James E. Murray
|United States Senator|
November 7, 1934 - January 3, 1961
|John E. Erickson|
James Edward Murray
May 3, 1876
St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
|Died||March 23, 1961 (aged 84)|
Butte, Montana, U.S.
|Children||William Daniel Murray|
Born on a farm near St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, Murray graduated from St. Jerome's College in Berlin, Ontario in 1897. That same year his father died and he went to live with a wealthy uncle in Butte, Montana, who owned valuable copper mines. His uncle sent him to New York to study law. He graduated from the law department of New York University in 1900, the same year he became an American citizen. He was admitted to the bar in 1901, and commenced practice in Butte, where he also engaged in banking and the management of his uncle's properties.
He practiced law in Butte and in 1906 was elected to one term as Silver Bonty attorney. Murray feuded with local officials and judges, and returned to private practice. Active in the Democratic Party, Murray worked closely with labor unions to build his political base. In 1921, he and his mother inherited over $10 million from his late uncle. He dabbled in Irish politics, and reentered Montana politics when the Great Depression soured the Montana economy in the 1930s.
When Senator Thomas Walsh died in 1933, Democratic Governor John E. Erickson resigned and had himself appointed to the seat, despite his weak political base. Murray defeated Erickson in the 1934 primary, and was elected senator on the platform of "one hundred per-cent support" of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Murray was a staunch liberal and aggressive supporter of the New Deal Coalition. He broke with Montana's senior senator, Burton K. Wheeler, when Murray backed Roosevelt's attempt to pack the Supreme Court in 1937; unlike Wheeler, Murray gave up his isolationism in foreign affairs, and backed Roosevelt's aggressive foreign policy against Germany and Japan in 1939-1941.
In February 1944 Murray joined with Democratic Senator George of Georgia to introduce an industrial demobilization bill to congress. The bill supported plans for terminating war contracts and the disposal of surplus Government property. The bill was passed on May 4.
After the war, conservatives controlled Congress, so Murray had little success with his proposals to expand Social Security, provide free medical care for the aged, expand federal aid to education, or create a Missouri Valley Authority with the federal control over Montana's water resources patterned after the Tennessee Valley Authority. Instead, Congress adopted the Pick-Sloan Plan with flood control by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, and private development.
As Chairman of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee in the 1950s, Murray was more successful in promoting federal development of hydroelectric power through large dams throughout the West. He used his chairmanship of the Senate's Interior Committee to secure Western water projects that led to congressional approval and funding for large dams in Montana at Canyon Ferry on the Missouri River, Yellowtail on the Bighorn River, Hungry Horse on the Flathead River, and Libby on the Kootenai River.
Murray served as chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Labor-Management Relations, chairman of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, and also served on the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.
In his later years, Murray was reported to have suffered from senility and his son, running his office for him in the 1950s, told him how to vote.
John Edward Erickson
| U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Montana
1934 – 1961
Served alongside: Burton K. Wheeler, Zales Ecton, Mike Mansfield
Elbert D. Thomas
| Chairman of the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee
1951 – 1953
Howard Alexander Smith
| Chairman of the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee
1955 – 1961
Clinton Presba Anderson