About Wallace Humphrey White, Jr.
Wallace Humphrey White, Jr. (August 6, 1877 – March 31, 1952) was a prominent American politician and Republican leader in United States Congress from 1916 until 1949. White was from the U.S. state of Maine and served in the U.S. House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. Senate, where he was Senate Minority Leader and later Majority Leader before his retirement.
White was born in Lewiston. His grandfather, William P. Frye, was also a prominent political figure, having served as a Senator from Maine and President pro tempore. In 1899, White graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick. After graduating, he became the assistant clerk to the Senate Committee on Commerce and later secretary to his grandfather. White studied law and was admitted to the bar, afterward beginning to practice in Lewiston.
The political career of White began when he was elected as a Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916. He took office on March 4 of the following year and served until March 3, 1931 (65th–71st Congresses). He left the House in 1931 after being elected to the Senate in late 1930.
In Congress, White served as chairman of the House Committee on Expenditures in the Department of Justice (66th Congress), the House Committee on Woman Suffrage (67th through 69th Congresses), the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries (70th and 71st Congresses), and the Senate Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce (80th Congress). He also served as a presidential appointee on a variety of commissions.
White was reelected in 1936 and 1942 and served from March 4, 1931, to January 3, 1949. He was elected minority leader by his colleagues (1944–1947), and became majority leader when his party held a majority in the 80th Congress (1947–1949). According to John Gunther's 1947 book Inside U.S.A., as the titular party floor leader, "his chief function is to hold the balance between two much more dominant and vivid men, Taft and Vandenberg...Everybody likes White; few people pay much attention to him."
He was not a candidate for renomination in 1948. White died in Auburn and is interred at the Mt. Auburn Cemetery.
White was by all accounts a soft-spoken and gentlemanly figure, but his family were colorful and dramatic, and in the news nearly as much as himself. His wife, Nina Lunn, was a divorcee who brought him a son and daughter from a previous marriage. The daughter, also Nina Lunn, became a Washington (and later Hollywood) society figure, especially after writing a book entitled Physical Attraction and Your Hormones (Doubleday, 1950), and working on another, apparently unfinished, entitled Venus was an Amateur. She divorced her first husband, a Pittsburgh broker, in 1942 for having squandered her assets.
White's step-granddaughter, also named Nina Lunn, became an even more famous Washington socialite, divorcing (at the age of 24) her first husband during an affair with the Argentine Ambassador, and marrying (and divorcing) twice more. She also had small parts in stage plays and later movies (including The Senator was Indiscreet) but was most famous as a hostess and party-goer. Nina (3) also named a daughter from her last marriage Nina.
White affectionately referred to the three Nina Lunns as "the Three Furys". They were often together, and their movements were closely followed by gossip columnists. The two younger Ninas called the oldest "Queenie", and White's colleagues called her "Madame Senator".