Father of the Two-Ocean Navy
Carl Vinson was born on November 18, 1883 in Milledgeville, Georgia to farmers Edward Storey Vinson and Annie Morris Vinson. He attended Mercer University Law School in Atlanta, Georgia.
In 1914, because of a death in the US Senate, and the sitting Representative's desire to fill that vacancy, Vinson's district had an open seat, which he ran for and won. On November 3, 1914, at the age of 30, Carl Vinson took his oath of office as the youngest member of the United States Congress. He continued to represent the state of Georgia until he retired in January of 1965, serving 26 consecutive terms.
In his 50 years in the House of Representatives Vinson earned the respect and admirations of eight presidents and his congressional peers regardless of political affiliation. Vinson thought of himself as an American first, Democrat second, setting his aspirations for the betterment of the nation above those of his party.
In 1931 he became chairman of the House naval affairs committee. He worked to rebuild a substandard Navy, which had been grossly neglected after World War I. After nine years and only one Vinson-sponsored bill defeated in the House, the naval affairs committee merged with the military affairs committee to become the armed services committee, which Vinson served as chairman of for all but four years of the remainder of his career.
One such sponsored bill appropriated a billion dollars (1938) for the construction of a million and a quarter tons of war ships and 15,000 aircraft among other things. In July of 1940 President Roosevelt signed the Vinson-Trammel Naval Expansion Act, which has become known as the "Two-Ocean Navy" Act, into law. This naval expansion was done in the name of protecting American interests as things started to heat up in the Atlantic. As Vinson said, "I do not advocate a Navy to rule the waves, but I do believe our country has a tremendous responsibility in helping to preserve the freedom of the seas for peaceful commerce.... Our prosperity depends upon our ability to import raw materials and to export our produce and manufactured materials." However, the Japanese saw the new fleet as a threat to their plains in the South Pacific, which led to their preemptive strike on Pearl Harbor. But because of Vinson's groundwork, naval leaders were able to repel both the Japanese and German navies in the war to come.
Vinson helped create programs for the Air Academy, the Army Air Corps, the nuclear submarine, and the ICBM among many others in his 29 years as chairman of the House naval affairs and armed services committees.
On March 15, 1980, at the age of 96, he was honored with having the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier, named after him. This was quite extraordinary as it was the first time a living person had attended the christening of a US Navy ship named after him. However, he didn't live long enough to see her commissioned.
Vinson died June 1, 1981 at the age of 97 and was laid to rest at Memory Hill Cemetery in his home town of Milledgeville, Georgia