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Carl Vinson (November 18, 1883 – June 1, 1981) was a United Statesmarker Representative from Georgiamarker. He was a Democrat and the first person to serve for more than 50 years in the United States House of Representatives.

Early years

Vinson was born in Baldwin County, Georgiamarker, attended Georgia Military College, and graduated with a law degree from Mercer Universitymarker in 1902. He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1908. After losing a third term following redistricting, he was appointed judge of the Baldwin Countymarker court, but following the sudden death of Senator Augustus Bacon, Representative Thomas W. Hardwick of Georgia's 10th Congressional District was nominated to fill Bacon's Senate seat and Vinson announced his candidacy for Hardwick's seat in Congress. Vinson won over three opponents. He was the youngest member of Congress when he was sworn in on November 3, 1914.

Service in Congress

Vinson served as a Representative from November 3, 1914, to January 3, 1965. During his tenure in the U.S. House, Vinson was a champion for national defense and especially the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. He joined the House Naval Affairs Committee shortly after World War I and became the ranking Democratic member in the early 1920s. He was the only Democrat appointed to the Morrow Board, which reviewed the status of aviation in America in the mid-1920s. In 1931, Vinson became chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee. In 1934, he helped push the Vinson-Trammell Act, along with Senator Park Trammell of Floridamarker. The bill authorized new warships as they were required by the age limits of the naval limitation treaties (Washington Naval Treaty, 1922 and London Naval Treaty, 1930) and appropriations to build the USN to its Treaty limits. This was necessary as during the previous Administration, not a single major warship was laid down and the US Navy was both aging and losing ground to the Japanese Navy, which would repudiate the Treaties in late 1934. He later was primarily responsible for additional naval expansion legislation, the Second Vinson Act of 1938 and the Third Vinson Act of 1940, as well as the Two-Ocean Navy Act of 1940. The ambitious program called for by this series of laws helped the U.S. Navy as the country entered World War II, as new ships were able to immediately match the latest ships from Japanmarker.

Following World War II, the House Naval Affairs Committee was merged with the Military Affairs Committee to become the House Armed Services Committee (this consolidation mirrored the creation of the Department of Defensemarker when the old Departments of War and of the Navy were consolidated). With Republicans winning control of Congress in the 1946 election, Vinson served as ranking minority member of the committee for two years before becoming Chairman in early 1949. He held this position, with the exception of another two-year Republican interregnum in the early 1950s, until his retirement in 1965. In this role, Vinson adopted a committee rule that came to be known as the "Vinson rule." Accordingly, each year junior members of the committee could ask only one question per year of service on the committee. As chairman, Vinson oversaw the modernization of the military as its focus shifted to the Cold War. He oversaw the procurement of the first nuclear-powered aircraft carriers starting with the USS Enterprisemarker in the late 1950s.

A staunch segregationist, in 1956, Vinson signed "The Southern Manifesto."

Vinson did not seek re-election in 1964 and retired from Congress in January 1965. He returned to Baldwin County, Georgiamarker where he lived in retirement until his death.

Personal

In recognition of his efforts on behalf of the U.S. Navy, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was named for him, the USS Carl Vinson; Vinson became one of a handful of living Americans to have a Navy vessel named for them. On March 15, 1980, at age 96, he attended the ship's launching.

Vinson Massifmarker, Antarctica's highest mountain, is also named after him.

Carl Vinson served 26 consecutive terms in the U.S. House, rarely running against significant opposition. He served for 50 years and one month, a record that stood until 1994, when the mark was surpassed by Jamie L. Whitten of Mississippimarker.

For his commitment to Duty, Honor, Country, Vinson was awarded the prestigious Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United States Military Academymarker. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson awarded Vinson the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Special Distinction, the highest award the President can give to a civilian.

Vinson did not have children, but his grandnephew, Sam Nunn, served as a Senator from Georgia for 25 years. Nunn followed in his granduncle's footsteps, serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee for nearly his entire tenure in the Senate.

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