A(lmer) S(tillwell) Mike Monroney, longtime member of Congress from Oklahoma, was born in Oklahoma City on March 2, 1902. Spending his childhood in what would become the state capital, Monroney grew up along with the new state.
Monroney's earliest professional interest was reporting. Beginning while still in high school with a weekly column for a city paper, he further learned the business by working in the mail room, running errands, and delivering papers. After graduating with honors from the University of Oklahoma in 1924, he worked as a political reporter until his father became ill. The younger Monroney then took over the family business, a furniture store.
Monroney, a Democrat, first ran for public office in 1937 when the death of Congressman Robert Hill necessitated a special election in the Fifth District. Though he lost the primary, he ran the following year, winning both the primary and the general election. He served in the House until he was elected to the Senate in 1950, where he stayed until defeated for reelection in 1968. Senator Monroney died on February 13, 1980, in Rockville, Maryland.
A moderate liberal in the House, Monroney supported most of the New Deal and Fair Deal legislation but veered from party line on many labor issues. He received his greatest accolades with his efforts to reorganize government. The process of lawmaking had not been changed since 1893, and with Senator Francis Maloney of Connecticut, Monroney sponsored resolutions to create the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. Roughly 80 percent of the original bill was eventually passed into law in 1946, and Monroney himself called that portion only 50 percent effective. It was noteworthy legislation, however, and won him Collier's Congressman of the Year Award.
In addition to his efforts to reorganize government, Monroney, while in the House, served on the Banking and Currency Committee and worked for price and rent controls and housing legislation. Interested in foreign affairs, he fully supported President Truman in his endeavors.
Monroney turned his sights to the Senate race in 1950. In doing so he took on twenty-three-year incumbent Elmer Thomas. The result of the primary was so close there had to be a runoff, which Monroney won along with the general election. During his tenure in the Senate, Monroney served on a variety of committees and subcommittees. He was chair of the Legislative Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, chair of the Aviation and Automobile Marketing Subcommittees of the Commerce Committee, and chair of the Postal Affairs Subcommittee of the Post Office and Civil Service Committee. He also served on the Select Committee on Standards and Conduct and as co-chair of the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress.
Earning the name "Mr. Aviation," Monroney devoted a great deal of energy to the airline industry. He authored the Federal Aviation Act of 1958; the Federal Aid to Airports Acts of 1955, 1959, and 1961; and the Permanent Certification of Feeder Airlines Acts of 1957 and 1961. In 1961 he was involved with the reorganization of the Civil Aeronautics Board to make it more capable of handling the challenges of the airline industry.
Other pieces of legislation authored or coauthored by Monroney include the Automobile Labeling Act of 1958, the Monroney-Clark Federal Aid to Education amendment to provide for matching funds to states, and the National Defense Act of 1961. In 1960 Monroney was the sponsor of legislation for free television time for the debate between presidential candidates John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
Scope and Content Note
Although Mike Monroney was in Congress from 1938 to 1968, the collection has very little material from his years as a representative. In 1973 Monroney had over 90 percent of his early papers destroyed by the National Archives. All that remains from his years in the House are a few folders of speeches and reports on the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946. His first years in the Senate are spotty too, by far the bulk of his collection being from 1962 to 1968.
The Monroney collection is ninety-eight cubic feet and divided into nine series. The Congressional Reform files contain slightly more than two boxes of reports, bills, hearings, clippings, and a few letters and speeches from Monroney's involvement in this issue during the 1940s and 1960s. The Elections and Privileges Files comprise less than one box, of which half concerns Millard Tydings's election to the U. S. Senate in 1950. The box labeled "Joseph McCarthy" contains speeches, correspondence, reports, and clippings on Monroney's feud with the Wisconsin senator, and that titled "Adlai Stevenson" has correspondence and other materials on the nomination of the former Illinois governor as the Democratic presidential candidate in 1960. There is also a box on Monroney's 1957-1958 involvement in the Federal Aviation Act and another on the International Development Association, 1958-1964.
The General Correspondence Files, by far the biggest series at eighty-five boxes, is arranged by year and then subarranged alphabetically by subject, federal agency, or senatorial committee. They contain clippings, press releases, reports, publications, newsletters, pamphlets, and, of course, correspondence. Subjects in this very diverse series include: agriculture, aviation, education, open housing, Indians, the Post Office, the Area Redevelopment Administration, the Civil Aeronautics Board, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, school desegregation, school prayer, labor, roads, sonic booms, and water projects. These materials fall between 1962 and 1968.
The Monroney Collection also contains one box of speeches, 1954-1968, on various topics, and two boxes labeled "Miscellaneous" that hold materials with information on Monroney's life and legislation, as well as aviation, supersonic transport, and Oklahoma water projects. In addition the collection has photographs, maps, and audiovisual materials.
In 2011, a small group of correspondence was donated by deed of gift from the University of Rochester to the Carl Albert Center.
Researchers are also directed to the A. S. Mike Monroney Photograph Collection and to the Beth Campbell Short Collection. For more information on the archival holdings, please contact the Carl Albert Center.
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