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John Elliott Rankin Collection

Identifier: M333

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of correspondence, speeches, campaign materials, magazine articles, newspaper clippings, and other items relating to John E. Rankin's service in the U.S. House of Representatives


  • 1932-1964


Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

John Elliott Rankin served sixteen terms (March 4, 1921 - January 3, 1953) as Mississippi's First District Representative in the United States House of Representatives. During his tenure, he coauthored (with George Norris of Nebraska) a bill to create the Tennessee Valley Authority, and was dubbed the "father of rural electrification" for his efforts. He served as chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and authored a bill that raised soldiers' pay from $30 to $50 per month. After World War II, he helped shape the G. I. Bill of Rights. Rankin was among the first to recognize the potential of a Tennessee-Tombigbee Inland Waterway, and in 1946, he guided passage of a bill authorizing a feasibility study of the project. In addition, he was instrumental in making the House Committee on Un-American Activities a permanent committee.

Congressman Rankin was an economic liberal, and an ardent supporter of the New Deal, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He has also been described as a racial demagogue, who championed states' rights and white supremacy. A lifelong Democrat, Rankin served as a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions of 1932, 1936, and 1940. In 1947, Rankin ran for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Sen. Theodore G. Bilbo, but was defeated by John C. Stennis.

In 1952, Mississippi lost one of its congressional districts, due to decline of population reflected in the 1950 census. The First and Fourth Districts were combined, and the two incumbents - John Rankin and Thomas G. Abernethy - faced each other in a winner-take-all election. The election was won by Abernethy, thus ending the political career of the lawmaker from Mississippi who was described by his peers as "mild in appearance, but a fire-eater in word and deed." Mr. Rankin considered the Tennessee Valley Authority and his House Un-American activities his greatest accomplishments.

Following his career in government, Mr. Rankin returned to the practice of law, and also had interests in farming and real estate.

John Elliott Rankin was born on March 29, 1882, near Bolanda, in Itawamba County, Mississippi. He attended local elementary and high schools, and graduated from the University of Mississippi Law School in 1910.

Rankin set up his first law practice in West Point, Mississippi in 1910, but moved to Tupelo the following November and continued his practice there. He served as prosecuting attorney of Lee County from 1911-1915. In addition to his legal duties, he offered his services as a lecturer and a newspaper writer. During World War I, he served in the United States Army.

Mr. Rankin died on November 26, 1960, at his home in Tupelo. He is interred in Greenwood Cemetery, West Point, Mississippi. He was survived by his wife, Annie Laurie Burrous Rankin whom he married in 1919, and a daughter, Annie Laurie Rankin Sanders.


.25 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



Letters, speeches, publications of Mississippi Congressman Rankin.


The largest part of the collection is a series of correspondence from Rankin to Tom White Crigler, Jr., postmaster of Macon, Mississippi. These letters discuss such topics as Rankin's favorite projects; campaigns for re-election; recommendations for government jobs; and recommendations to West Point Military Academy. Rankin frequently requested that Crigler send him lists of voters in his district, and always asked that the names of men and women voters be placed on separate lists. Attached to a letter dated June 13, 1944 is a copy of a speech in which Rankin denounced a union strike in the defense industries.

Congressman Rankin's speeches provide insight into his political persona, while newspaper and magazine articles proffer the media's perception of him.

This collection should be of particular interest to researchers studying political figures of the first half of the twentieth century.


Transferred from the Mississippiana Collection.

Related Materials

Theodore G. Bilbo Papers, M2

William M. Colmer Papers, M24

John Elliott Rankin Collection
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001