Joseph Gurney Cannon

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Joseph Gurney Cannon (May 7, 1836 – November 12, 1926) was a United States politician from Illinois and leader of the Republican Party. Cannon served as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1903 to 1911, and historians generally consider him to be the most dominant Speaker in United States history, with such control over the House that he could often control debate. Cannon is the second-longest continuously serving Republican Speaker in history, having been surpassed by fellow Illinoisan Dennis Hastert, who passed him on June 1, 2006. He was also the first Congressman to surpass 40 years of service (non-consecutive), ending his career with 48 years of cumulative congressional service, a record that held until 1958. He was the subject of the first Time cover.


Early life

He was born in Guilford, Guilford County, North Carolina, and in 1840 moved with his parents to Annapolis, Indiana, about 30 miles north of Terre Haute, Indiana. He was the elder of two sons of Gulielma (née Hollingsworth) and Horace Franklin Cannon, a country doctor.[1] Horace Cannon drowned August 7, 1851 when Joseph was fifteen years old as he tried to reach a sick patient by crossing Sugar Creek. Young Cannon took charge of the family farm. His brother William would become a successful banker and realtor.

Asked by Terre Haute politician and lawyer John Palmer Usher, future Secretary of the Interior under President Abraham Lincoln, to testify in a slander case, Cannon became fascinated with the law. Eventually, he asked Usher if he could study law under him and moved to Terre Haute. At age 19 he traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio to attend a semester of law school at the University of Cincinnati law school.

In 1858, he was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Terre Haute, Indiana but was disappointed when Usher refused to offer him a place in his office. That year he relocated to Tuscola, Illinois. His choice of a new hometown was somewhat involuntary, taking place whilst he was travelling from Shelbyville, Illinois, to Chicago to find more clients for his law firm. During the trip, he ran out of money. He boarded a Chicago-bound train in Mattoon, Illinois; after the train had started, he was asked for his ticket. Because Cannon did not have a ticket, he was removed from the train in Tuscola.[2] There, he became State's attorney for the twenty-seventh judicial district of Illinois, holding the position from March 1861 to December 1868. He was one of the charter members of Tuscola's Masonic Lodge No. 332, which was founded on October 2, 1860.[3] In 1876 moved to Danville, Illinois, where he resided the rest of his life. He and his wife Mary P. Reed, whom he married in 1862, had two daughters.

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