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William Warren Barbour
United States Senator
from New Jersey

In office
December 1, 1931 – January 3, 1937
Preceded by Dwight Morrow
Succeeded by William H. Smathers

In office
November 9, 1938 – November 22, 1943
Preceded by John G. Milton
Succeeded by Arthur Walsh
Personal details
Born (1888-07-31)July 31, 1888
Monmouth Beach, New Jersey
Died November 22, 1943(1943-11-22) (aged 55)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Republican

William Warren Barbour (July 31, 1888 – November 22, 1943) was an American Republican Party politician who represented New Jersey in the United States Senate from 1931 to 1937 and again from 1938 until his death in office in 1943. He was also a business leader and amateur heavyweight boxing champion in both the United States (1910) and Canada (1911).

Family background and early life[edit | edit source]

William Warren Barbour, the third of four brothers, was born in 1888 to Colonel William Barbour and his wife, Julia Adelaide Sprague, in Monmouth Beach, Monmouth County, New Jersey. His eldest brother, Thomas Barbour, a general naturalist and herpetologist, served as director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. His father, Colonel William Barbour, was founder and president of the Linen Thread Company, Inc., a thread manufacturing enterprise having much business on both sides of the Atlantic.[1]

William Warren Barbour attended the public schools, but ultimately graduated from the Browning School, New York City in 1906. He also entered Princeton University but left after one semester to join The Linen Thread Company, of which his father was president. William Warren Barbour became president of the company in 1917 when his father, "The Colonel", died.[2]

As a teenager, Barbour suffered from tuberculosis, which he overcame by intensive exercise and participation in sports. These athletic pursuits included boxing, which eventually led to his becoming amateur heavyweight boxing champion of the United States in 1910, when he defeated Joseph Burke, and Canada in 1911.[3]

Around this time, both Theodore Roosevelt and "Gentleman Jim" Corbett wanted him to take up the mantle of "the great white hope" and fight Jack Johnson, the reigning professional heavyweight champion.[4] While the idea apparently appealed to Barbour and his father, his mother was adamantly opposed and firmly quashed the plan. While Barbour never continued with a professional boxing career, he did serve as timekeeper for the Jack DempseyJess Willard fight in 1919.[5]

Militarily, he served as a member of the New York National Guard for ten years, being stationed on the Mexican border in 1916, and attaining the rank of captain. In 1921, he married Elysabeth Cochran Carrere, a union which gave rise to three children and ten grandchildren.[6] Soon after his marriage, Barbour entered the political arena, serving as a member of the Rumson Borough Council in 1922 and as mayor of Rumson from 1923–1928.

Political career and opposition to the Holocaust[edit | edit source]

By 1930, Barbour and his family took their house in Locust Point, Monmouth County, N.J., as their official residence, while also maintaining a home in New York City. Barbour continued his work in various industrial enterprises, primarily including the family thread manufacturing business, of which he was president. On December 1, 1931, New Jersey Governor Morgan F. Larson appointed Barbour, a Republican, to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy created by the death of Dwight W. Morrow.

The appointment was confirmed the following year when he was narrowly elected to the U.S. Senate on November 8, 1932, with 49% of the vote, in a year when more than half of the Republican incumbents running for the Senate were defeated when Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Party won in a landslide. He served in the Senate until January 3, 1937. After completing Morrow's unfinished term, Barbour was unsuccessful in his 1936 reelection bid. For the next two years, he resumed his former pursuits, including service as a member of the New Jersey unemployment compensation commission in 1937. Barbour regained his Senate seat on November 8, 1938, when he was elected to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of A. Harry Moore. Popularly elected to the office in 1940 after completing Moore's term, he served as U.S. Senator from New Jersey until his death in 1943.

The plight of victims of Nazi genocide stirred Barbour deeply. In April 1943, along with many other Congressmen and Senators, Barbour may have attended a performance of We Will Never Die, a pageant written by Ben Hecht and produced by the Bergson Group to commemorate two million European Jews who had already been murdered.[7] In the fall of 1943, he was one of a small group of senators and congressmen who, together with the vice president, met with 400 rabbis who marched with the Bergson Group in Washington in 1943, shortly before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. It was hoped their march would encourage the United States government to take a formal stand against the Holocaust. While President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not meet with the rabbis, Senator Barbour, along with a handful of Congressional colleagues, met them on the steps of the United States Capitol and expressed his commitment to their cause.[8]

On October 14, 1943,[9] barely a week after meeting with the rabbis, and despite strong public and political opinion against allowing further immigration to the United States, Barbour introduced a bill that would have permitted as many as 100,000 victims of the Holocaust "who are now being persecuted either because of racial or religious belief" to come to America and to remain in the United States as visitors for the duration of the war.[10] This would have been a significant change from the existing policy limiting immigration to only 2% of the number of their countrymen who had been in the United States as of the 1890 Census.[8]

Barbour's death just a few weeks later in November 1943, prevented him from working toward passage of the bill. His support of the rabbis, however, and his subsequent actions in the Senate did much to increase political and public awareness of and compassion for the victims of the Nazi genocide.[8]

Death and burial[edit | edit source]

Senator Barbour died of a cerebral hemorrhage on November 22, 1943 at age 55 at his home in Washington, D.C.[11] He is buried with his parents and a brother, Robert Barbour, at Cedar Lawn Cemetery in Paterson, New Jersey. Divorced at the time of his death, he was survived by three children and, subsequently, ten grandchildren.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Barbour, Our Families 1, p. Barbour-14
  2. Barbour, Our Families 1 p. Barbour-21
  3. Barbour, Our Families 1, p. Barbour-21
  4. Time, Inc.
  5. Barbour, Our Families 1, p. Barbour-21; Time, Inc.
  6. Barbour, Our Families 2, p. Addenda I-2
  7. "We Will Never Die: Shattering the Silence Surrounding the Holocaust", United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Holocaust Encyclopedia, accessed December 6, 2006 (While the article indicates more than 200 members of Congress attended the performance in Washington, D.C., it makes no mention of Barbour in particular.)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Davis S. Wyman Institute
  9. New York Times (NYT)
  10. New York Times (NYT); Davis S. Wyman Institute
  11. Barbour, Our Families 1 p. Barbour-22; excluding statistics re. 1932 election

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Barbour, William Warren at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

United States Senate
Preceded by
Dwight W. Morrow
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from New Jersey
Served alongside: Hamilton F. Kean, A. Harry Moore
Succeeded by
William H. Smathers
Preceded by
John G. Milton
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New Jersey
Served alongside: William H. Smathers, Albert W. Hawkes
Succeeded by
Arthur Walsh
Party political offices
Preceded by
Dwight W. Morrow
Republican Nominee for the U.S. Senate (Class 2) from New Jersey
1932, 1936
Succeeded by
Albert W. Hawkes
Preceded by
Hamilton F. Kean
Republican Nominee for the U.S. Senate (Class 1) from New Jersey
1938, 1940
Succeeded by
Howard Alexander Smith

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