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Speaker of the House Henry Rainey of Illinois

August 20, 1860
Speaker of the House Henry Rainey of Illinois Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
On this date, Speaker of the House Henry Rainey of Illinois was born in Carrollton, Illinois. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Massachusetts’ Amherst College in 1883, Rainey went on to receive a law degree from Union College (now Northwestern University Law School) in 1885. Returning to Carrollton to practice law, Rainey unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination three times for his west-central Illinois congressional district before winning the district’s first-ever party primary employing a secret ballot in 1902. He handily won the general election by a 2-to-1 margin, serving in every Congress except the 67th (1921–1923) until his death. Riding a balanced pro-rural and pro-labor voting record, Rainey rose up the ranks of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and became Majority Leader in 1931. After Speaker John Nance Garner of Texas won the Vice Presidency, Rainey obtained the gavel in the 73rd Congress (1933–1935). An ally of newly-elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he presided over an immensely busy first congressional session, shepherding the passage of key relief components of Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation aimed at pulling the country out of the Great Depression. Shortly after returning home from a traveling tour promoting the New Deal, Rainey contracted pneumonia. Initially expected to recover, he died suddenly in a St. Louis, Missouri, hospital on August 19, 1934, one day shy of his 74th birthday. President Roosevelt eulogized his friend and ally, “I shall always think of him as a humanitarian whose fine patriotism thought first of all what he conceived to be the well-being and interests of the common man.”

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