La Follette, Robert M., Jr.
LA FOLLETTE, ROBERT M., JR.
Robert Marion ("Young Bob") La Follette, Jr., (February 6, 1895–February 24, 1953) was a prominent United States senator from Wisconsin. He replaced his illustrious father upon the latter's death in 1925 and was succeeded by another famous political figure, Joseph R. McCarthy, in 1947. During twenty-two years in Congress, La Follette became known as a hardworking legislative craftsman who was devoted to Senate tradition, gaining respect from colleagues and journalists. He and his younger brother, Wisconsin Governor Philip La Follette, carried on the La Follette progressive tradition in Wisconsin and dominated state politics during the 1930s.
La Follette attended the University of Wisconsin for two years, but health problems prevented him from graduating. He served as his father's chief aide in the Senate from 1919 until 1925, when, at the age of thirty, he became the youngest Senator since Henry Clay. Inheriting his father's progressive instincts, he emerged during the late 1920s as a major critic of conservative Republican policies and one of a group of liberal-minded Midwestern politicians referred to as the "sons of the wild jackass." During the Great Depression La Follette became a leading advocate of federal spending for public works and relief for the unemployed and a spokesman for national economic planning.
Though he often cooperated with the Roosevelt administration during the early New Deal, La Follette frequently criticized the president for moving too timidly in addressing the nation's social and economic problems. He played a major role in passing relief, public works, and tax legislation. In 1934, he somewhat reluctantly went along with the formation of a new state Progressive party, deserting the Republicans, and winning reelection to the Senate that fall. Between 1936 and 1940, as chairman of the La Follette Civil Liberties Committee, he investigated activities of businesses and other groups that were inhibiting labor's right to organize, earning considerable publicity for his efforts. A staunch isolationist before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, La Follette backed the war effort once the country entered World War II, becoming an early critic of the country's wartimeally the Soviet Union. Out of politics after 1947, La Follette died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1953.
Auerbach, Jerold S. Labor and Liberty: The La Follette Committee and the New Deal. 1966.
Johnson, Roger T. Robert M. La Follette, Jr., and the Decline of the Progressive Party in Wisconsin. 1964.
La Follette Family Papers. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Maney, Patrick J. "Young Bob" La Follette: A Biography of Robert M. La Follette, Jr., 1895–1953, 2nd rev. edition. 2002.
John E. Miller