Thomas Terry Connally (1877-1963) spent his career in government as a progressive New Dealer and Southern Democrat who fought against America's long tradition of isolationism in foreign affairs.
Connally was born on August 19, 1877, to Jones and Mary Ellen Connally on the family farm in McLennan County, Texas, just north of Waco. His father, Jones, was a Confederate War veteran, and Tom himself briefly served in the U.S. Army during the Spanish American War. In 1898, he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his law degree, and then won election to the state House of Representatives in 1900 and 1902. Connally decided not to run for a third term, but married Louise Clarkson in 1904 and practiced law in Marlin, Texas, for several years. In 1906, he took on the role as prosecuting attorney in Falls County, Texas, a position that he held for four years, while building his political ties in the region.
In 1916, Connally ran a successful campaign to represent that Eleventh District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. Despite his youth and inexperience, he was placed on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and quickly demonstrated his legislative skills. Later, in 1928, he ran against U.S. Senator Earle B. Mayfield, a representative of the Ku Klux Klan, and won a coveted seat in the upper house of the legislature.
As a member of the Democratic Party, Connally served in the U.S. Senate from 1929 to 1953. He was an outspoken supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, and brought home many relief projects for his constituents in Texas. Connally parted with the president over his infamous Court Packing Plan of 1937, however, and later led the Southern filibuster against the federal anti-lynching bill.
During his time in the Senate, Connally played an instrumental role in guiding America’s through World War II and the early Cold War. For example, he supported the Cash and Carry Act of 1939, the Lend Lease Act of 1941, and other measures during World War II to help American forces abroad. Then, Connally signed the United Nations Charter on behalf of the United States, participated in the implementation of the Marshall Plan, played a key role in the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and worked to prevent the UN International Criminal Court from interfering in U.S. domestic affairs.
Despite Connally's success, he decided against running for office in 1952 because the Texas state attorney general, M. Price Daniel Sr., linked him to the unpopular Truman Administration. Connally continued to practice law in Washington, however. He died in 1963 and was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Marlin, Texas.