Theodore F. Green

Theodore F. Green
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
In office
January 3, 1957  January 3, 1959
Preceded by Walter F. George
Succeeded by J. William Fulbright
United States Senator
from Rhode Island
In office
January 3, 1937  January 3, 1961
Preceded by Jesse H. Metcalf
Succeeded by Claiborne Pell
57th Governor of Rhode Island
In office
January 3, 1933  January 5, 1937
Lieutenant Robert E. Quinn
Preceded by Norman S. Case
Succeeded by Robert E. Quinn
Member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born Theodore Francis Green
(1867-10-02)October 2, 1867
Providence, Rhode Island
Died May 19, 1966(1966-05-19) (aged 98)
Providence, Rhode Island
Resting place Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) none
Alma mater Brown University
Harvard Law School
University of Bonn
University of Berlin

Theodore Francis Green (October 2, 1867  May 19, 1966) was an American politician from Rhode Island. A Democrat, Green served as the 57th Governor of Rhode Island (1933–1937) and in the United States Senate (1937–1961). He was a wealthy aristocratic Yankee from an old family who was a strong supporter of Wilsonian internationalism during the Democratic administrations of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman (1933–53). Thanks to seniority he served briefly as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He set the record at age 92 of the oldest person to serve in the Senate; a record now held by J. Strom Thurmond.

Early years

Born in Providence, Rhode Island to Arnold Green, a lawyer, and Cornelia Abby Burges, Green was the eldest child in a family descended from colonists who arrived in Rhode Island with Roger Williams in 1636. He was the grandnephew of Samuel G. Arnold, another Rhode Island Senator. He graduated from Providence High School in 1883 and Brown University in 1887, receiving a Master of Arts degree from Brown in 1888. He attended Harvard Law School from 1888 to 1890 and studied at the University of Bonn and University of Berlin from 1890 to 1892. A lifelong bachelor, Green devoted himself to the law, politics, and civic, business, and cultural activities. Admitted to the Rhode Island Bar in 1892, he long practiced law, taking time during the Spanish–American War to serve in the Rhode Island Militia as a first lieutenant in command of a provisional infantry company. He served as president of J. P. Coats Company from 1912 to 1923 and Morris Plan Banker's Association from 1900 to 1929.[1]

Public service

Green began his career in public life in 1907 as a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. Active in Democratic Party politics as chairman of state committees and a delegate to Democratic National Conventions, he was an unsuccessful candidate for governor (1912, 1928, 1930) and the U.S. House of Representatives (1920). Party loyalty, perseverance, and the Great Depression won him election as governor in 1932. He served two terms (1933–1937).[2]

Before the General Assembly convened in January 1935, the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, but Republicans controlled the Senate by a margin of 22-20. To gain control of the Senate, Green's ally, Lt. Gov. Robert Quinn, who presided over the Senate, refused to allow two Republican senators who were certified as elected to take office. A committee of three senators was appointed to recount the ballots for these two races. Behind closed doors the committee reviewed the ballots and then unanimously proclaimed the Democrats as the winners. With the Senate in Democratic control, the General Assembly quickly reorganized state government and vacated the Supreme Court. A Providence Journal editorial likened it to a Central American “coup d’etat”.[3]


At the age of 69, Green was elected to the United States Senate in the Democratic landslide of 1936 and served four terms, retiring in 1961. Described as "the president's man", he was loyal to the Democratic presidents with whom he served and, to a larger extent than many other northern Democrats, to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican. Green vigorously supported domestic New Deal measures, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt's controversial "Court packing" bill in 1937, but that failed. He voted for the wages and hours and low-cost housing bills in 1937, and advocating farm and work relief, he sustained continuing appropriations for New Deal relief measures.[4]

As a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Green took a strong internationalist position in world affairs, especially regarding opposition to Nazi expansion in Europe. Green advocated expansion of the Navy and the Army, revision of the neutrality laws despite isolationist opposition, and passage of the Lend-Lease Bill, which in one of his many radio talks he called "Aid to America".[5]

During World War II Green vigorously objected to a proposal to exempt farm workers from the draft as a means to increase agricultural production and secured passage of a law releasing government-owned silver for war purposes. He supported a law providing for absentee voting for servicemen stationed in the United States and headed a Senate committee investigating violations of the Hatch Act. The committee reported in favor of repealing the law, But that proposal failed the face of conservative opposition.

Throughout his senatorial career Green supported civil rights legislation. He struggled to enact laws to ban the poll tax, to make lynching a federal crime, and to change Senate rules to make it easier to end filibusters. Consistently working closely with Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, he helped secure eastern liberal support for the Civil Rights Act of 1957. As the nation moved to the right at mid-century, Green retained his liberal faith, voting to uphold President Harry Truman's vetoes of the restrictive McCarran-Walter Immigration Bill of 1952 and the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950. During the McCarthy controversy, he voted for censure of his Republican colleague Senator Joseph McCarthy.[6]

For 20 of his 24 years in the Senate, Green served on the Foreign Relations Committee, beginning in 1938 and interrupted from 1947 to 1949. An early and steadfast internationalist committed to the United Nations, he stoutly sustained President Truman's Cold War initiatives, including the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and intervention in Korea. At the 1952 meeting of the UN General Assembly, to which Truman appointed him as a delegate, Green expressed his faith in the world organization as the "last great hope of mankind."[7] He stood with the minority of 31 senators who by one vote prevented the two-thirds majority necessary to pass an amendment initiated by Senator John W. Bricker to limit the president's powers in foreign policy.

In April 1943, a confidential analysis by British scholar Isaiah Berlin of the Foreign Relations Committee for the British Foreign Office succinctly characterized Green as:

a former Governor of his State, he is, for all his years, a typical "progressive" pro-New Deal businessman. While he is a man of limited intellect, he is right-minded to a degree and a completely reliable ally of the Administration. He is a free trader with a particular hatred of the "Silver Bloc" in the Senate.[8]

Though wary of reductions in foreign aid programs with the coming of the Eisenhower administration, Green was one of the few northern Democrats to support administration measures in the Republican-dominated Senate of the Eighty-third Congress. In the Eighty-fifth Congress (1957–1958) Green served as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He was a loyal ally of Democratic Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson.[9]


In 1959, with his health failing, the 92-year-old Green resigned his chairmanship; he left the Senate at the conclusion of his term in 1961. Green died in Providence, R.I. on May 19, 1966 at the age of 98. He was interred at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence.[10]



  1. Levine, Erwin Levine, Theodore Francis Green: The Rhode Island Years, 1906‑1936. (1963)
  2. Levine, Theodore Francis Green: The Rhode Island Years, 1906‑1936. (1963)
  3. January 1935 political events in Rhode Island,; accessed April 30, 2016.
  4. James A. Rawley, "Green, Theodore Francis" American National Biography Online (2000).
  5. David L. Porter, The Seventy-sixth Congress and World War II, 1939-1940 (University of Missouri Press, 1979), p. 105
  6. Erwin L. Levine, Theodore Francis Green: The Washington Years, 1937-1960 (1971) p 128.
  7. Rawley (2000)
  8. Hachey, Thomas E. (Winter 1973–1974). "American Profiles on Capitol Hill: A Confidential Study for the British Foreign Office in 1943" (PDF). Wisconsin Magazine of History. 57 (2): 141–53. JSTOR 4634869. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 21, 2013.
  9. Michael S. Mayer (2009). The Eisenhower Years. Infobase Publishing. pp. 261–62.
  10. Spencer, Thomas E. (1998). Where They're Buried: A Directory Containing More Than Twenty Thousand Names of Notable Persons Buried in American Cemeteries, with Listings of Many Prominent People who Were Cremated. Genealogical Publishing Com. p. 432.
  11. Crowley, Pat (September 6, 2010). "Let's change the name of TF Green Airport to 'Workers Memorial Airport'". Retrieved November 26, 2010.
  12. See Florence Markoff, "Theodore Francis Green"

Further reading

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Political offices
Preceded by
Norman S. Case
Governor of Rhode Island
Succeeded by
Robert E. Quinn
Preceded by
Walter F. George
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Succeeded by
J. William Fulbright
United States Senate
Preceded by
Jesse H. Metcalf
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Rhode Island
January 3, 1937 – January 3, 1961
Served alongside: Peter G. Gerry, J. Howard McGrath,
Edward L. Leahy, John O. Pastore
Succeeded by
Claiborne Pell
Honorary titles
Preceded by
George Pepper
Oldest living U.S. Senator
May 24, 1961 – May 19, 1966
Succeeded by
John Heiskell
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