Wayne Morse

Wayne Morse

name= Wayne Lyman Morse

jr/sr=United States Senator
term_start= January 3 1945
term_end=January 3 1969
preceded= Rufus C. Holman
succeeded= Bob Packwood
date of birth= birth date|1900|10|20|mf=y
place of birth= Verona, Wisconsin
date of death= death date and age|1974|07|22|1900|10|20
place of death= Portland, Oregon
spouse= Mildred Morse
profession= attorney
religion= Baptist
party= Republican (1945–1952)
Independent (1952–1955)
Democratic (1955–1969)|

Wayne Lyman Morse (October 20, 1900July 22, 1974) was a United States Senator from Oregon from 1945 until 1969. Known for his independent-minded approach to politics, he was a noted opponent of the war in Vietnam.

Life before politics

Morse was born to a farming family in Verona, Wisconsin, who imbued the political beliefs of Robert M. La Follette, Sr. in their children.

Morse received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1923, and his Master's from the same college the next year. He earned his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1928. He was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

Morse became an assistant professor of law at the University of Oregon in 1930. Described as an electrifying speaker and having a brilliant legal mind, he quickly became an associate professor and then dean of the university and full professor of law in 1931. Columbia University awarded him a doctorate in law in 1932. In 1936, Morse became the youngest law school dean in the country at the University of Oregon. He served on many public commissions over the following years, including a Roosevelt appointment to settle labor disputes that threatened to halt production of Navy ships during World War II.

Election to the U.S. Senate

In 1944 he won the Republican primary election for Senator, unseating incumbent Rufus C. Holman, and then the general election that November. Once in Washington, D.C., he revealed his progressive roots, to the consternation of his more conservative Republican peers. In protest of Dwight Eisenhower's selection of Richard Nixon as his running mate, he left the Republican Party in 1952.

In 1953, Morse conducted a filibuster for 22 hours and 26 minutes protesting the Tidelands Oil legislation, which at the time was the longest one-person filibuster in U.S. Senate history. After a term as an independent, he switched to the Democratic Party in 1955. Despite these changes in party allegiance, for which he was branded a maverick, Morse won almost every election for the United States Senate.

1960 run for President

Morse was a late entry in the race for the Democratic nomination for president in 1960, although his campaign received little attention outside of Oregon and is largely forgotten. Many considered Senator John F. Kennedy's triumph in the primaries complete after he defeated Senator Hubert Humphrey in the Wisconsin and West Virginia primaries. However, Kennedy still faced Morse in the May Maryland and Oregon primaries. By the time Morse entered the race, most prominent Oregon Democrats were supporting other candidates. Congresswoman Edith Green was Kennedy's Oregon chairperson, and State Senator and former DNC Committeeman Monroe Sweetland, who had pushed Morse to switch parties, was a paid organizer for the Kennedy campaign. Morse's campaign chairman was Orde Pinckney of Bend, a Morse staffer and college professor. Kennedy won both primaries easily, and Oregon's winner take all rules resulted in the entire Oregon delegation supporting Kennedy at the Democratic convention in Los Angeles. Morse also faced Humphrey in the District of Columbia primary. After losing the District, Maryland, and Oregon Morse decided not to "embarrass" the Oregon delegation by attending the convention. He and his wife sat in the comfort of their living room and watched the convention from Oregon.

Activity as Senator

In 1964 Morse was one of only two United States Senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (Alaska's Ernest Gruening was the other), [Halberstam, David. "The Best and the Brightest", 2001 Modern Library Edition, pp. 475-476.] which authorized an expansion of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. During the following years Morse remained one of the country's most outspoken critics of the war. As early as 1966 he told a student union that he would like to see "protests such as these multiply by the hundreds" across the country. In 1966, he angered many in his own party for supporting Oregon's Republican Governor, Mark Hatfield, over the Democratic nominee, Congressman Robert Duncan, in that year's senatorial election, due to Duncan's support of the Vietnam War. Hatfield won that race, and Duncan then challenged Morse in the 1968 Democratic primary. Morse won renomination, but only by a narrow margin. Partially as a result, Morse lost his seat in the 1968 general election to state Representative Bob Packwood by some 3,500 votes.

Morse spent the remaining years of his life attempting to regain his membership in the U.S. Senate. He ran again in 1972, winning the Democratic primary against his old foe, Robert Duncan, but losing the general election to the incumbent, Mark Hatfield, who outpolled him by 54% to 46%. Morse sought a rematch against Packwood in 1974, but died before the general election.

In 1972, following the withdrawal of Thomas Eagleton from the Democratic ticket, a "mini convention" was called confirm Sargent Shriver as George McGovern's running mate. Despite this being considered a formality, half the Oregon delegation instead voted for Morse.


Morse's protege, Ron Wyden, now holds the "Wayne Morse seat" in the U.S. Senate, having been elected in 1996 after Packwood resigned in disgrace.

In 2006, the Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse opened in downtown Eugene. In addition, he was recognized in the Wayne Morse Commons of the University of Oregon's William W. Knight Law Center. Also housed in the University of Oregon Law Center is the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics. The Lane County Courthouse in Eugene renovated and rededicated its adjacent Wayne L. Morse Free Speech Plaza in the Spring of 2005, complete with life size statue and quotation pavers.

The Morse family's 26-acre Eugene property and home, Edgewood Farm, are a National Historic Site. The Morse Ranch, as it is now named, is operated by the City of Eugene as a multi-use park. Interpretive and educational outreach through the site are administered by the non-profit Wayne Morse Historical Park Corporation in order to preserve the Morse Legacy.


* "The Last Angry Man: The Story of America's Most Controversial Senator", documentary film by Christopher Houser and Robert Millis.


External links

* [http://waynemorsecenter.uoregon.edu/ Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics]
* [http://nwda-db.wsulibs.wsu.edu/findaid/ark:/80444/xv42426 Guide to the Wayne Morse papers at the University of Oregon]
* [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2747993990080098736&q=wayne+morse&total=30&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0 Wayne Morse video from "War Made Easy"]

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