Historical Highlights

Speaker of the House Joseph Byrns of Tennessee

June 04, 1936
Speaker of the House Joseph Byrns of Tennessee Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Joseph Byrns served the state of Tennessee for fourteen terms in the House of Representatives. His son, Joseph Byrns Jr., later served a single term in the 76th Congress.
Speaker of the House Joseph Byrns of Tennessee died on this date. Serving 14 terms in the House, Byrns chaired the Appropriations Committee before becoming Majority Leader and, eventually, Speaker. Byrns’s sudden death, just 17 months after becoming the House’s presiding officer, set in motion the elaborate tradition of assembling a sitting Speaker’s funeral in the House Chamber. House Resolution 43 requested that invitations be sent to all Members of Congress, the President, the Cabinet, the Diplomatic Corps, secretaries of the military branches, and the Supreme Court. Newly elected Speaker William Bankhead of Alabama eulogized Byrns. “A thoughtful public must believe that, under the spirit of our democratic institutions, it is no small tribute of praise to be elected to this body for even one term of service,” Bankhead said, adding that “. . . when such service is extended year by year and into decades as was the case of Joseph W. Byrns, it is indisputable evidence that he had by his character and ability gained such a high place in the esteem and affection of his constituency that no thought entered their minds of replacing by another this invaluable public servant.”

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