Thruston Ballard Morton

Thruston Ballard Morton
United States Senator
from Kentucky
In office
January 3, 1957  December 16, 1968
Preceded by Earle C. Clements
Succeeded by Marlow W. Cook
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 3rd district
In office
January 3, 1947  January 3, 1953
Preceded by Emmet O'Neal
Succeeded by John M. Robsion, Jr.
Personal details
Born (1907-08-19)August 19, 1907
Louisville, Kentucky
Died August 14, 1982(1982-08-14) (aged 74)
Louisville, Kentucky
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Alma mater Yale University
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Service/branch United States Naval Reserve
Battles/wars World War II

Thruston Ballard Morton (August 19, 1907 – August 14, 1982), a Republican, represented Kentucky in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate.

Early life

Morton was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to David Morton and his wife, Mary Ballard, descended from pioneer settlers of the area. He had a brother, Rogers Clark Ballard Morton, who also became a politician (as discussed below), and a sister, Jane, who survived him. He attended local public schools then the Woodberry Forest School before he entered Yale University. He received a B.A. there in 1929.

Morton then worked in the family business, Ballard & Ballard Flour Milling, becoming its chairman of the board before the company was sold to the Pillsbury Company.

A lifelong Episcopalian, he married Belle Clay Lyons and was survived by their two sons, Clay Lyons Morton and Thruston Ballard Morton Jr, and five grandchildren.

His brother, Rogers Clark Ballard Morton, represented Maryland in the US House of Representatives from 1963 through 1971, when he became Secretary of the Interior in the administration of Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford and Secretary of Commerce under Ford, before heading Ford's re-election campaign in 1976.

US House of Representatives

After naval service in World War II, Morton defeated incumbent Democrat Emmet O'Neal in 1946 for his native Louisville area, 61,899 votes to 44,599. He served three terms in the House, from January 3, 1947 to January 3, 1953.

Assistant Secretary of State

After leaving the House, Morton served as Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations[1] in the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, garnering support for Eisenhower's foreign policy.

US Senate

In 1956, Morton, by a very narrow margin, defeated incumbent Democratic United States Senator Earle C. Clements, a former Kentucky governor and minority leader in the Senate, by 506,903 votes to 499,922. Morton was re-elected to a second term in the Senate in 1962, defeating the Democratic lieutenant governor and former mayor of Louisville, Wilson W. Wyatt.

Morton served from January 3, 1957 until his resignation, on December 16, 1968. He vacated the seat a few weeks early to allow his successor, Marlow Cook, a fellow Republican with similar views, to gain an edge in seniority.

In the Senate, Morton was considered a moderate and voted, along with his Republican colleague John Sherman Cooper and most other Republicans, for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A compromise that Morton proposed to guarantee jury trials in all criminal contempt cases except for voting rights proved, with the assistance of Senators Everett Dirksen and Bourke Hickenlooper, crucial in passing that Civil Rights Act.[2]

Morton was the chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1959 to 1961 and chaired the Republican National Convention of 1964.

When Morton resigned, he surprised many, who considered him at the peak of his political power. However, he opposed the Vietnam War despite being criticized by Representative William Cowger. Also, he was both depressed by the urban violence after the deaths of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and disappointed in his party's failure to address the broader social issues. He also ultimately counseled Lyndon Johnson to decline to seek re-election, and he supported the unsuccessful presidential candidacy of Nelson Rockefeller.

Morton is interviewed in the 1968 documentary film In the Year of the Pig, and another interview is available through the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library.[3]

Final years, death and legacy

After his retirement from the Senate, Morton served as vice chairman of Liberty National Bank in Louisville, president of the American Horse Council, and chairman of the board of Churchill Downs, and he served as one of the directors of the University of Louisville, Pillsbury Company, Pittston Company, Louisville Board of Trade, Texas Gas Company, R.J. Reynolds Company, and the Ohio Valley Assembly.

Morton died after many years of declining health. His brother Rogers Morton had died three years previously, and his wife, Belle, survived him by more than a decade.[4] His papers are held by Louisville's Filson Historical Society, which his grandfather had revitalized.[5] The Kentucky Digital Library has a collection of his speeches.[6]


United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Emmet O'Neal
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
John Marshall Robsion, Jr.
Government offices
Preceded by
Jack K. McFall
Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs
January 30, 1953 – February 25, 1956
Succeeded by
Robert C. Hill
United States Senate
Preceded by
Earle C. Clements
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Kentucky
January 3, 1957 – December 16, 1968
Served alongside: John Sherman Cooper
Succeeded by
Marlow W. Cook
Party political offices
Preceded by
Meade Alcorn
Chairman of the Republican National Committee
Succeeded by
William E. Miller
Preceded by
Barry Goldwater
Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
Succeeded by
George Murphy
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