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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, March 13, 1976. Interview A-0321-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Gore's arrival in Washington, D.C., and alliances with Sam Rayburn

Gore describes the beginning of his congressional career and how his eagerness to learn and participate led to his association with Sam Rayburn, the influential congressman from Texas who served as speaker of the house from 1940 to 1961 whenever the Democrats were in power. These opportunities contributed to his growing social consciousness.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, March 13, 1976. Interview A-0321-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

When you went to Washington early in 1939, was it strange to you, did you know Washington well, and what were your early reactions as a freshman congressman?
I didn't know it at all. I'm trying to answer your questions what my reactions were. It was all so new, so baffling. I had one anchor, Cordell Hull, who had known me in a very slight way because sitting under the trees I would sometimes ask a question as he talked to the group gathered around. At any rate, he had remembered my father, and I was from his home town, and there was an easy equation between us. I remember going to see him soon after arriving in Washington. He gave me this advice: stay on the floor and learn the rules. This stood me in very good stead because by staying on the floor, I learned the parliamentary procedures. I learned all of my four hundred and thirty-four colleagues by name, and I learned the parliamentary rules. Later, a knowledge of these parliamentary rules became very crucial in some very important events when I was able to use them to my advantage, sometimes crucially. So, I stayed on the floor, and I learned the rules and because I did so, William B. Bankhead, who was then Speaker, and later Sam Rayburn were, shall I say, drawn to me or I was available when they needed someone for a chore. And I became one of Rayburn's team-he nearly always had a team of about ten men considerably his junior-upon which he relied while presiding over the committee as a whole or undertaking a task when an important bill was up. So, I gradually advanced in my tenure in the House on the Rayburn team until, before I left, I suppose that only Jere Cooper, my colleague from West Tennessee, was called upon to preside over more difficult bills than I. Cooper was par excellent as a presiding officer and was older than I in the service, and he was topmost in Rayburn's group of presiding officers. But I think it would be fair to say that I was perhaps second ranked at the time I chose to leave the House and run for the Senate. I rose in the hierarchy of the House, had my ups and downs, opposed some of Roosevelt's programs, but grew in my dedication to the programs of reform, of social projects, egalitarian philosophy.
Can you date that growth more precisely-during the war, at a particular point, or was it a gradual development?
I'm inclined to think that it was gradual, that my social consciousness sharpened along with a keener awareness of national problems, and the social pressures and deprivations of the times. I learned quickly that the problems of the nation were not identical with the problems of my native Appalachia, that it was a bigger world, that the social mores of which I was a part were not necessarily those of the nation as a whole, that we were in a process of change, no longer primarily an agricultural nation. We were steadily becoming more and more an industrial and urban country and an urbanized society. So with the growing knowledge of the country and of the nation and its problems, I think I grew in my support of and my loyalty to the administration at the time.