(1877-1956)

Harry S Truman's vice president, 1949-1953, and the first person to be known as the Veep.

A Kentuckian politician, Barkley changed his name from William Alben to Alben William; he said at one point that he thought it would have been difficult for him to succeed in politics with a nickname like "Willie". His grandson provided a better nickname for him: "the Veep". The name stuck to Barkley and, to a lesser extent, his office; Richard Nixon declined to use the term during his tenure in that position, saying that it belonged to Alben Barkley. A mere fifty years later, many Americans know the word veep but have never heard of the man for whom the word was coined.

His long career as a public servant began in the early 1900s, when he was a judge, and took him to the House of Representatives, the Senate, and finally the mansion of the Vice President. He then rejoined the Senate and served three more years before making a memorable exit.

Giving a speech at Washington and Lee University, Barkley mentioned that he had forsaken his seniority when he rejoined the Senate as a freshman. He said:

"I am glad to sit on the back row,
for I would rather be a servant in the house of the Lord
than to sit in the seats of the mighty."

During the ovation that followed, Alben Barkley got his wish; the Senate web site uses the phrase "dropped dead", but Barkley was never too fond of Republicans, either.

SOURCES:
http://www.senate.gov/learning/stat_vp35.html,
http://www.senate.gov/learning/min_6d.html,
http://www.uky.edu/libraries/special/mpa/barkley.wav (his famous last words)

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