The Original Dr. No: Durward G. Hall of Missouri

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1960 was a very close election year and in some ways reminiscent of 2020: a Catholic Democrat defeated a Republican for the presidency and Republicans made gains in the House. One of these gains was from the traditionally Republican district centered in Springfield, Missouri. In 1956, longtime Representative Dewey Short had lost reelection due to a drought and this came along with Eisenhower losing the state, but in 1960 Republicans won back the district for good and their man was Dr. Durward G. Hall (1910-2001).

Hall quickly became known as one of the most conservative men in Congress, with Senator Barry Goldwater thinking of him as the only person more conservative than himself. He accumulated sky-high yearly scores from Americans for Constitutional Action and bottom-of-the-barrel ones from Americans for Democratic Action. His lifetime MC-Index score is a 99%, while his DW-Nominate score is a 0.796, only being outdone on conservatism on this scale during his time in Congress by H.R. Gross of Iowa and John G. Schmitz of California. In 1971, he was one of only seven representatives to have had a “perfect” voting record by Americans for Constitutional Action’s standards. As he was a doctor by profession, his colleagues called him “Dr. No” for his unwavering opposition to spending bills. Like his ideological ally H.R. Gross of Iowa, Hall was a strong critic of what he deemed “wasteful spending”. On his target list were pork barrel projects and he found no use for government funding of the arts. Hall voted against arts funding and in 1967 he criticized the government for funding a study of comic strips and in response to a defense of such funding he stated that he liked comic strips, and added in a commentary about crime, “If more members of the Supreme Court read Dick Tracy regularly, and became aware of the growing crime rate in America, perhaps we would not have some of the decisions which have created such a flourishing climate for the rising crime rate” (Science 1967).  In 1965, he led the opposition to Medicare with fellow Missouri Republican Thomas B. Curtis, with Hall stating, “at no time during the week this bill was drafted, were the Nation’s doctors asked to contribute to the deliberations” and considered this to be “the most brazen act of omission ever committed on a piece of major legislation” (Twight, 331).

On civil rights, Hall backed the 24th Amendment which banned the poll tax, supported the final version of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 after voting against the original version, and voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1967, which was aimed primarily at stopping racial violence. However, in accordance to his limited government views, he opposed measures that covered the private sector, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. He voted for the Equal Rights Amendment after voting for an amendment that would exempt sex-specific labor protections from its coverage. Hall also was a strong backer of the Vietnam War and as a member of the Armed Services Committee he sided with hawkish chair Mendel Rivers (D-S.C.) as well as his equally hawkish successor F. Edward Hebert (D-La.).

Hall’s conservatism didn’t let up for President Richard Nixon as it did quite a few Republicans, as he opposed continuations of Great Society programs and opposed the administration’s Family Assistance Plan, which would have provided guaranteed minimum income for working families. He decided not to run for reelection in 1972, but he has successors for the honorary title of “Dr. No” including former Representative Ron Paul of Texas and the late Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

References

Bresee, J. (2001). Ashcroft? The Road to Theocracy? Against the Current.

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Conservative Group Says 9 in Congress Score 100%. (1972, February 7). The New York Times.

Rosenbaum, D.A. (1971, April 13). A Cooking Timer Replaces the Iron Hand on Key House Panel. The New York Times.

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Science (1967, March 10). Funnies on Capitol Hill, Vol. 155, Issue 3767, pp. 1222.

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/155/3767/1222

Twight, C. (1997). Medicare’s Origin: The Economics and Politics of Dependency. Cato Journal, 309-338.

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