In 1916, Woodrow Wilson pulled off a narrow reelection against Republican challenger Charles Evans Hughes, and with this victory Joseph J. Mansfield (1861-1947) was elected as well. Mansfield, like many other Texans in his day, was elected as a Wilsonian progressive. He faced adversity when in 1921 he developed a serious illness which left him bedridden for months and as a consequence was rendered paraplegic, forcing him to use a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. However, he soldiered on and was a frequent foe of the economic policies of the Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover Administrations. In 1931, with Democrats elected to a majority in Congress, Mansfield became chair of the Rivers and Harbors Committee.
Congressman Mansfield was one of multiple Texans who found themselves in great positions of power thanks to the seniority system, which as I have written before, benefited no state more than Texas in the 20th century. In this post, he supported increases in funding for river and harbor projects and was a strong supporter of federal flood control legislation, given that Texas has its 862-mile Colorado River. Mansfield was successful in his efforts to dam this river, and this dam is known as the Mansfield Dam. However, he was not exempt from the increasingly rightward drift Texans were undergoing by FDR’s second term. During FDR’s first term, his MC-Index averaged a 4%, second, 28%, and third, 60%. He was a bit more conciliatory to Truman than third-term FDR, but by 1947, Mansfield had lost his committee chairmanship due to the Republicans winning control of Congress in the 1946 midterms, was 86 years old, and his health was in decline. The end came in Bethesda Naval Hospital on July 5th of that year. His lifetime MC-Index score was a 23%.
Flachmeier, W.A. Mansfield, Joseph Jefferson (1861-1947). Texas State Historical Association.
The Mansfield Family. Nesbitt Memorial Library.