Thomas J. Walsh
|United States Senator|
March 4, 1913 - March 2, 1933
|Joseph M. Dixon|
|John E. Erickson|
Thomas James Walsh
June 12, 1859
Two Rivers, Wisconsin
|Died||March 2, 1933 (aged 73)|
near Wilson, North Carolina
Thomas James Walsh (June 12, 1859 – March 2, 1933) was an American lawyer and Democratic Party politician from Helena, Montana who represented Montana in the US Senate from 1913 to 1933. For his first two terms, he was elected by the state legislature, as was the custom of the time, and in 1924 and after he was elected by popular vote, which was established by constitutional amendment.
Walsh was born in 1859 in the town of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, the son of Irish Catholic immigrants, Bridget (Comer) and Felix Walsh; his father was an active Democrat and was elected as a member of the local school board. He spent some time teaching in the public schools in Wisconsin.
Walsh graduated from University of Wisconsin–Madison and University of Wisconsin Law School and was admitted to the Wisconsin Bar. He moved to Redfield, Dakota Territory to practice law. In August 1889, he married Elinor McClements (1859-1917). They had a daughter, Genevieve, born in 1890.
Walsh became a leader in Democratic Party politics in Helena. He was defeated in the 1906 election for Congress. He was elected to the US Senate in 1912 by the state legislature, as was the practice at the time in most states. He was repeatedly re-elected, in 1924 and after by popular vote, and served until his death in 1933. He emerged as a spokesman for President Woodrow Wilson in the Senate and supported the graduated income tax, farm loans, and women's suffrage.
He managed Wilson's western campaign against Charles Evans Hughes, which resulted in Wilson's very narrow re-election in 1916. Unlike many Irish Catholics, who did not want the United States to ally with the United Kingdom, Walsh supported Wilson's foreign policy and voted for war against Germany in 1917. In 1919, he supported Wilson's peace plans and the League of Nations.
In 1918, he had run for re-election. In an unusual three-way election that included him, former State Representative Oscar M. Lanstrum as the Republican nominee, and US Representative Jeannette Rankin as the National Party nominee, narrowly won his second term.
When Walsh ran for re-election by popular vote (following a constitutional amendment establishing that) in 1924, he defeated Republican Frank Bird Linderman by a solid margin. In 1930, Walsh ran for re-election to what would be his fourth and final term in the Senate, and defeated Albert J. Galen in a landslide.
During his tenure in the Senate, Walsh gained fame for his legal ability in the Judiciary Committee and on the floor.
In the 1920s, Walsh headed the Senate investigation into the Teapot Dome scandal that involved top officials of the administration of President Warren G. Harding. He was chairman of the Democratic National Convention in New York in 1924 and in Chicago in 1932. Walsh opposed child labor and supported women's suffrage and, unlike most other Catholics, Prohibition. On December 18th, 1927 Senator Walsh introduced a plan to investigate the country's electric industry. The investigation done by the Federal Trade Commission would continue through 1935 and eventually result in four of the most important laws governing the electric industry in the 20th century including the breakup of most of the large holding companies that formed during the 1920s.
In 1933, Walsh was nominated for the post of Attorney General by incoming President Franklin Roosevelt. In late February, he secretly married Mina Nieves Perez Chaumont de Truffin, but less than a week later, he died of a heart attack on the train to Washington for Roosevelt's inauguration.
His funeral service was held in the Chamber of the United States Senate, and he was interned in Resurrection Cemetery, Helena.