Bourke B. Hickenlooper, Governor, U.S. Senator

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Bourke Blakemore Hickenlooper

Birthplace: Blockton, Taylor, IA, United States
Death: September 04, 1971 (75)
Shelter Island, Suffolk, NY, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Nathan Oscar Hickenlooper and Margaret A Hickenlooper
Husband of Verna Eileen Hickenlooper
Father of Private

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Bourke B. Hickenlooper, Governor, U.S. Senator

Bourke Blakemore Hickenlooper (July 21, 1896 – September 4, 1971), was a Republican politician from the US state of Iowa. He was lieutenant governor from 1939 to 1943 and then the 29th Governor of Iowa from 1943 to 1945. In 1944, he won election to the first of four terms in the United States Senate.


An only child of a farming couple, Hickenlooper was born in Blockton in Taylor County in southwestern Iowa, when Grover Cleveland was still President of the United States. He attended Iowa State University, then Iowa State College in Ames, but his education was interrupted by his service in the United States Army during World War I. In April 1917, Hickenlooper enrolled in the officers' training camp at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to France as a battalion orientation officer.

After military service, Hickenlooper early in 1919 returned to the United States. In June 1919, he received his bachelor's degree in industrial science from Iowa State. He then enrolled at the University of Iowa College of Law, from which in 1922 he procured a law degree. He thereafter practiced law in Cedar Rapids. He served in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1934 to 1937. His grandfather had earlier served in the same body.

A political life

When he ran for lieutenant governor, the first time unsuccessfully in 1936, Hickenlooper told voters they could call him plain "Hick" because of the difficulty of pronouncing his name. He told a yarn about his going as a child to a drugstore in the county seat of Bedford to obtain a nickel's worth of asafetida for his mother. The druggist just gave him the asafetida, a pungent herb used in cooking, to avoid having to write out both "asafetida" and the long name "Bourke Blakemore Hickenlooper."

As lieutenant governor, Hickenlooper saved a Cedar Rapids woman from drowning in the Cedar River. The extensive publicity from his rescue mission generated him much support when he ran for governor in 1942.

In 1944, Hickenlooper easily unseated the Democrat Guy M. Gillette in the U.S. Senate election. As a senator from 1945 to 1969, Hickenlooper was among the most conservative and isolationist members of his party. He became the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, serving alongside longtime Democratic chairman J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. In 1967, near the end of his Senate tenure, Hickenlooper and Fulbright were instrumental in the drafting of the Consular Treaty, the first such international agreement between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

Hickenlooper was a co-author of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which initiated the development of atomic power for peaceful uses.[6] He also chaired the Joint Congressional Atomic Energy Committee. In this capacity, Hickenlooper questioned the whereabouts of missing uranium from an AEC laboratory in Illinois and urged the removal of AEC chairman David Lilienthal, who claimed no knowledge of the incident. Though the AEC committee declined by a 9 to 8 vote to remove Lilienthal, he nevertheless resigned some six months later, having claimed that his career had been ruined by the mystery of the missing uranium.

In 1958, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Hickenlooper as a U.S. representative to the United Nations General Assembly. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson named him to a congressional team to oversee the elections in the former South Vietnam.

Hickenlooper in time became one of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate, having served from 1962 to 1969 as the Republican Policy Committee chairman. In this position, he developed an intense intraparty rivalry with fellow Midwesterner Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois, the Senate Republican leader from 1959 to 1969. Hickenlooper opposed civil rights legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Dirksen was working in collaboration with U.S. Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota, the Democratic floor manager of the legislation and later Vice President of the United States from 1965 to 1969. Dirksen persuaded all but six of the Republican senators to support the 1964 measure. Hickenlooper hence joined Norris Cotton of New Hampshire, Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, John G. Tower of Texas, Edwin L. Mechem of New Mexico, and Milward Simpson of Wyoming in voting against the bill championed by their other GOP colleagues. Hickenlooper said that his opposition to civil rights legislation was based on a fear that such laws would lead to "bureaucrats snooping into every area of American life."

Hickenlooper once told an interviewer that he particularly enjoyed campaigning for office, having so frequently been before the voters for consideration. Columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop once said in humor that the name Bourke B. Hickenlooper is "exactly the same name an English satirist would choose for an Iowa Republican."

The Mason City Globe-Gazette in Mason City noted on Hickenlooper's death that he despaired of obtaining political success because of his name. "The abbreviation used by friends [Hick] was even worse. But Hickenlooper found the secret in kidding about his last name in public, making more jokes about it than [had] his political foes."

Hickenlooper Amendment

The proposed Hickenlooper Amendment, a rider to the 1962 United States foreign aid bill, would have halted aid to any country expropriating U.S. property. The amendment was specifically aimed at Cuba – led by Fidel Castro – which had expropriated U.S.-owned and U.S.-controlled sugar plantations and refineries.

The amendment followed the seizure of three U.S. oil companies in Cuba and Argentina. It was also in response to a ruling of the United States Supreme Court that in effect denied the right of an American sugar company to contest the seizure of its holdings by the Castro government.

Hickenlooper viewed his amendment as guaranteeing a U.S. businessman his day in court whenever property is seized by a foreign government. The Supreme Court's ruling, wrote Hickenlooper in 1964, "presumes that any inquiry . . . into the acts of a foreign state will be a matter of embarrassment to the conduct of foreign policy."

The amendment was strongly opposed by the administration of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, which argued that its passage would threaten all U.S. diplomacy, particularly in Latin America. It was defeated on the Senate floor, 45 to 35.

Wiley Mayne, a U.S. representative from Iowa from 1967 to 1975, said that the Senate erred in rejecting the Hickenlooper Amendment. "Had the amendment been enforced throughout the years, it would appear that we would have been in a far better position in our relations with the less developed nations and certainly . . . in regard to our balance of payments. . . . "


On October 5, 1961, some 1,200 gathered in Cedar Rapids in a ceremony to honor Hickenlooper's service to the state and the nation. Former Presidents Herbert C. Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower sent accolades. Many of his Senate colleagues came in person. The modest Hickenlooper replied to the tributes: "I wish that the many fine things that have been said about me could be fully accurate. Friendship has a habit of putting a little more glitter on a man than is actually there."

Hickenlooper retired to his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where he and his wife had lived since he came to Washington in 1945. He had been planning to relocate to an apartment the month that he died. He complained of abdominal pains and died shortly thereafter over the Labor Day weekend of 1971 while he was visiting friends, the Henry R. Holthusens, in Shelter Island, New York.

Hickenlooper and his wife, the former Verna Bensch, who preceded him in death by some nine months, are interred in a mausoleum in the Cedar Memorial Cemetery in Cedar Rapids. The couple had two children, David Hickenlooper, who resided in Bloomfield, Iowa, at the time of his parents' death, and Jane H. Oberlin, the wife of Russell Oberlin of Des Moines.

Hickenlooper was not the longest-serving popularly elected U.S. senator from Iowa. Charles Grassley surpassed Hickenlooper's four terms with his fifth election in 2004 and his sixth in 2010. William B. Allison served thirty-five years, but his service came during the period in which the state legislatures chose senators.

Hickenlooper's name was on an Iowa ballot nineteen times, including primaries and general elections; he won seventeen of his races. He lost his first attempt on the ballot in 1932 in a bid for county attorney of Linn County in eastern Iowa. He lost the lieutenant governor's race in 1936. He also lost the 1938 Republican primary for lieutenant governor, but the nominee chosen, Harry B. Thompson of Muscatine, withdrew, and the Republican state convention instead placed Hickenlooper on the general election ballot. He never lost another election, his final victory being the 1962 Senate election.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette described Hickenlooper as having had "a keen sense of humor, [was] a staunch defender of the private enterprise system, an advocate of a farm economy unfettered by government controls, and an opponent of excessive spending both at home and abroad. . . . Indeed, his was an enviable record that will serve as an inspiration to all Iowans with political aspirations."

Hickenlooper's Senate colleague John C. Stennis, a Mississippi Democrat, said that he regarded Hickenlooper "as one of the most valuable men we had in this body. I never saw him go off the deep end on anything without thinking the matter out, and I never saw him lose his patience though I have seen him under a lot of pressure. . . .

On Hickenlooper's death, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, whom Hickenlooper vigorously supported, issued a telegram referring to the former senator's "unwavering devotion to the public trust and his inspiring love of America. We will always remember him with special admiration and affection, and our sentiments will be shared by a grateful public. His career was crowded with proofs of his determination to serve the best interests of his constituents and of the country. These accomplishments are etched for all time in the annals of our legislative history and in the hearts of the people he served. . . ."

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Bourke B. Hickenlooper, Governor, U.S. Senator's Timeline

July 21, 1896
Blockton, Taylor, IA, United States
September 4, 1971
Age 75
Shelter Island, Suffolk, NY, United States