Alben W. Barkley

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Alben William Barkley (November 24, 1877 – April 30, 1956) was an American politician who served as the 35th Vice President of the United States from 1949 to 1953 under President Harry S. Truman.

Prior to the Vice Presidency, Barkley served in the U. S. Senate from Kentucky for over twenty years, and was Majority Leader of that body from 1937 to 1947.


Early life and career

Barkley was born Willie Alben Barkley in a log cabin near Lowes, Graves County, Kentucky. His parents, John Wilson Barkley and Electra Eliza (Smith) Barkley, were deeply religious tenant farmers. He graduated from Marvin College in 1897, where he excelled in speech and debate. He worked his way through college with a full-time janitorial job. Barkley later attended Emory College, in Oxford, Georgia. He was a member of Delta Tau Delta Social Fraternity, graduated in 1900, and then attended the University of Virginia School of Law. It was during this time that he legally changed his name from "Willie Alben" to "Alben William."

Barkley was admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1901 and commenced practice in Paducah, Kentucky. He was the prosecuting attorney for McCracken County from 1905 to 1909 and judge of McCracken County Court from 1909 to 1913. He built a reputation as a progressive who sided with the farmers more than the townspeople. His energetic, folksy campaigning and strong oratorical skills made him a power in the local Democratic party. He defeated three opponents in the 1912 congressional primary, won the Congressional election, and became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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