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Carter Glass (January 4, 1858 – May 28, 1946) was a newspaper publisher and Americanmarker politician from Lynchburgmarker, Virginiamarker. He served many years in Congress with the Democratic Party. He was a key figure in developing the U.S. legislation which created the system of Federal Reserve Banks, and then served as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under President Woodrow Wilson. He was also a strong advocate of disfranchising African-American voters, saying "Discrimination! Why that is exactly what we propose. To remove every negro voter who can be gotten rid of, legally, without materially impairing the numerical strength of the white electorate".

Youth, education, early career

Carter Glass was born in Lynchburg, Virginiamarker, the fifth of twelve children. His mother, Augusta Elizabeth (née Christian) Glass, died in 1860, when he was only 2 years old and his sister, Nannie, ten years older, was his surrogate mother. His father, Robert Henry Glass, owned the Lynchburg Daily Republican, a newspaper and was also the postmaster of Lynchburg.

The American Civil War (1861-1865) broke out when Carter was 3 years old. His father initially worked to try to help keep Virginia from seceding. However, after the state did so, Robert Henry Glass served, initially in the Virginia forces in 1861, and then with the Confederate Army where he was a major on the staff of Brigadier General John B. Floyd, a former Governor of Virginia. Carter's father survived the Civil War, although 18 of his mother's relatives did not.

In poverty-stricken Virginia during the post-War period, young Carter received only a basic education. He became an apprentice printer to his father when he was 13 years old. Although no longer in school, young Carter continued his education through reading. His father kept an extensive library. Among the works he read were those of Plato, Edmund Burke and William Shakespeare. This would stimulate an intellectual interest in Glass which would be life-long. His formative years as Virginia struggled to resolve a large pre-War debt were to help mold his conservative fiscal thinking, much as it did others of Virginia's political leaders of his era.

When Carter Glass was 19 years old, he moved with his father to Petersburgmarker. However, when he failed to obtain a desired job as a newspaper reporter in Petersburg, he returned to Lynchburg, where he went to work for former Confederate General William Mahone's Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad (AM&O) at the company headquarters. Glass became a clerk in the auditor's office at the railroad, which was in receivership, from 1877 to 1880. Several years later, under new owners, the railroad was to become the Norfolk and Western (N&W), with headquarters relocated to Roanokemarker. However, by then, Glass had returned to work in the newspaper industry.
Photographic portrait of Carter Glass as a young man

At the age of 22, he finally became a reporter, a job he had long sought, for the Lynchburg News. He rose to become the newspaper's editor by 1887. The following year, the publisher retired and offered Glass the first option to purchase the business. Desperate to find financial backing, Glass received the unexpected assistance of a relative who loaned Glass enough to make a down payment of $100 on the $13,000 deal, and Glass became an editor and publisher.. Free to publish whatever he wished, Glass wrote bold editorials and encouraged tougher reporting, and the morning paper had increased sales. Soon, Glass was able to acquire the afternoon Daily Advance, to buy out the competing Daily Republican and to become the only newspaper publisher in Lynchburg. The modern-day Lynchburg News and Advance is the successor publication to his newspapers.

Early politics

As a prominent and respected newspaper editor, Carter Glass often supported candidates who ran against Virginia's Democrats of the post-Reconstruction period, who he felt were promoting bad fiscal policy. In 1896, the same year his father died, Carter Glass attended the Democratic National Convention as a delegate, and heard William Jennings Bryan speak. [77109] He was elected to the Virginia State Senate in 1899, and was a delegate to the Virginia constitution convention of 1901-1902. He was one of the most influential members of the convention, which imposed a poll tax and a literacy test in order to disenfranchise African Americans, but which also instituted measures associated with the Progressive movement, such as the establishment of the State Corporation Commission to regulate railroads and other corporations, replacing the former Virginia Board of Public Works.

Congress, Secretary of the Treasury

Glass was elected to United States House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1902, to fill a vacancy. In 1913, he became Chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Currency, where he worked with President Woodrow Wilson, a fellow Virginian, on the Federal Reserve Act. In 1918, Wilson appointed him Secretary of the Treasury, succeeding William Gibbs McAdoo. His signature as Secretary of the Treasury can be found on series 1914 Federal Reserve Notes, issued while he was in office. He served in that role until 1920, when he was appointed to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Virginia's senior senator, Thomas Staples Martin.

Martin had been widely regarded as the head of Virginia's Democratic Party, a role filled during the 1920s by Harry Flood Byrd of Winchester, another Virginia newspaperman who shared many of Glass' political views and headed the political machine of Conservative Democrats known as the Byrd Organization which dominated Virginia's politics until the 1960s. In 1933, Byrd became Virginia's junior Senator, joining Glass in the Senate after former Governor and then-senior U.S. Senator Claude A. Swanson was appointed as U.S. Secretary of the Navy by President Franklin Roosevelt. Both Glass and Byrd were opposed to Roosevelt's New Deal policies. Each was a strong supporter of fiscal conservatism and state's rights while representing Virginia in Congress. Glass and Byrd invoked senatorial courtesy to defeat Roosevelt's nomination of Floyd H. Roberts to a federal judgeship, as part of a greater conflict over control of federal patronage in Virginia.

Carter Glass served in the U.S. Senate for the remainder of his life, turning down the offer appointment as Secretary of the Treasury from President Roosevelt in 1933. When the Democrats regained control of the Senate in 1933, Glass became Chairman of the Appropriations Committee He was President pro tempore from 1941 to 1945. As a Senator, Glass's most notable achievement was passage of the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated the activities of banks and securities brokers and created FDIC insurance.

Family, decline, death

Carter Glass had married Aurelia McDearmon Caldwell, a school teacher, when he was age 28. They had four children. She died of a heart ailment in 1937. [77110] A widower, Glass remarried in 1940 at the age of 82. His second wife, Mary Scott, was his constant companion as his health began to fail in the next few years. Living together at the Mayflower Hotelmarker Apartments in Washington, D.C., starting in 1942, he began suffering from various age-related illnesses, and he did not attend Senate meetings after that time. However, he refused to resign despite many requests to do so, and even kept his committee chairmanship. Many visitors were also kept from him by his wife. [77111]

Glass died in Washington, DCmarker, on May 28, 1946 of congestive heart failure. He is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery, Lynchburg, VAmarker.

"Montview", also known as the "Carter Glass Mansion", was built in 1923 on his farm, which was then outside Lynchburg in Campbell Countymarker. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now serves as a museum on the grounds of Liberty Universitymarker within the expanded city limits of Lynchburg, an independent city. The front lawn of "Montview" is the burial site of Dr. Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty Universitymarker.[77112]

The Virginia Department of Transportation's Carter Glass Memorial Bridgemarker was named in his honor in 1949. It carries the Lynchburg bypass of U.S. Route 29, major north-south highway in the region, across the James River between Lynchburg and Amherst Countymarker. [77113]

A Chair in the department of Government, currently held by Dr. Barbara A. Perry, was created in his honor at Sweet Briar Collegemarker.

Additional reading

  • Biographical Dictionary of the United States Secretaries of the Treasury, 1789-1995 By Bernard S. Katz, C. Daniel Vencill, Greenwood Press

  • Carter Glass: A Biography By Rixey Smith, Norman Beasley (1939) republished by Ayer Company Publishers, ISBN 0836954467


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