Smith, Howard Worth

(1883-1976)
   Born in Virginia, Howard Smith graduated from Bethel Military Academy in 1901 and Virginia Law School in 1903. He had his own legal practice from 1904 to 1917 and during World War I was an assistant general counsel to the Alien Property Custodian. After the war, he served as commonwealth attorney of Alexandria, Virginia; judge on the corporation court of Alexandria until 1928; and judge on the judicial circuit of Virginia from 1928 to 1930. In 1930, Smith was elected as a Democratic congressman to the U.S. House of Representatives. He became a member of the House Rules Committee in 1933. A typical states’ rights Democrat, Smith was one of the conservative bloc in Congress that opposed much of the New Deal. President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to have him unseated in the “purge of 1938” but failed. In 1939, he was one of the leaders of the investigation that attacked the National Labor Relations Board and in 1940 was the sponsor of the Smith Act—also known as the Alien Registration Act—aimed at radical groups. During the war, he cosponsored the Smith-Connally Act—also known as the War Labor Disputes Act. From 1955 onward, Smith was a powerful influence as chair of the House Committee on Rules and worked to block increases in social security, housing reform, and civil rights legislation. He inserted a clause requiring equal opportunity for women in the 1965 Civil Rights Act. Some historians have claimed that it was a deliberate attempt to jeopardize the act, while others have pointed to Smith’s history of support for women’s rights and see it as a genuine move on his part. In 1966, he was defeated for renomination and resumed his private legal practice in Alexandria.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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