bush and other important figures in the Reagan administration not to dismantle the civil rights regulations. C Boyden Gray, Bush’s counsel on the Task Force for Regulatory Relief and later his chief counsel in the White House, came to the conclusion that the administration and the handicapped wanted the same thing, “to turn as many of the disabled as possible into taxpaying citizens.”

In the meantime, the National Council on the Handicapped, working through Justin Dart and its staff director Lex Frieden, began the process of drafting the next disability rights law. In a 1986 report that Frieden and staff member Robert L. Burgdorff Jr. helped to write, the National Council included a recommendation that “Congress should enact a comprehensive law requiring equal opportunity for people with disabilities.” The council suggested, “Such a statute should be packaged as a single comprehensive bill, perhaps under such a title as ‘The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1986.'” The administration that officially accepted the report was Vice President Bush.

The ADA as Legislation and Campaign Issue

In 1988 Council members persuaded Senator Lowell Weicker, a liberal Republican Senator from National Council member Sandra Parrino’s home state of Connecticut, to introduce the Americans with Disabilities Act. Recognizing that any hope of passage depended upon securing Democratic sponsors, Weicker suggested that the advocates also approach Tom Harkin, a liberal Democrat from Iowa with definite presidential aspirations, to serve as a co-sponsor. Both Weicker and Harkin had personal reasons to be sympathetic to the legislation. Weicker was the father of a child with Down syndrome Harkin’s brother was deaf.

By the time the legislation was introduced in April, the presidential campaign was well underway. George Bush emerged as an early supporter of the bill. Achieving the independence of people with disabilities, the Vice President said, required “aggressive public and private support.” Part of that support was “Federal legislation that gives people with disabilities the same protection in private employment that is now enjoyed by women and minorities.” In August 1988, candidate Bush attended the swearing-in of Paul Hearne as Lex Frieden’s successor as the Executive Director of the National Council of the Handicapped. On that occasion, he specifically called for enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1988.

Although both candidates endorsed the ADA in the 1988 election, George Bush pursued the cause with more devotion than Michael Dukakis. When Michael Dukakis discussed disability policy, as he did in a statement prepared for the 1988 hearings on the ADA, he mentioned the ADA–that was something on which the parties could agree–but he also felt compelled to discuss other policy issues and initiatives. He criticized the Reagan administration for the wholesale manner in which it threw people off the disability rolls in the early 80s. He implied that his administration would protect the benefit rights of people with disabilities. He also highlighted health insurance as an important issue for people with disabilities. In other words, Dukakis punched the Democratic themes of health and income security. For him civil rights protection was just one of the things that people with disabilities needed and it was not necessarily the most important. As Judy Heuman, a partisan Democrat who later worked in the Clinton administration and an important figure in the disability rights movement, later put it, “the ADA by itself will not result in equality for disabled people.” Instead, such things as funding for independent living services and national health insurance were required. Republican George Bush did not carry this extra baggage. For him and for his Republican colleagues, the need for civil rights superseded the need for more intrusive and expensive social welfare initiatives. Hence, he attached greater importance to the passage of the ADA than Michael Dukakis.

After George Bush won the election, his transition team received a memo from the Louis Harris polling company that attributed a large part of his victory to the support he received from people with disabilities. The memo argued that one to three points of Bush’s seven-point margin were the result of a swing from traditionally Democratic people with disabilities toward Bush after they heard of Bush’s support for disability rights. The Louis Harris data suggested that the election came down to four million votes and that “two of those four million votes came from disabled people who changed their minds during the course of the campaign and voted for the Vice President.” Whether or not the evidence was accurate, it indicated that George Bush’s support of the Americans with Disabilities Act made good politics. It was one of the campaign promises that deserved to be fulfilled.

Congressional and Presidential Politics

After the 1988 election, the fate of the ADA was determined by a combination of Congressional and Presidential politics. The initial consideration of the ADA in the summer and fall of 1988 was cut short by the Presidential campaign. Supporters of the measure used the election period to modify the legislation so that it would appeal to Congressional leaders and the Bush administration. By May 9, 1989, a new version of the legislation was ready, and hearings began in the Senate. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, Senator Edward Kennedy enjoyed an impressive measure of influence over the bill. So did Harkin, who was the original sponsor and who chaired a subcommittee of Kennedy’s committee that was concerned with the handicapped.

During the hearings, Senator Harkin pointed out all that had been done to modify the bill. In the original version, for example, a firm needed to make accommodations for people with disabilities unless such actions sent the firm into bankruptcy. The 1989 version only required that the accommodation be readily achievable. In the original draft, all buses had to be retrofitted to accommodate the disabled the 1989 draft restricted that requirement to new buses. Through these sorts of modifications, the Congressional sponsors hoped to allay the fears of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations that the ADA would be too costly to implement.
Although the President strongly supported the general notion of the ADA, he did not immediately endorse the 1989 version. More so than the Senators, the President and his administration needed to balance the needs of people with disabilities against the needs of businessmen. Harkin and Kennedy continued to insist that the legislation was bipartisan, and both went out of their way to praise Bush. Harkin went so far as to say “no President of the United States, Republican or Democrat, has ever said the things about disabled Americans that George Bush has said. No President, including the President who was in a wheel-chair, Franklin Roosevelt.” Despite the flattery, the President hung back. Senator Dole assured his colleagues that the President wanted an ADA bill but noted that the administration was new. “Now let’s face it,” said Dole, “we’ve got a new administration some people aren’t in place yet.” Dole mentioned that the White House staff had not yet had time to focus on the ADA. It took until June 22 for the administration to testify on the bill. Appearing before Senator Kennedy, Attorney General Dick Thornburgh’s indicated the administration’s general approval but also expressed some reservations.

Thus began an intensive period of what Kennedy described as “long tough hard bargaining sessions” between Congressional Democrats, such as Kennedy, and administration officials, such as John Sununu and Thornburgh. In part these sessions served to put a bipartisan stamp on the final product and to ensure that both political parties received credit for the bill. In part these sessions provided private forums to work out important details. For example, the Democrats wanted to allow disabled people to sue for punitive damages, but the administration preferred to restrict the legal remedies to those prescribed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, such as restoration of back pay. In the course of the negotiations, the Democrats yielded on this point. In return, the administration gave way on its desire to limit the entities covered by the public accommodations section of the bill to hotels, motels, restaurants, and theaters. Instead, the law would apply to a broad array of institutions, such as grocery stores and banks.

On August 2, 1989, Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater announced that the Senators and the administration had come to an agreement. Fitzwater explained that the President wanted to bring persons with disabilities into the mainstream but he wanted to do so “through a framework that allows for maximum flexibility to implement effective solutions, builds on existing law to avoid unnecessary confusion and litigation and attains these goals without imposing undue burdens.” Despite these reassurances, business leaders still complained about the measure, arguing that it would cost them hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Much of the business protest, muted somewhat by the White House approval of the bill, centered on the fear that the ADA would lead to endless costly litigation. “Leaving reasonableness (as in the concept of reasonable accommodation) to the discretion of the courts is scary,” said the head of the Greyhound Bus Company.

Business groups adopted a “yes, but” approach to the legislation, trying to gain concessions yet not opposing the law. The business groups recognized that, with such strong support from the administration and the Democratic leadership, few Congressmen could afford to vote against the bill. Nancy Fulco of the United States Chamber of Commerce bluntly stated that, “No politician can vote against this bill and survive.” Kennedy’s committee, reporting the bill out at the end of August, did its best to continue the process of reassurance that the administration had begun.

The report stressed the cautious way in which the law would be implemented, the savings in government expenditures, and the low costs of complying with the bill. It would take two years for the employment features to go into effect, and even then the law would affect only employers with more than 25 workers. Four years would elapse before the law reached employers with fewer than 25 employees, and those businesses with less than fifteen workers would not be affected by the employment provisions in the law at all. Companies like Greyhound would have five years in which to make their buses accessible. Eliminating welfare costs for previously unemployed disabled people would save billions of dollars. Most accommodations, such as providing an indicator light for a deaf medical technician, cost little. So, although the head of Woolworths complained of “ruinous” costs, the report provided the prelude to the Senate’s passage of the ADA on September 7, 1989 by a comfortable margin of 76 to 8.

Complaints from liberals and conservatives indicated the success of the sponsors’ search for the political center. Mary Johnson, the outspoken editor of the grass-roots publication called the Disability Rag, dismissed the measure as little more than a “public-spirited gesture… a low-risk commitment to a relatively unorganized group … a relatively painless way for the Republican Party to woo a new constituency.” Susan Mandel, writing in the conservative National Review said that “ignorance” on the part of Congressmen and “fear” of political reprisal “may be enough to gain the passage of the most disruptive piece of civil rights legislation in our history.”

Complications in the House

Complications in the House delayed the final passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Two factors in particular led to the delay. One was the resignation of Tony Coelho, the bill’s chief sponsor in the House, in the early summer of 1989. The other was the need to send the legislation to no fewer than four House committees. Although the counterpart to Kennedy’s committee on Labor and Human Resources acted with dispatch, the other committees took until well into the spring of 1990 before reporting out the legislation.

With the passage of time, the possibility for political conflict increased. By the spring of 1990, a new controversy arose over the legal remedies available under the Act. Some Congressional Democrats wanted to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to allow for punitive damages, and the Senate bill said that the penalties in the ADA would be the same as those in the 1964 Act. Hence, the Senate bill allowed for the payment of punitive damages under the ADA if the amendments to the Civil Rights Act should pass. The Bush administration wanted to guard against this possibility by limiting the legal remedies to those in the 1964 Act, not the 1964 Act as amended. In this manner, Attorney General Thornburgh and other administration officials hoped to restrict penalties to court injunctions directing a business to stop discriminating and to reinstatement and back pay for those fired or not promoted as a result of discrimination. If the matter were not resolved in a satisfactory manner, senior administration threatened that President Bush might withdraw his support. As the controversy unfolded, protesters in wheelchairs staged a demonstration in the Capitol Rotunda, urging the passage of the ADA.

On May 22, 1990, the administration lost the battle over the penalties to be included in the ADA. By a close vote of 227 to 196, the House defeated an amendment offered by James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) that would have limited the penalties to those in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The House then passed the legislation by a wide margin. The only peculiarity in the process was the inclusion of an amendment concerning people infected with AIDs or other communicable diseases. The amendment allowed restaurants and similar establishments to transfer people with an infectious and communicable disease such as AIDS from jobs in which they handled food. In the House version, the person needed to pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others before he or she could be transferred.
The food handling amendment required the formation of a conference committee. In the end, Senator Hatch succeeded in brokering a compromise in which the Senate version prevailed but in which the Secretary of HHS was directed to publish a list of diseases that could be transmitted through food handling.

The Mixed Political Legacy of the ADA

In the meantime, the administration made it clear that President Bush would not veto the legislation. By this time the administration had too much invested in the law even to contemplate such a veto. On the contrary, it moved swiftly to celebrate the ADA’s passage after the Senate’s final acceptance of the conference report on July 13, 1990. The President announced that he was delighted with the acceptance of the conference report and looked forward “with great pleasure” to signing the bill. The result was the celebration of Independence Day I, as the disability rights advocates called it, on the South Lawn of the White House. “I am proud of America,” exalted Justin Dart. The President, despite his exuberant rhetoric about taking a sledgehammer to the wall of exclusion, exercised more caution. Noting that the law provided flexibility and contained many features designed to contain costs, he directly confronted the fears of the business community that the law would be expensive and result in a quagmire of litigation.

In time President Bush lost some of his caution with regard to the ADA. On the brink of another Congressional election in November 1990, he referred to the ADA as historic legislation. Just before the President left Washington in 1993, he attended a lunch at which Robert Dole predicted that people would look back on the passage of the ADA as “one of George Bush’s greatest achievements.”

Whether or not it was a great achievement, and the early evidence is mixed, it was not a great enough achievement to keep George Bush in office. One of the reasons he lost the election of 1992 was the arrival of the Bush recession, which not only turned many voters against him but also limited the gains that could be achieved through the ADA. A weak economy provided an uncertain platform from which to launch the legislation. To cite one example, the Social Security and welfare disability rolls did not decline in response to the implementation of the ADA. Instead, the weak economy caused more people with disabilities to drop out of the labor force and swelled the rolls. Government-related disability costs went up, not down in the years following passage of the ADA. In the sluggish economy, businesses hesitated to make the sort of accommodations that would have enabled large numbers of people with disabilities to get jobs.

A further irony was that George Bush fell victim to a familiar Republican problem with regard to social welfare legislation. Because the ADA was the product of a Democratic Congress, it became difficult for President Bush to take credit for it, despite the tremendous effort that he and his administration put into it. As in nearly all social welfare legislation, the Democrats could easily outbid the Republicans on its terms. In this case, the Democrats and many members of the disability rights community had wanted punitive damages to be explicitly included in the bill it was the White House that said no to that. Furthermore, Senators Harkin and Kennedy and Representative Steny Hoyer achieved a great deal of visibility in the passage of the legislation. Even on the day of President Bush’s triumph on the White House South Lawn, the celebrants soon migrated across the street and heard speeches from Senator Harkin and other Democrats in the park on the Ellipse.

When the election arrived, the Bush administration created the Americans with Disabilities for Bush-Quayle 󈨠. Justin Dart, Evan Kemp, and Mrs. Ginny Thornburgh headed the group. Justin Dart explained his enthusiasm for the President by noting that, “More than other President in history, George Bush has been a leader in elevating perceptions of people with disabilities from pitiful candidates for paternalistic charity to fully adult Americans with potential be fully productive… Unlike his opponent, he refuses to treat us as children.” Evan Kemp, for his part, said that the country would not have had the ADA “without the personal push by President Bush,” and he was undoubtedly right.

The Democrats nonetheless countered with a letter from Tom Harkin and Steny Hoyer to disability rights leaders. The real impetus for the ADA, they claimed, came not from President Bush but from “the testimony of thousands of Americans with disabilities and their advocates.” The Senator and the Congressman pointed that an overwhelming percentage of the original co-sponsors of the legislation in both Houses were Democrats. “Let’s face it. Republicans in Congress and the White House have opposed or whittled down civil rights legislation for more than three decades. The ADA is no exception.”


Not historians but rather partisan politicians in the middle of contested campaign, Harkin and Hoyer perhaps did not understand that the ADA was indeed an exception. The acceptance of the ADA by President George Bush and his administration was far from grudging. On the contrary, it fit a long pattern of Republican support for disability policy that emphasized independence in the labor force over dependence on the welfare rolls. George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990 with real enthusiasm. The moment represented the celebration of a legislative victory and the culmination of a long campaign. But the celebration could not be sustained through the next Presidential election. By then the country kept to a twentieth century tradition and elected a Democratic president in a time of recession. By then, too, the triumphs to which the President referred in his July 26 speech seemed less certain.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Berkowitz, E. (2017). George Bush and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/recollections/george-bush-and-the-americans-with-disabilities-act/

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[…] universal access that arose in the 1970’s. However, an unlikely friendship developed between then Vice President George Bush and Justin Dart, that would change the landscape for the disability community. This bond steered the path for the […]

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