In Jackson’s era, Northwesterners were giants of the Senate

  • Wed May 30th, 2012 11:55am
  • News

Herald Staff

Henry M. Jackson served in the Senate at a time when political giants populated the Pacific Northwest.

None bigger than Sen. Warren Magnuson, D-Wash.

Magnuson spent eight years in the U.S. House before winning a Senate seat in 1944. He served six terms before losing his bid for a seventh in 1980.

“Maggie” and “Scoop” formed one of the most politically powerful and effective duos in the Senate in the 28 years they served together.

Magnuson, as a member and later chairman of the Appropriations Committee, ensured Washington received a healthy portion of federal pork for a slew of projects, which changed the face of the state. Jackson, as leader of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, steered the nation on a course of environmentalism and conservation that led to the creation of new national parks and wilderness areas.

The two men were known as the “Gold Dust Twins” because everything they touched turned out golden for the state with one exception — the Supersonic Transport (SST) project of The Boeing Co. that never took flight.

“The only thing we lost was the SST, and we should have lost that,” said U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash.

Another huge figure of the Jackson era was Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska. He arrived in the chamber in 1968 and forged ties with the Washington duo on countless policies to benefit the Pacific Northwest.

Other forceful Senate figures from the region in Jackson’s tenure included Oregon Sens. Wayne Morse and Mark Hatfield, Montana Sen. Mike Mansfield and Idaho Sen. Frank Church.

Sen. Warren Magnuson

Democrat, Washington

House: 1937-45

Senate: 1945-81

Magnuson, the longest-serving U.S. senator in state history, used his seniority and persuasive skills to boost funding nationwide for health care and research. He also secured federal funds for this state to build dams and highways, launch two World’s Fairs, preserve Pike Place Market, replace the West Seattle Bridge and provide disaster relief after Mount St. Helens erupted.

Sen. Ted Stevens

Republican, Alaska

Senate: 1968-2009

Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator in history, was a forceful champion for Alaskan interests. He secured gobs of federal funds for scores of expensive projects in the sparsely populated state, including controversial ones like the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.”

Sen. Wayne Morse

Republican and Democrat, Oregon

Senate: 1945-69

Morse, an unrelenting critic of the Vietnam War, was famously independent in his politics. He entered the Senate as a Republican then left the party in 1953, joining the Democrats months later. Before switching parties, he symbolically moved his chair into the center aisle of the Senate chamber for a day to show that he belonged to no party.

Sen. Mark Hatfield

Republican,Oregon

Senate: 1967-97

Hatfield, a liberal Republican, used his chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee to funnel federal dollars to projects in his home state while opposing what he considered excessive defense spending. He sponsored a 1970 amendment to withdraw U.S. troops from Vietnam and in 1990 was one of two GOP senators to vote against going to war in the Persian Gulf.

Sen. Mike Mansfield

Democrat, Montana

House: 1943-53

Senate: 1953-77

Mansfield, the longest serving Senate Majority Leader in U.S. history, presided from 1961-76, during which Congress dealt with strife over Vietnam, civil rights and the scandals that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. His calm demeanor was credited with helping pass landmark civil rights legislation and the Voting Rights Act.

Sen. Frank Church

Democrat, Idaho

Senate: 1957-81

Church, who ran for president in 1976, is known for heading the Church Committee, which investigated abuses in the U.S. intelligence agencies. He also teamed with Jackson on the successful Senate-floor fight to pass the Wilderness Act in 1964.