Herman Welker, U.S. Senator

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Herman Welker

Birthdate: (50)
Birthplace: Cambridge, Washington, ID, USA
Death: October 30, 1957 (50)
Bethesda, Montgomery, MD, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of John Thornton Welker and Zelda Welker
Husband of Gladys Taylor Welker

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Immediate Family

About Herman Welker, U.S. Senator


Herman Welker (December 11, 1906 - October 30, 1957) was a politician from the state of Idaho. He was a member of the Idaho Republican Party.

Welker was born in Cambridge, Idaho. He was the youngest of seven children of John and Zelda Welker, who had moved from North Carolina and started a potato farm. He is the grandson of Rev. George W. Welker of North Carolina. Welker attended the University of Idaho and became a lawyer. He was elected twice as the prosecuting attorney for Washington County, Idaho and served in that position from 1928 to 1936. In 1936 he moved to Los Angeles, practicing law there from 1936 to 1943. That year he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in which he served until 1945. He then practiced law in Payette, Idaho, from 1946 to 1948 and was a member of the Idaho State Senate from 1949 to 1951.

In 1950, Welker was elected to the United States Senate, defeating Congressman John C. Sanborn in the Republican primary and former Senator D. Worth Clark in the general election. He gained seats on several important committees, including the Armed Services and Judiciary Committees. He soon distinguished himself as one of the most conservative and anticommunist senators, becoming a leading member and spokesperson for the right wing of the Republican Party.

In the early 1950s, Sen. Welker told Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith about Harmon Killebrew, a young baseball player from his hometown who was batting .847 for a semi-professional baseball team at the time. Griffith told his farm director Ossie Bluege about the tip and Bluege flew to Idaho to watch Killebrew play. The Boston Red Sox also expressed interest but Bluege succeeded in signing him to a $50,000 contract on June 19, 1954. Killebrew would go on to have a Hall of Fame career in Major League Baseball.

Welker became closely associated with Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, so much so that he was occasionally referred to as "Little Joe from Idaho." In 1954, Welker was McCarthy's chief defender during the successful attempt of Democratic senators, joined by some Republicans, to censure McCarthy for his questionable investigative techniques while pursuing individuals accused of being communists within the government.

In 1956, Welker ran for a second term in the Senate. Although he won the Republican nomination, again defeating Sanborn, he was decisively defeated by the young Democrat Frank Church; Welker received only 38 percent of the vote. This increased Democratic control of the Senate led to much anger within the Republican Party, with Joseph McCarthy even accusing President Dwight Eisenhower of not supporting Welker's reelection campaign enough.

After leaving the Senate in January 1957, Welker practiced law in Boise, Idaho and participated in farming. After a few months, however, he became ill, and traveled to Bethesda, Maryland, for medical treatment at the National Institutes of Health. He was admitted on October 16, 1957, where he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Operations were quickly performed, but Welker died later that month. McCarthy had died earlier that year in Bethesda (Welker had attended McCarthy's funeral), as would ultimately Welker's successor, Frank Church, in 1984.

Welker was interred in Arlington National Cemetery. He was married for over twenty years to Gladys Taylor Pence Welker, and they had a daughter, Nancy.

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Herman Welker, U.S. Senator's Timeline

December 11, 1906
Cambridge, Washington, ID, USA
October 30, 1957
Age 50
Bethesda, Montgomery, MD, USA