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John James "Jim" (Jimmy) Exon (August 9, 1921 – June 10, 2005) was an Americanmarker Democratic politician. He served as the Governor of Nebraska from 1971 to 1979, and as a U.S. Senator from Nebraskamarker from 1979 to 1997. Exon was a Nebraska Democrat who never lost an election. He was elected and re-elected governor in 1970 & 1974, elected to the Senate in 1978, and re-elected in 1984 and 1990. He is the only Nebraskan besides George Norris, the architect of Nebraska's unicameral legislature, to win five consecutive statewide elections.

Early career

Exon was born in Geddes, South Dakotamarker, in 1921 and attended the University of Omahamarker between 1939 and 1941. During World War II, Exon served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

After the war, he worked as the branch manager of a financial services institution. He founded Exon Office Supplies in Lincoln in 1953 and served as its president until 1971. In 1972, when Standard Oil Co. changed its name to Exxon, it asked Gov. Exon (whose name rhymes with "Texan") for his permission. He received no financial remuneration from the company.

He started his political career as a precinct worker for the Democrats. In 1964, he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention for Nebraska and served as a delegate for that state in every convention between 1972 and 2004. He served as a member of the Nebraska Democratic State Central Committee between 1964 and 1968 and was a member of the Democratic National Committee from 1968 to 1970. Exon was Chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party in 1970 when he decided to run for Governor.

Governor of Nebraska 1971–1979

Exon's first bid for public office was his successful campaign for the Governor of Nebraska defeating incumbent Republican Norbert Tiemann. The term of the Governor was extended to four years before the election. He was re-elected in a landslide in 1974 and became the first Nebraska Governor to serve eight years in that position.

His repeated vetoes of the legislature's spending programs earned Exon the reputation as a fiscal conservative. He vetoed 141 bills in his final seven years as Governor or an average of 20 a year. Due to his ability to control expenditure and his reluctance to raise taxes, Exon won the support of many Nebraskans who normally voted Republican.

Senator from Nebraska 1979–1997

1979, Congressional Pictorial Directory
1995, Congressional Pictorial Directory
Exon's popularity as Governor carried over to his 1978 campaign to be elected as a US Senator as he was elected with 68 per cent of the vote. He had a reputation as a moderate Senator often working with Republicans on fiscal and military issues. While serving on the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, Exon was a strong defender of the B-2 stealth bomber.

In 1984, Exon had the closest election in his political career due to the popularity of President Reagan, eventually winning re-election by 25,000 votes. He was re-elected again in 1990.

He helped sponsor the Exon-Florio Amendment, which prevented takeovers or mergers by foreign companies, of US companies, if said merger was found to be a threat to National Security.

Exon helped to write and secure support for a spending reduction in the US budget of $14 billion in 1994, which he stated was his proudest political achievement. His Communications Decency Act of 1996 was Congress's first effort to try to censor content on the Internet with the goal of preventing minors accessing pornography. It was later overturned by a unanimous US Supreme Court as an unconstitutional infringement of the First Amendment.

Final Years 1997–2005

After his retirement, Exon served on a Committee established by Congress and led by John M. Deutch on the threat of weapons of mass destruction. In the report, Exon warned of the dangers if such weapons fell into the hands of terrorists and recommended the formation of an agency with a similar role to the Department of Homeland Securitymarker.

He was treated for cancer in the last years of his life, although he claimed in 2003 that it wasn't "highly malignant". Exon died of natural causes in Lincoln, Nebraskamarker on June 10, 2005. He was the first person to lie in state for public viewing in the rotunda of the State Capitol buildingmarker.


External links

Further reading

  • Duane Hutchinson, Exon: Biography of a Governor Foundation Books 1973 ISBN 0-934988-01-3

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