Born to poor tenant farmers in a log cabin in Graves County, Kentucky, Alben Barkley (1877-1956) rose to achieve a national political stature equaled by few of his contemporaries. His memorable public career ranged from the Progressive era to the early years of the Cold War, and he witnessed or influenced many of the key events of the twentieth century. Eventually elected vice president of the United States on the ticket with Harry S. Truman in 1949, Barkley possessed a candid demeanor and social skills that helped him become one of the most popular politicians of his day.
In Alben Barkley: A Life in Politics, James K. Libbey offers the first full-length biography of this larger-than-life personality, following Barkley in his transition from local politician to congressman, then senator, senate majority leader, vice president, and senator once again. A loyal Democrat, Barkley was instrumental in guiding Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs through Congress. He later took on a key role in managing domestic policy as the president became more and more immersed in World War II.
Libbey also reveals Barkley's human side, from his extremely humble beginnings to his dramatic and chilling final speech at Washington and Lee University in 1956, when he said, "I would rather be a servant in the house of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty," delivering the legendary quote moments before succumbing to a massive heart attack. A significant contribution to American history, this definitive biography offers a long overdue look at the "Iron Man" of politics.
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JAMES K. LIBBEY is professor emeritus at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the author of Alexander Gumberg and Soviet-American Relations, 1917-1933 (University Press of Kentucky, 1977); Dear Alben: Mr. Barkley of Kentucky (University Press of Kentucky, 2009); American-Russian Economic Relations, 1770s-1990s (Regina, 1989); and Soviet-American Documents, Vol. 5, The Cold War Begins, 1946-1949 (Academic International Press, 2006). He lives in St. Augustine, Florida.
"Libbey has offered a much-needed overview of Alben Barkley's life and career, as well as a window into the emergence of modern America." -- The Journal of Southern History "A significant and timely biography of an important figure in American history." -- Florida Times-Union "With thorough research and sound judgment, James K. Libbey has given Barkley the biography he deserves, and the book certainly has much to teach readers who are interested in the many aspects of American politics and foreign policy that intersected with the lengthy and consequential career of one of Kentucky's most important public figures." -- Ohio Valley History "In this favorable biography James Libbey has tapped an array of manuscripts and oral histories to provide an authoritative account of an exceptional political leader." -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society "Libbey leaves no stone unturned as he paints a detailed and vivid portrait of a man few in the modern era know much about. If you are looking for a biography that will both stir your imagination as well as renew your faith in the ability of one person to truly make a difference, this is probably one you'll want to put by your nightstand. I recommend it highly." -- Bowling Green Daily News "In a clear, concise and well-documented account, Libbey traces the 50-year career of the congressman through the U.S. House and Senate and two world wars to the nation's second highest office under President Harry Truman." -- Georgia-Times Union "There is much to commend in Libbey's sympathetic treatment of Barkley.... Libbey's new biography has new twists." -- Journal of the Jackson Purchase Historical Society "A definitive biography of a major political leader who has been unaccountably neglected by historians. Alben Barkley is a significant contribution to historical scholarship." -- Nelson Dawson, former editor of the Filson Club History Quarterly and the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society "This book is an essential piece of Kentucky political history." -- Kentucky Libraries "The new biography is a good read and not just for political junkies." -- Paducah Sun "Libbey presents the life of a man who worked to accomplish change through collaboration and was able to confront political differences without divisiveness. Alben Barkley illuminates the life of an iconic Kentucky politician who embodies the ideal of service to country, even after ascending to the second highest position." -- Broadway World "Libbey's book is highly readable, informative, well researched, and it vividly captures the man and his times." -- Charles C. Hay III, archivist emeritus, Eastern Kentucky University
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