Carl Vinson committed his long career in the U.S. House of Representatives to the defense and security of our nation. A Georgia native, he served as a congressman for 25 consecutive terms, the longest tenure in U.S. history, and helped pass significant legislation to bolster the U.S. Navy and Air Force. He was the youngest member of Congress when he was sworn in on November 3rd, 1914, only days before his 32nd birthday. By the time he retired in 1964, he had become one of the most powerful members of the House and one of the most influential voices for U.S. military preparedness. As chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, Vinson contributed significantly to the growth of U.S. sea and air power and left behind a lasting imprint of public service.
On November 18th, 1883, Carl Vinson was born in Georgia’s former state capitol, Milledgeville. One of seven children, he grew up on a farm and from an early age showed promise as a public speaker and politician. Shortly after graduating Mercer Law School in 1902, he served two terms in the Georgia General Assembly before running for Congress several years later. His congressional career spanned both world wars and multiple Cold War conflicts. He firmly believed peace could only be secured and maintained if the United States was prepared to defend against any possible risk to that peace. To that end, Vinson advocated for legislation to bolster the U.S. Armed Services.
When Congress was in session, Vinson and his wife, Mary Green, lived in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Vinson always came home at 4:30 in order to share with Mary the day's work and news. When Congress was in recess, Vinson and his wife returned to their farm house in Milledgeville. Sadly, Mary died prematurely in 1949 after a long battle with a terminal illness that crippled her during the last years of her life. Although Carl and Mary never had biological children, they had a close relationship with his many nieces and nephews as well as one of his political aides, Charles Tillman Snead Jr., whom they considered to be like a son.
After serving in Congress for 50 years, Vinson announced his retirement in 1964. He left D.C. quietly, on Christmas Day by way of train, weeks before his announced departure. He spent his retirement in his hometown of Milledgeville but remained busy, frequently acting as an adviser to presidents and government officials who came to him with national security issues. In retirement, Vinson received numerous awards and honors for his time in office including the Presidential Medal of Honor. Vinson passed away in Milledgeville on June 1st, 1981 at the age of 97. Shortly after his death, the University of Georgia renamed its Institute of Government after him in order to honor his lifelong commitment of service to his country.
Locations for Journey
Journey Postscript*The words bolded throughout Vinson's tour are those defined in the glossary for the accompanying Georgia Journeys Teacher's Guide.
Cook, James F. "Carl Vinson (1883-1981)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 21 February 2018. Web. 12 July 2019.
Cook, James. Carl Vinson: Patriarch of the Armed Forces. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2004.
Landrum, Susan. Carl Vinson: A Legacy of Public Service. Athens, GA: Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia, 2002.