Kenneth S. Wherry

Kenneth Wherry
Senate Minority Leader
In office
January 3, 1949  November 29, 1951
Deputy Leverett Saltonstall
Preceded by Alben W. Barkley
Succeeded by Styles Bridges
Senate Majority Whip
In office
January 3, 1947  January 3, 1949
Leader Wallace H. White Jr.
Preceded by J. Lister Hill
Succeeded by Francis Myers
Senate Minority Whip
In office
January 3, 1943  January 3, 1947
Leader Charles L. McNary
Wallace H. White Jr.
Preceded by Felix Hebert (1935)
Succeeded by Scott Lucas
United States Senator
from Nebraska
In office
January 3, 1943  November 29, 1951
Preceded by George W. Norris
Succeeded by Fred Seaton
Personal details
Born (1892-02-28)February 28, 1892
Liberty, Nebraska, U.S.
Died November 29, 1951(1951-11-29) (aged 59)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Marjorie Colwell
Children 1 son
1 daughter
Education University of Nebraska, Lincoln (BA)
Harvard University
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1917–1918
Unit Flying Corps
Battles/wars World War I

Kenneth Spicer Wherry (February 28, 1892  November 29, 1951) was an American businessman, attorney, and politician.[1] A member of the Republican Party, he served as a U.S. Senator from Nebraska from 1943 until his death in 1951; he was the minority leader for the last two years.

Early life

Wherry was born in Liberty, Nebraska, to David Emery and Jessie (née Comstock) Wherry.[2] He received his early education at public schools in Pawnee City, and graduated from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln (where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity) in 1914.[3] From 1915 to 1916, he studied business administration at Harvard Business School.[2] During World War I, he served in the U.S. Navy Flying Corps (1917–18).[4]

Following his military service, Wherry began a business career selling automobiles, furniture, and livestock; he was also a licensed undertaker with offices in Nebraska and Kansas.[2] He also studied law and, after being admitted to the bar, entered private practice in Pawnee City.[4]

Political career

Wherry entered politics as a member of Pawnee City's city council, serving in 1927 and 1929.[3] He was the mayor from 1929 to 1931, simultaneously serving as a member of the state senate from 1929 to 1932.[3] Wherry was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in 1932 and for U.S. Senator in 1934.[2]

In 1938, Wherry was again elected mayor of Pawnee City, serving until he left for Washington and the U.S. Senate.[3] He was chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party from 1939 to 1942, and Western Director for the Republican National Committee from 1941 to 1942.[4]

U.S. Senator

In 1942, Wherry was elected to the U.S. Senate, unseating incumbent George W. Norris. He was reelected in 1948 and served until his death. He served as Republican whip from 1944 to 1949 and minority leader from 1949 to 1951. He was also one of the few postwar politicos to see the plight of the defeated Germans. "The American people should know once and for all that as a result of this government’s official policy they are being made...accomplices in the crime of mass starvation...Germany is the only nation subjected to a deliberate starvation policy..."

In 1945, Wherry was among the seven senators who opposed full U.S. entry into the United Nations.[5]

Wherry also backed, with Senator Homer Capehart of Indiana, legislation for building military family housing in the post-World War II era, when there were critical shortages of such housing.

Wherry was the unsuccessful leader in the fight to block the Marshall Plan in Congress in early 1948. Congress, under the control of conservative Republicans, agreed to the program itself and the funding for multiple reasons. The 20-member conservative isolationist wing of the party was led by Wherry. He was outmaneuvered by the internationalist wing, led by Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg. Wherry and his men argued that it would be "a wasteful "operation rat-hole"; that it made no sense to oppose communism by supporting the socialist governments in Western Europe; and that American goods would reach Russia and increase its war potential. Vandenberg admitted there was no certainty that the plan would succeed, but said it would halt economic chaos, sustain Western civilization, and stop further Soviet expansion. Senator Robert A. Taft, The most prominent conservative, hedged on the issue. He said it was without economic justification; however it was "absolutely necessary" in "the world battle against communism." In the end only 17 senators voted against it on 13 March 1948[6]

Wherry was openly opposed to homosexuals, telling Max Lerner in a 1950 interview that "You can't hardly separate homosexuals from subversives" and "But look Lerner, we're both Americans, aren't we? I say, let's get these fellows [closeted gay men in government positions] out of the government."[7] He also publicized the fear that Adolf Hitler had given Joseph Stalin a list of closeted homosexuals which he believed Stalin would use to blackmail them into becoming Soviet spies.[8]

Wherry died in Washington in 1951 at age 59, while serving as Republican Floor Leader. Recovering from abdominal surgery a few weeks earlier, he felt ill and was admitted to George Washington University Hospital and died of pneumonia several hours later.[1]

Incidentally, the fifteenth Senate term for Nebraska's Class 2 seat, which lasted from January 3, 1949 to January 3, 1955, was unusual in that it saw six Senators serve; Wherry was the first of these.

See also


  1. 1 2 "GOP 'wheel' Wherry succumbs at 59". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. November 30, 1951. p. 1.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Kenneth S. Wherry". Nebraska State Historical Society.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "WHERRY, Kenneth Spicer, (1892 - 1951)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  4. 1 2 3 "Kenneth S. Wherry". Pawnee County History.
  5. "UNO Bill Approved By Senate, 65 to 7, With One Change". The New York Times. December 4, 1945. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  6. John C. Campbell, The United States in World affairs: 1947-1948 (1948) pp 500-505; quotes on pages 504, 505.
  7. Lerner, Max, The Unfinished Country: A Book of American Symbols Simon and Schuster, 1959 pp 313–316
  8. Von Hoffman, Nicholas, Citizen Cohn Doubleday, 1988, pp 130
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
George William Norris
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Nebraska
January 3, 1943 November 29, 1951
Served alongside: Hugh A. Butler
Succeeded by
Fred Andrew Seaton
Preceded by
Felix Hebert
Rhode Island
(Position vacant 19351943)
Senate Minority Whip
January 3, 1943 January 3, 1947
Succeeded by
Scott W. Lucas
Preceded by
J. Lister Hill
Senate Majority Whip
January 3, 1947 January 3, 1949
Succeeded by
Francis Myers
Preceded by
Alben W. Barkley
Senate Minority Leader
January 3, 1949 November 29, 1951
Succeeded by
Styles Bridges
New Hampshire
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert G. Simmons
Republican nominee for
U.S. Senator from Nebraska

1942, 1948
Succeeded by
Dwight Griswold
Preceded by
Felix Hebert
Rhode Island
(Position vacant 19351943)
Senate Republican Whip
January 3, 1943 January 3, 1949
Succeeded by
Leverett Saltonstall
Preceded by
Wallace H. White, Jr.
Senate Republican Leader
January 3, 1949 November 29, 1951
Succeeded by
Styles Bridges
New Hampshire
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