MADISONVILLE, Ky. (3/26/13) – On Wednesday March 20, 2013, the Lions Club held a luncheon for Court of Appeals Judge Christopher Shea Nickell. Nickell did a presentation on the late Vice President Alben Barkley. “The reason I am going around our district this year talking about late U.S. Vice President Alben Barkley is that on November 24, 2012 marked the 135th anniversary of his humble birth here in Western Kentucky.”
Born in a log house in Graves County Kentucky on November 24, 1877, Willie Alben Barkley would later change his name more formally known as “Alben William Barkley.” Professionally referred to as “The Veep,” Alben Barkley coined that phrase when he was elected to serve as Harry S. Truman’s Vice President in 1949. The nickname came from his grandson who suggested abbreviating the cumbersome title “Mr. Vice President” by keeping the V and the P and sticking in two E’s in the middle. Barkley worked his way through college and learned his trade by “reading” law. In 1903 he married and began to raise a family. Two short years later he ran for the prosecuting attorney in McCracken County. He then ran for county judge in 1912 and at age thirty-five, he won a seat in U.S. House of Representatives. In 1926, Barkley won the nomination for the United States Senate. By the 1930s he became the assistant to Joseph T. Robinson for the Senate Democratic Leadership. In 1944, Barkley resigned as majority leader over a dispute after President Roosevelt vetoed a tax bill. However, he was unanimously reelected by the Senate Democratic Conference and Congress overrode the presidential veto. After the inauguration of 1949, Barkley was given a Congressional Gold Metal. At 74, Barkley withdrew as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president after a meeting with other organized labor leaders who felt he was too old to be a successful candidate.
“I’m travelling about to try and underscore his life and legacy, so we can learn from them and so perhaps our youth can be inspired by the life he led,” stated Nickell. He presented the Lions Club with a framed portrait of late Vice President Alben Barkley. He also distributed these frame portraits to various courthouses, public libraries, and public schools.
Nickell also expressed, “There are many lessons we can learn from his life. One, he rose from youthful poverty to public services in this nation’s highest offices, which teaches that one can rise above ones circumstances to serve others and achieve success. That present, a circumstance does not dictate future outcomes. Second, the importance of public service. Servicing fellow men, women and children, he selflessly served common man standing on principles of common good and commonwealth without feathering his own financial nest. He put people and principle ahead of his own personal position, power and ambition. Third, this lesson arises from the fact that Barkley didn’t reach his pentacle of his political career until he was 71 years of age. So, one is able to reach ones goal despite their age.”
In 1956, Alben William Barkley passed away after delivering his last speech at the Washington and Lee University but reminding his listeners that after 42 years in politics, that he had become a freshman once again and declining a seat in the front row with senior senators and declaring, “I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty.”
Photos Provided by Amber Mena
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