Title

Republican, First, Last, and Always: A Biography of B. Carroll Reece

Date of Award

8-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

History

Major Professor

Robert J. Norrell

Committee Members

Lorri Glover, Stephen V. Ash, Anthony Nownes

Abstract

From 1920 to 1961, B. Carroll Reece served a then unprecedented thirty-five years in the United States House of Representatives. Reece grew up in the povertystricken area of eastern Tennessee, one of thirteen children. He attended college at Carson-Newman College and New York University but felt called to enlist in the army during World War I. He earned numerous commendations for his service and returned to the United States with an increased animosity towards communism. He returned to education, but an opportunity presented itself for Reece to fulfill his dream of entering politics. He ran for and won the First District seat in the House of Representatives in 1920. During his tenure, his hatred of communism and devotion to the Republican Party led him to become a central figure in the debates over the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, nitrate plants, the 1946 congressional elections, and the 1954 Special Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations. Reece’s loyalty to Robert Taft and his conservative stance on international involvement, communism, and economics influenced the decision of the Republican Party to name him chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1946. He resigned this position after he was unable to use his influence to secure the presidential nomination for Taft, but he remained devoted to Taft and Taft’s desire to become president. After Taft’s death, Reece turned his attention more fully on the crusade to eradicate communism within the United States and its government. He led an investigation into large foundations for fostering subversion through their grants to leftist organizations and universities. Although this did coincide with his conservative ideology, Reece had begun to see the decline in power of the “Old Guard” faction of the Republican Party and strove desperately to prevent liberals from taking over the party. The investigation garnered much condemnation, and its report became widely criticized within Congress. His investigation contributed to the increasing animosity towards foundations and large concentrations of wealth that continues today. Reece maintained his position that communism posed a threat to the security of the nation and the Republican Party until his death in 1961.

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