Thomas P. Gore, U.S. Senator

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Thomas Pryor Gore, Sen.

Birthplace: Embry, Webster County, Mississippi, United States
Death: Died in Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States
Place of Burial: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Madison Gore and Caroline Elizabeth Gore
Husband of Nina Belle Gore
Father of Nina S. Olds and Thomas Notley Gore

Occupation: United States Senator
Managed by: Erica "the Disconnectrix" Howton
Last Updated:

About Thomas P. Gore, U.S. Senator

Thomas Gore (December 10, 1870–March 16, 1949) was a Democratic politician. He was blind and served as a United States Senator from Oklahoma from 1907 until 1921 and from 1931 until 1937. He was the maternal grandfather of author Gore Vidal.

[edit] Life and career

He was born Governor Thomas Pryor Gore[1] on December 10, 1870 in Webster County, Mississippi. Although said to be distantly related to Albert Gore, Sr. and former vice-president Al Gore there is no proven connection. Al Gore descends from a John Gore who was in Virginia by 1653, while Thomas P. Gore descends from a James Gore who was born in England or Wales in 1662.

He became blind as a child through two separate accidents but did not give up his dream of becoming a senator. He moved to Oklahoma in 1901. In 1907, he was elected to the Senate as one of the first two senators from the new state of Oklahoma. He was re-elected in 1908 and 1914 but defeated in 1920. He was known as a member of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, who worked with Republicans such as Robert La Follette. He was to a large extent no different from any other politician because of his blindness, but there were problems, as La Follette recounts an example in his memoirs when, during a filibuster, Gore did not realize that the senator who was to take over speaking for him had left the room, and the filibuster failed because he did not continue to speak. Also, some of Gore's colleagues in the Senate would attempt to take advantage of Gore's blindness by tricking him into signing documents that it was not in his party's interest for him to sign. He was famous for turning the tables on these sharp dealers and tricking them into signing documents that they did not intend to sign. These exploits made him popular with the press who dubbed him "The Blind Cowboy."

During the early stages of World War I, he authored a bill to encourage American citizens not to travel aboard merchant vessels of countries participating in the war. The merchant vessels were under threat of attack by German U-boats, and the Senator felt the loss of American lives in attacks upon these boats put American neutrality at risk. Though previously a strong supporter of President Woodrow Wilson, Gore opposed America's entry into World War I even after American involvement began. He unsuccessfully opposed providing manpower for the military by conscription, saying it would create "an army of conscripted slackers." He asked: "Why should we brand the American boy as a conscript without affording him the opportunity to earn the glory of an American volunteer?"[2] This was the principal cause of Gore's defeat in the Democratic primary in 1920 by Congressman Scott Ferris, who was in turn defeated in the general election by Republican John W. Harreld. On domestic policy he was a supporter of the interests of farmers and native Americans.

Gore was re-elected to the Senate in 1930. When Franklin D. Roosevelt took office as President, Gore at first supported his New Deal policies but later feuded with him. In 1935, Gore helped lead the charge against funding the Works Progress Administration (WPA). In written response to constituents who favored of the WPA, he told them that their attitude "shows how the dole spoils the soul. Your telegram intimates that your votes are for sale. Much as I value votes I am not in the market. I cannot consent to buy votes with the people's money. I owe a debt to the taxpayer as well to the unemployed." After dictating these words, the blind senator was led to the Senate floor to cast the lone vote against the WPA.[3][4]

After losing the 1936 Democratic primary to Congressman Joshua B. Lee, Gore retired from the Senate in January 1937. He practiced law in Washington, D.C., until his death on March 16, 1949. Gore was buried at Rosehill Cemetery, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, but was later reintered on July 19, 1949, in Fairlawn Cemetery, also in Oklahoma City.

He married Nina Belle Kay (1877-1963), a Texas plantation owner's daughter, on December 27, 1900. They had two children, Nina S. Gore (1903-1978), who became the mother of Gore Vidal), and Thomas Notley Gore (1910-1964).

His grandson, Gore Vidal, who gained fame as an author, has stated that his grandfather was an atheist [5] and had a strong misanthropic streak - a populist who didn't like people, as Vidal put it. During a speech to the National Press Club on November 4, 1994, Vidal claimed that Thomas Gore had said "If there was any race other than the human race, I'd go join it."[6]

A major road artery in Lawton, Oklahoma, Gore Boulevard, is named after him, as is the eastern Oklahoma village of Gore.

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Thomas P. Gore, U.S. Senator's Timeline

December 10, 1870
Webster County, Mississippi, United States
July 25, 1903
Age 32
Lawton, Comanche County, Oklahoma, United States
November 10, 1910
Age 39
Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas, United States
March 16, 1949
Age 78
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, United States