Joe Cannon

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Joe Cannon' (Joseph Gurney Cannon, 1836 - 1926) was a powerful Republican Congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House from 1903–1911, preceding James Beauchamp Clark and succeeding David Henderson. He served 23 terms representing rural Illinois.

"Uncle Joe," as he was called, was a leader of the conservative wing of the Republican Party, and he kept President Theodore Roosevelt in check when the president veered left. Cannon worked well with conservative Republican President William Howard Taft.

Progressives led by George Norris in 1910 revolted against his strong rule as Speaker, and replaced some of the Speaker's power with a seniority system to choose powerful committee and subcommittee chairmen. Power in the House then went to those who served longest, regardless of how much or how little the leaders like them.


Key points of his life include:

  • He was born in Guilford, Guilford County, N.C., May 7, 1836
  • Moved with his parents to a town in rural Indiana in 1840
  • Studied law at the Cincinnati Law School
  • Was admitted to the bar in 1858 and commenced practice in Terre Haute, Ind., in 1858
  • Moved to Tuscola, Illinois, in 1859
  • State's attorney for the twenty-seventh judicial district of Illinois from March 1861 to December 1868
  • Moved to Danville, Ill., in 1878
  • Elected as a Republican to the Forty-third and to the eight succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1891), but defeated in the Democratic landslide of 1890.
  • Chairman of the powerful Committee on Appropriations (Fifty-first Congress, elected in 1888)
  • Elected to the Fifty-third and to the nine succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1893 – March 3, 1913)
  • Poewerful chairman, Committee on Appropriations (Fifty-fourth through Fifty-seventh Congresses), Committee on Rules (Fifty-eighth through Sixty-first Congresses)
  • Speaker of the House of Representatives (Fifty-eighth through Sixty-first Congresses)
  • Received fifty-eight honorific votes for the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention at Chicago in 1908
  • Defeated for reelection in 1912 to the Sixty-third Congress
  • Again elected to the Sixty-fourth and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1915 – March 3, 1923)
  • Was featured on the cover of the first issue of TIME Magazine in 1923.
  • Died in Danville, Vermilion County, Ill., November 12, 1926; interment in Spring Hill Cemetery

Further reading