About George David Aiken
George David Aiken (August 20, 1892 – November 19, 1984) was an American politician from Vermont. A Republican, he served as the 64th Governor of Vermont from 1937 to 1941 and as a U.S. Senator from 1941 to 1975. At the time of his retirement, Aiken was the most senior member of the Senate.
Aiken was born in Dummerston in Windham County, Vermont, and graduated from Brattleboro High School while living in Putney, Vermont in 1909. A Republican, he was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives in 1931 and served as speaker from 1933 to 1935. He was the 58th Lieutenant Governor of Vermont from 1935 to 1937 and subsequently served two terms as governor, being first elected in 1936 and re-elected in 1938.
As governor of Vermont, he broke the monopolies of many major industries, including banks, railroads, marble companies, and granite companies. He also encouraged suffering farmers in rural Vermont to form co-ops to market their crops and get access to electricity.
He was elected to the United States Senate on November 5, 1940, to fill the vacancy in the term ending January 3, 1945, caused by the death of Ernest W. Gibson, and was re-elected in 1944, 1950, 1956, 1962, and 1968. During his time in the Senate he served in a number of leadership roles including Chairman of the Committee on Expenditures in Executive Departments in the 80th Congress and in the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry in the 83rd Congress bringing a Vermont-centric voice to Congress emphasizing common sense solutions over party ideology. He was one of the white-haired men during the time of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's inaugural statement about the torch passing to a new generation.
During the Vietnam war, Aiken is widely believed to have suggested that the U.S. should declare victory and bring the troops home. Actually, what he said was that "the United States could well declare unilaterally ... that we have 'won' in the sense that our armed forces are in control of most of the field and no potential enemy is in a position to establish its authority over South Vietnam," and that such a declaration "would herald the resumption of political warfare as the dominant theme in Vietnam." He added: "It may be a far-fetched proposal, but nothing else has worked."
He was a proponent of many progressive programs such as Food Stamps and public works projects for rural America, such as rural electrification, flood control and crop insurance. He also had a great affection for the natural beauty of his home state, saying "some folks just naturally love the mountains, and like to live up among them where freedom of thought and action is logical and inherent." His views were at odds with those of many Old Guard Republicans in the Senate. Vermonters showed Aiken such respect and affection that he reportedly spent only $17.09 on his last reelection bid. A north-south avenue on the west side of the public lawn at the Vermont State House has been named for him, as well as the state's maple research center at the University of Vermont.
He married Beatrice Howard and had four children by her: Dorothy, Marjorie, Howard, and Barbara. He married his second wife, Lola Pierotti, on June 30, 1967.