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The House Unveiled a Portrait of Georgia Representative Carl Vinson

January 20, 1944
The House Unveiled a Portrait of Georgia Representative Carl Vinson Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object

Serving 26 terms in the House of Representatives, Carl Vinson of Georgia spent 20 Congresses as a chairman.

 

On this date, the House unveiled a portrait of Georgia Representative Carl Vinson, celebrating his service as chairman of the House Committee on Naval Affairs. After a quarter century in the House, Vinson was known as both “Admiral” for his role in expanding the Navy, and as “Swamp Fox” for his cunning in guiding military legislation through the House. Vinson served on the committee from 1917 until his retirement from the House in 1965. As he said upon his departure from the House, “my service started with the Springfield rifle and is ending with the Polaris submarine and the intercontinental ballistic missile.” Between those two milestones, Vinson chaired the Naval Affairs Committee and its successor, the Armed Services Committee, for decades. He ruled the large committee with an iron fist, and when President Truman considered appointing him Secretary of Defense, Vinson made it clear that his chairmanship was the more powerful post. Despite the wartime unveiling, powerful officials traveled to the Capitol to pay tribute to Vinson’s work and influence. Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn of Texas and President Roosevelt sent special messages to the committee, and some of the Navy’s highest-ranking officials attended. The portrait was the work of Lawrence A. Powers, an ensign in the Naval Reserve. It reflects Vinson’s status as someone who had seen and caused many of the changes in the Navy during the 20th century. Visible in the background is a painting of the U.S.S. Georgia, a “three-stack, coal-burning battleship” that plied the Atlantic waters during World War I, when Vinson first came to Congress. On the desk, a model of the most up-to-date naval vessel, an aircraft carrier, sits atop a pile of papers. Following his retirement, the Navy named an aircraft carrier in his honor. The U.S.S. Carl Vinson launched in 1980, a year before he died.

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