Image courtesy of Library of CongressElected to 14 terms in the House of Representatives, Joseph Byrns of Tennessee chaired the Appropriations Committee before serving as Majority Leader and Speaker of the House.
On this date, the House elected Majority LeaderWilliam Bankhead of Alabama as Speaker of the House following the unexpected death of Speaker Joseph Byrns of Tennessee earlier that morning. Clerk of the HouseSouth Trimble gaveled in the solemn session. Representative John J. O’Connor of New York, the Speaker pro tempore, took the floor and announced that, “in order that the House may function and the machinery of government may not stop, that the House proceed with the election of a Speaker.” Bankhead was nominated by resolution to serve as Speaker and, with no objections, the motion carried. The death of Speaker Byrns marked the first time a sitting Speaker died while Congress was in session. Typically a celebratory occasion for the majority party, the election of the Speaker was a solemn affair out of respect for the House's former leader. Brief clapping ensued when Speaker Bankhead approached the rostrum, but was quickly quieted by Members. Following the election, business continued with a prayer by a guest chaplain and resolutions to assist with funeral proceedings for Byrns.