Morris Sheppard (1875-1941) served as a Democratic Congressman and United States Senator from Texas. He authored the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlawed the production or consumption of alcoholic beverages, and introduced it in the U.S. Senate. As a result, he is commonly referred to as the “father of national Prohibition.”
Born on May 28, 1875, John Morris Sheppard grew up on his family’s farm near Wheatville in Morris County, Texas. His father, John Levi Sheppard, served as a district attorney, district judge, and member of the United States House of Representatives from 1898 to 1902. The elder Sheppard had a profound influence on his son, and led Morris to pursue a career in politics.
As a young man, Morris Sheppard attended schools in the East Texas towns of Pittsburg, Daingerfield, Cumby, and Linden. After graduating high school, he completed both a baccalaureate and law degree at the University of Texas at Austin, before attaining a further master of laws degree from Yale University in 1898. From that time until 1902, he practiced law in his father’s firm in Pittsburg and Texarkana, Texas.
Following his father’s death, Sheppard launched a successful campaign for his former congressional seat in 1902. Having secured the position, he moved to Washington D.C. and began a decade-long career as the representative of Texas’ Fourth Congressional District in the U.S. House. Based on this experience and his reputation as “one of the most entertaining public speakers of his era,” Sheppard then won election in 1912 to the U.S. Senate. Taking office there in 1913, he remained in the upper house of the national legislature for the next twenty-eight years.
During his long political career as a Progressive Democrat, Sheppard served under Democratic presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Early in his career, he worked for women’s suffrage and wrote legislation to ban the sale of alcohol, which was ratified in 1918 as the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Sheppard also served on several important committees in Congress, including agriculture, forestry, commerce, and immigration. To recognize his support for the New Deal, the Works Progress Administration and the Brazos River Authority named the Morris Sheppard Dam on Possum Kingdom Lake in his honor.
In 1941, Sheppard died from a brain hemorrhage, while serving in office. He was laid to rest just forty miles northeast of Naples, Texas, in Hillcrest Cemetery.