Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn of Texas relied upon the support of Representatives like Frank Ellis Smith of Mississippi during his historic tenure.
On this date, incumbent Congressman Frank Ellis Smith
lost to fellow incumbent Representative Jamie Whitten
in the Democratic primary for Mississippi’s 2nd District, after redistricting in 1962 merged their two jurisdictions. Born on February 21, 1918, in Sidon, Mississippi, Smith graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1941. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1942, and served in Europe under General Patton during World War II. After the war, Smith edited the Greenwood Morning Star
. Smith then moved to Washington, D.C., to work as a legislative assistant to Senator John Stennis of Mississippi. In 1948, Smith sought and won election to the Mississippi state senate, where he worked to repeal outdated laws, including a statute that made "it illegal to drive a wagon across a bridge faster than a person can walk.” His time in the state senate underscored his belief in the supremacy of federal authority over that of the states. In 1950, for instance, he asked the state legislature to strike down a law that allowed Mississippi’s governors to ignore Federal census records should they so choose. At the age of 32, Smith won election to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1950. Elected to six consecutive terms in the House, he pursued the agricultural interests of his Mississippi Delta district, particularly the cotton industry. In 1960, President-elect John F. Kennedy
tapped Smith to be the director of the National Resources Advisory Council, a group whose purpose was “to conserve, develop and assure an abundance of natural resources for America.” Smith downplayed his relatively liberal voting record at home as much as possible. Though Smith was one of 82 southern Representatives to sign the “Southern Manifesto,” his reputation as a party man and an integrationist persisted. He supported measures to protect consumers, believed strongly in desegregation, and supported Speaker Samuel Rayburn
of Texas when he packed the Rules Committee with votes sympathetic to President Kennedy’s social programs, including civil rights legislation. When Smith spoke out openly against Mississippi’s elected officials who supported segregation, his district was redrawn and he lost his re-election bid. He resigned from the House on November 14, 1962, to assume an appointment by President Kennedy as a director of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). He worked for the TVA from 1962 to 1972, and then moved back to Mississippi to run again for a seat in the House. Smith lost in the primary, which effectively ended his career in politics.