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Rivers, L. Mendel

Rivers, L. Mendel (1905–1970), South Carolina congressman and House Armed Services Committee chairman.Rivers, raised in poverty, was a lawyer with the U.S. Justice Department during the depression. In 1940, he began a thirty‐year career representing Charleston, South Carolina, and surrounding counties in the U.S. House. He was a member of the Armed Services Committee for most of that time, serving as chairman from 1965 until his death. Rivers was an enthusiastic proponent of a strong military and was unmistakably “hawkish” in the political debates of the Cold War. He was unrestrained in his advocacy of increased military expenditures and the use of American power, including support for all‐out prosecution of the Vietnam War.

Rivers's constituents were well rewarded with a large number of military bases placed in his district. At the height of his career, at least one‐third of all income in the First District came from the military and defense‐related industries. Critics labeled his efforts “pork barrel” politics with little regard for actual national security needs.

Rivers was a traditional segregationist, though the onetime Dixiecrat had reconciled with the national Democratic Party by the time he became Armed Services chairman.

Bibliography

Will F. Huntley , Mighty Rivers of Charleston. Ph.D. diss., University of South Carolina, 1993.
Marion Rivers Ravenel , Rivers Delivers, 1995.

Luther Faggart

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