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With all of the excitement over having the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives, I decided to come up with a new category: Dead Speakers of the House.

            I know it does not have the same lure as Dead presidents, but it's something new. I don't believe anyone has a list like this. Plus, the list is not as big as people may think. Nancy Pelosi of California became the 60th Speaker of the House. However, she is only the 52nd Speaker overall. If you elected to non-consecutive terms, they are counted separately. For example, Sam Rayburn is the 48th, 50th and 52nd Speaker of the House.

            Of those 53 Speakers of the House, six are still alive (Jim Wright, Tom Foley, Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner), which means that I have only 47 to get. To make it a bit easier, I had two already (one was a vice president and the other was a New Jersey governor).

            The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is the presiding officer of the House of Representatives. The position is elected in much the same way a prime minister is elected under a parliamentary system of government. According to the United States Presidential Line of Succession statute currently in effect, the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the U.S. Congress is second in line for succession to the presidency, after the Vice President of the United States and before the President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate. The Speaker of the House does not normally personally preside over debates, instead delegating the duty to other members of Congress. Aside from duties relating to heading the House and the majority political party, the Speaker also performs administrative and procedural functions and remains the Representative of his or her congressional district.

The Speakers who are in BOLD letters are the ones I have
The Speakers that are italicized are still living

Speaker

Party

State

Term as Speaker

Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg

Pro-Administration &
Anti-Adminstartion

Pennsylvania

April 1, 1789 to March 4, 1791 &
Dec. 2, 1793 to March 4, 1793

Jonathan Trumbull, Jr.

Federalist

Connecticut

Oct. 4, 1791 to March 4, 1793

Jonathan Dayton

Federalist

New Jersey

Dec. 7, 1795 to May 15, 1799

Theodore Sedgwick

Federalist

Massachusetts

Dec. 2, 1799 to March 4, 1801

Nathaniel Macon

Democratic-Republican

North Carolina

Dec. 7, 1801 to March 4, 1807

Joseph Bradley Varnum

Democratic-Republican

Massachusetts

Oct. 26, 1807 to March 4, 1811

Henry Clay

Democratic-Republican

Kentucky

Nov. 4, 1811 to Jan. 19, 1814 &
Dec. 4, 1815 to Oct. 28, 1820 &
Dec. 1 1823 to Mar. 4, 1825

Langdon Cheves

Democratic-Republican

South Carolina

Jan. 19, 1814 to March 4, 1815

John W. Taylor

Democratic-Republican
National-Republican

New York

Nov. 15, 1820 to Mar. 4, 1821 &
Dec. 5, 1825 to March 4, 1827

Philip Pendleton Barbour

Democratic-Republican

Virginia

Dec. 4, 1821 to March 4, 1823

Andrew Stevenson

Democratic

Virginia

Dec. 3, 1827 to March 4, 1833

John Bell

Democratic

Tennessee

June 2, 1834 to March 4, 1835

James Polk

Democratic

Tennessee

Dec. 7, 1835 to March 4, 1839

Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter

Democratic

Virginia

Dec. 16, 1839 to Mar. 4, 1841

John White

Whig

Kentucky

May 31, 1841 to Mar. 4, 1843

John Winston Jones

Democratic

Virginia

Dec. 4, 1843 to March 4, 1845

John Wesley Davis

Democratic

Indiana

Dec. 1, 1845 to March 4, 1847

Robert Charles Winthrop

Whig

Massachusetts

Dec. 6, 1847 to March 4, 1849

Howell Cobb

Democratic

Georgia

Dec. 22, 1849 to Mar. 4, 1851

Linn Boyd

Democratic

Kentucky

Dec. 1, 1851 to March 4, 1855

Nathaniel Prentice Banks

Republican & "Know-Nothings"

Massachusetts

Feb. 2, 1856 to March 4, 1857

James Lawrence Orr

Democratic

South Carolina

Dec. 7, 1857 to March 4, 1859

William Pennington

Republican

New Jersey

Feb. 1, 1860 to March 4, 1861

Galusha A. Grow

Republican

Pennsylvania

July 4, 1861 to March 4, 1863

Schuyler Colfax

Republican

Indiana

Dec. 7, 1863 to March 4, 1869

Theodore Medad Pomeroy

Republican

New York

March 3, 1869 to Mar. 4, 1869

James G. Blaine

Republican

Maine

March 4, 1869 to Mar. 4, 1875

Michael C. Kerr

Democratic

Indiana

Dec. 6, 1875 to Aug. 19, 1876

Samuel J. Randall

Democratic

Pennsylvania

Dec. 4, 1876 to March 4, 1881

J. Warren Keifer

Republican

Ohio

Dec. 5, 1881 to March 4, 1883

John Griffin Carlisle

Democratic

Kentucky

Dec. 3, 1883 to March 4, 1889

Thomas Brackett Reed

Republican

Maine

Dec. 2, 1889 to March 4, 1891 &
Dec. 2, 1895 to Mar. 4, 1899

Charles Frederick Crisp

Democratic

Georgia

Dec. 8, 1891 to March 4, 1895

David B. Henderson

Republican

Iowa

Dec. 4, 1899 to March 4, 1903

Joseph Gurney Cannon

Republican

Illinois

Nov. 9, 1903 to March 4, 1911

Champ Clark

Democratic

Missouri

April 4, 1911 to March 4, 1919

Frederick Gillett

Republican

Massachusetts

May 19, 1919 to Mar. 4, 1925

Nicholas Longworth

Republican

Ohio

Dec. 7, 1925 to March 4, 1931

John Nance Garner

Democratic

Texas

Dec. 7, 1931 to March 4, 1933

Henry T. Rainey

Democratic

Illinois

Mar. 9, 1933 to Aug. 19, 1934

Joseph Wellington Byrns

Democratic

Tennessee

Jan. 3, 1935 to June 4, 1936

William Brockman Bankhead

Democratic

Alabama

June 4, 1936 to Sept. 15, 1940

Sam Rayburn

Democratic

Texas

Sept. 16, 1940 to Jan. 3, 1947 &
Jan. 3, 1949 to Jan. 3, 1953 &
Jan. 3, 1955 to Nov. 16, 1961

Joseph William Martin Jr.

Republican

Massachusetts

Jan. 3, 1947 to Jan. 3, 1949 &
Jan. 3, 1953 to Jan.3, 1955

John McCormack

Democratic

Massachusetts

Jan. 10, 1962 to Jan. 3, 1971

Carl Albert

Democratic

Oklahoma

Jan. 21, 1971 to Jan. 3, 1977

Tip O'Neill

Democratic

Massachusetts

Jan. 4, 1977 to Jan. 3, 1987

Jim Wright

Democratic

Texas

Jan. 6, 1897 to June 6, 1989

Tom Foley

Democratic

Washington

June 6, 1989 to Jan. 3, 1995

Newt Gingrich

Republican

Georgia

Jan. 4, 1995 to Jan. 3, 1999

Dennis Hastert

Republican

Illinois

Jan. 6, 1999 to Jan. 3, 2007

Nancy Pelosi

Democratic

California

Jan. 3, 2007 to Jan. 3, 2011

John Boehner

Republican

Ohio

Jan. 3, 2011 to present

 

Dead Speaker Count

 
       
Have           Need
         
8          39

 

History of the Speaker of the House


                The office of Speaker is specifically created by the written text of the Constitution of the United States (Article I, Section 2). The first Speaker was Frederick Muhlenberg, who was elected when the House first assembled in 1789. The position of Speaker was not a very influential one, however, until the tenure of Henry Clay (1811–1814, 1815–1820, and 1823–1825). In contrast with many of his predecessors, Clay participated in several debates, and used his influence to procure the passage of measures he supported (for instance, the declaration of the War of 1812, and various laws relating to Clay's "American System"). Furthermore, when no candidate received an Electoral College majority in the 1824 presidential election causing the president to be decided by the House, Speaker Clay threw his support to John Quincy Adams instead of Andrew Jackson, thereby ensuring the former's victory.       

          After Clay's retirement in 1825, the power of the Speakership once again began to decline; at the same time, however, Speakership elections became increasingly bitter. As the Civil War approached, several sectional factions nominated their own candidates, often making it difficult for any candidate to attain a majority. In 1855 and again in 1859, for example, the Speakership contest lasted for two months before the House achieved a result. Speakers tended to have very short tenures; for example, from 1839 to 1863 there were eleven Speakers, only one of whom served for more than one term.

            Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the office of Speaker began to develop into a very powerful one. One of the most important sources of the Speaker's power was his position as Chairman of the Committee on Rules, which, after the reorganization of the committee system in 1880, became one of the most powerful standing committees of the House. Furthermore, several Speakers became leading figures in their political parties; examples include Democrats Samuel J. Randall, John Griffin Carlisle, and Charles F. Crisp, and Republicans James G. Blaine, Thomas Brackett Reed, and Joseph Gurney Cannon.

            The power of the Speaker was greatly augmented during the tenure of the Republican Thomas Brackett Reed (1889–1891 and 1895–1899). "Czar Reed," as he was called by his opponents, sought to end the obstruction of bills by the minority, in particular by countering the tactic known as the "disappearing quorum". By refusing to vote on a motion, the minority could ensure that a quorum would not be achieved, and that the result would be invalid. Reed, however, declared that members who were in the chamber but refused to vote would still count for the purposes of determining a quorum. Through these and other rulings, Reed ensured that the Democrats could not block the Republican agenda.

            The Speakership reached its apogee during the term of Republican Joseph Gurney Cannon (1903–1911). Cannon exercised extraordinary control over the legislative process; he determined the agenda of the House, appointed the members of all committees, chose committee chairmen, headed the Rules Committee, and determined which committee heard each bill. He vigorously used his powers to ensure that the proposals of the Republican Party were passed by the House. In 1910, however, Democrats and several dissatisfied Republicans joined together to strip the Speaker of many of his powers, including the ability to name committee members and chairmanship of the Rules Committee. Much—but not all—of the lost influence of the position was restored over fifteen years later by Speaker Nicholas Longworth.

            The middle of the twentieth century saw the service of one of the most influential Speakers in history, Democrat Sam Rayburn. Rayburn was the longest serving Speaker in history, holding office periodically from 1940 to 1961. He helped shape many bills, working quietly in the background with House committees. He also helped ensure the passage of several domestic measures and foreign assistance programs advocated by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Rayburn's successor, Democrat John William McCormack (served 1962–1971), was a somewhat less influential Speaker, particularly due to dissent from younger members of the Democratic Party.

            During the mid-1970s, the power of the Speakership once again grew under Democrat Carl Albert. The Committee on Rules ceased to be a semi-independent panel, as it had been since the Revolt of 1910; instead, it once again became an arm of the party leadership. Moreover, in 1975, the Speaker was granted the authority to appoint a majority of the members of the Rules Committee. Meanwhile, the power of committee chairmen was curtailed, further increasing the relative influence of the Speaker.

            Albert's successor, Democrat Tip O'Neill, was a prominent Speaker due to his public opposition to the policies of President Ronald Reagan. He challenged Reagan on domestic programs and on defense expenditures. Republicans made O'Neill the target of their election campaigns in 1980 and 1982; nevertheless, Democrats managed to retain their majorities in both years. The roles of the parties were reversed in 1994, when the Republicans regained control of the House after spending forty years in the minority. Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich regularly clashed with Democratic President Bill Clinton; in particular, Gingrich's "Contract with America" was a source of contention. Gingrich was ousted in 1998 when the Republican Party fared poorly in the congressional elections (although retaining a small majority); his successor, Dennis Hastert, played a much less prominent role.

            In the General Election of 2006, the Democrats won majority of the House. Nancy Pelosi hence became the Speaker (by a vote of 233-202 over the Republican challenger John Boehner) when the 110th Congress convened on January 4, 2007, making her the first female Speaker in the history of the United States.

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