Personal tragedy brought Marilyn Lloyd into the House of Representatives where, for 20 years, she represented the science and technology interests of her Tennessee district. When her husband, Mort Lloyd, died shortly after winning a Democratic nomination to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974, local leaders named Marilyn Lloyd to succeed him as the party candidate, despite the fact that she had no elective experience. When she defeated the GOP incumbent, Lloyd won a string of relatively easy re–election campaigns. But her political fortunes were tied to the fate of several large federal projects in the district as well as its shift toward a more competitive makeup in the early 1990s.
Rachel Marilyn Laird was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, on January 3, 1929, daughter of James Edgar Laird and Iva Mae (Higginbotham) Laird. Marilyn Laird attended schools in Texas and Kentucky and studied at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia. She married Mort Lloyd, who eventually became a well–known Chattanooga, Tennessee, television newsman. The couple raised three children: Nancy, Mari, and Mort. Marilyn Lloyd and her husband owned and managed WTTI, a radio station in Dalton, Georgia, and an aviation company in Tennessee.
Mort Lloyd ran for Congress in 1974 as the Democratic candidate in a southern Tennessee district including Chattanooga, but was killed just weeks after securing the nomination when the light airplane he was piloting crashed. The district’s Democratic leaders convinced Marilyn Lloyd to run in her husband’s place. Her supporters wore buttons from her husband’s campaign with a piece of black tape covering “Mort,” leaving visible the words “Lloyd for Congress.”1 When her principal competitor, Chattanooga millionaire Franklin Haney, dropped out of contention rather than split the party, Lloyd’s nomination was sealed. Though she had no prior political experience and was running in a district that regularly voted Republican in presidential elections, Lloyd benefited from public backlash against the Watergate Scandal. She unseated two–term incumbent Republican Lamar Baker with 51 percent of the vote.
For her entire career, Lloyd served on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which had jurisdiction over much of the legislation related to the atomic energy facilities at Oak Ridge in her district. During the 97th Congress (1981–1983), she began chairing the Subcom–mittee on Energy Research and Development—a post she held until she retired from Congress in 1995, when she was the second–ranking Democrat of the full committee. Lloyd also served on the Committee on Public Works (later Public Works and Transportation) from the 94th through the 99th Congresses (1975–1987). From the 98th Congress through the 103rd Congress (1983–1995), she had a seat on the Armed Services Committee, serving on its Subcommittee on Military Acquisition. Lloyd also served on the House Select Committee on Aging for much of her congressional career, and was appointed chair of its Subcommittee on Housing and Consumer Interests in January 1990. In 1978, Lloyd married engineer Joseph P. Bouquard, and she served for several Congresses under the name Bouquard. In 1983 the couple divorced, and she went back to using the name Marilyn Lloyd. In 1991, she married Robert Fowler, a physician.2
Lloyd had a voting record that largely was moderate on social and economic issues but hawkish on defense and foreign policy matters.3 In 1979, she successfully steered through the House legislation for completion of the controversial Tellico Dam in Tennessee, despite President James Earl “Jimmy” Carter’s threat to veto the bill because of the danger the dam might pose to the snail darter fish.4 In 1989 Lloyd was elected as the first woman to chair the Congressional Textile Caucus. She advocated for textile quotas to make American garment makers more competitive against overseas manufacturers. “I think the textile issue is a women’s issue,” Lloyd said. “Clearly there are more women employed in textile–apparel production than there are men. You have women with only one skill, who do not have the education that allows them to transfer to another occupation. Many of these women are also the breadwinners in their families.”5 However, when the Congressional Women’s Caucus was founded in 1977, Lloyd was one of three women Members who did not join, citing the fact that she felt she did not have the time to make the commitment. Patricia Schroeder, a Caucus cofounder, speculated that Lloyd and Republicans Marjorie Holt of Maryland and Virginia Smith of Nebraska might have been hesitant to join because they would be “labeled” as feminists.6 Yet, relatively late in her congressional career, Lloyd began to advocate women’s issues. In 1992, she spoke out about accusations of sexual abuse in the military, noting, “Men must accept women as human beings, not sex objects.”7 Her own experience with breast cancer led her to work for the Breast Cancer Screening Safety Act and to introduce the Breast Implant Informed Decision Act. It was her experience in seeking treatment for her cancer which led her to switch to a pro–choice position on abortion in 1992. “I have had to fight to make decisions about my own options for recovery, which I feel should have been mine alone,” she said, “I have made my own choices and have been blessed by a full recovery. This has led me to take a long, hard look at the position I have held so long against access to abortion services.”8
Lloyd’s principal work was to care for and augment the Oak Ridge atomic energy facilities, as well as to support the construction of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) controversial Clinch River breeder reactor. The breeder reactor created the by–product plutonium, a highly toxic substance used to create atomic weapons. Critics argued that, besides posing an environmental threat, the breeder would increase the risk that terrorists or rogue states could acquire more readily the ingredients for a nuclear bomb.[FONT9] Opponents also complained about the reactor’s exorbitant costs. More than $1 billion was spent on project planning, and millions more would be required once construction was scheduled to begin. From 1974 to 1982, Lloyd was one of the Clinch River project’s principal advocates, but a coalition of antinuclear environmentalists and fiscal conservatives in Congress eventually killed off the project. Lloyd, who had been elected comfortably in the five prior elections (by as much as 89 percent ofthe vote in 1978), suddenly found herself in a series of relatively tight races—winning by 52 percent in 1984, 54 percent in 1986, and 53 percent in 1990 and edging out a win in 1992 with one percent of the vote (about 3,000 votes out of roughly 216,000 cast). In 1987, poor health had caused her to announce she would not run in 1988, but she reversed her decision and ran, winning 53 percent of the vote.
In 1990, Lloyd had gained enough seniority to make a bid for the chairmanship of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, but she was defeated easily by George Brown of California, 166 to 33.10 Following the 1992 elections, Lloyd and New Jersey Congressman William Hughes became the top–ranking Members on the Select Committee on Aging, which held little legislative influence on the House Floor but provided a high–profile position from which to advance issues important to elderly constituents. Lloyd solicited support from her colleagues for a bid to chair the committee in the 103rd Congress (1993–1995); however, Speaker Tom Foley selected Hughes over Lloyd, reasoning that “H” came before “L” in the alphabet. Lloyd expressed her outrage and frustration with the seemingly arbitrary decision, which she attributed to gender discrimination. As a conservative Democrat, however, Lloyd’s frequent breaks with the majority had often put her at odds with the leadership. When the House convened in 1993, however, the select committee was abolished.11
In October 1993, Lloyd announced she would not run for re–election, citing a desire to “enjoy my family, friends, and community.” She also told reporters, “During my congressional career, I maintained one goal. That goal was to work for the good of Tennesseans with the energy and honesty that all my constituents deserve.”12 At the time, she was the third–ranking woman in the House, behind Democrats Cardiss Collins of Illinois and Patricia Schroeder of Colorado. The following year, in a controversial and surprising political move, she supported the Republican candidate whom she had barely defeated for re–election in 1992, Zach Wamp. Wamp went on to defeat Democrat Randy Button with 52 percent of the vote. Lloyd died on September 19, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress
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