The Movement Comes of Age
Senator Morris Sheppard

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Senator Morris Sheppard

Morris Sheppard was one of the leading Prohibitionists in the nation. Born on a farm near Wheatsville in 1875, Sheppard was drawn to politics from an early age. His father was a district attorney, judge, and U.S. Congressman. Sheppard earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas and a law degree from Yale, then practiced law in Pittsburg, Texas, and Texarkana before entering politics. In 1902 he was elected to Congress to replace his recently deceased father.

Sheppard was a populist and a friend of William Jennings Bryan. He soon won national renown as an orator and traveled the nation raising money for his fellow Democrats with rousing and entertaining speeches. Sheppard consistently advocated populist and progressive policies, including antitrust, child labor laws, prohibition, and women's suffrage.

In 1913 he won the Senate seat vacated by Joseph Weldon Bailey. Sheppard was a notable success in the Senate, working closely with his fellow Democrats and President Woodrow Wilson on tariff issues, resolving problems on the Mexican border, and on war preparedness as the nation headed into World War I. In 1917 he used his political skills to get a prohibition amendment passed through Congress and sent out to the states for ratification. By 1919 the amendment had been ratified and prohibition became the law of the land.

In later years, Sheppard continued to work for progressive causes and laid much of the groundwork in Congress for the passage of the New Deal. He was a staunch supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt except on the issue of prohibition, which was repealed at the beginning of FDR's term in 1933. Sheppard shared Roosevelt's views on foreign affairs as well and worked for increased defense spending and the passage of Selective Service and Lend-Lease. He died of a brain hemorrhage in 1941. General Douglas MacArthur later said that Sheppard had been the first casualty of World War II.

Senator Morris Sheppard, Prints and Photographs Collection, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. #1/102-510.

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Page last modified: August 24, 2011