Mansfield, Michael Joseph "Mike", 1903-2001

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Mike Mansfield
Quiet Leadership in Troubled Times

On March 24, 1998, Mike Mansfield returned to the Senate to deliver the first Leader's Lecture in the Old Senate Chamber, which had been restored during his long tenure as Senate majority leader. Many of the senators who attended had not served with Mansfield. He was 95 years old, but stood straight and spoke forthrightly. In reflecting on Senate leadership, he chose to deliver a speech that he had planned to give on November 22, 1963, but instead had simply inserted into the Congressional Record following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. That speech aptly captured his philosophy of leadership and understanding of the Senate.

Mike Mansfield was born in New York City in 1903, the son of Irish immigrants. His mother died while he was a child and he was sent to live with relatives in Great Falls, Montana. At the age of 14 he dropped out of school and enlisted in the navy during World War I. He had gone on several convoys across the Atlantic before the navy discovered his real age and discharged him. Mansfield promptly joined the army and then went into the Marine Corps. The marines sent him to the Philippines, Japan, and China, which kindled Mansfield's lifelong interest in Asian affairs.

When Mansfield returned to Montana, he worked in the copper mines and studied to be a mining engineer. Then his life took a dramatically different course when he met school teacher Maureen Hayes, who persuaded him to complete his high school education through correspondence courses and go to the University of Montana. She cashed in an insurance policy to help pay his tuition. They married in 1932 and had one daughter, Ann. Mansfield got his B.A. and M.A. degrees at Montana, where he taught Far Eastern and Latin American history and political science. He also started on a PhD, but politics intervened.

An internationalist in a state with strong isolationist sentiments, Mansfield lost a race for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1940. Two years later, however, after the United States had entered World War II, he won the seat. He served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and went to China on a special mission for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1952 Mansfield ran for the Senate against incumbent Zales Ecton. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy came to Montana to campaign for Ecton and to question Mansfield's patriotism. Mansfield eked out a narrow victory. When he arrived in the Senate, Senator McCarthy greeted him by asking how things were in Montana. "Much better since you left, sir," Mansfield replied.

Mansfield was appointed to the Foreign Relations Committee and became the Senate's leading authority on Southeast Asian affairs, working closely with the Eisenhower administration and traveling frequently to the region. In 1957 Democratic Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson tapped Mansfield as his whip. Despite his liberal voting record, Mansfield was popular among the southern conservatives who chaired the most powerful committees. His quiet and modest style also balanced Johnson's overpowering personality. When Johnson was elected vice president, Mansfield reluctantly agreed to become majority leader and was elected without opposition.

The Kennedy administration often clashed with Congress, and much of the president's ambitious domestic agenda stalled in the legislative machinery. Some senators voiced regret that Mansfield did not exert more forceful leadership in the Johnson mode. Mansfield, however, believed that the Senate operated best by accommodation, respect, and mutual restraint. He distributed power and perks among all senators, insisting that they must equally bear the legislative burden. By spreading responsibilities among the junior senators, he sought to reduce the influence of the powerful committee chairmen. He quietly abolished most patronage positions to establish a professional staff, assigned office space by seniority rather than as favors, and refrained from handing out committee assignments in return for senators' support.

When Lyndon Johnson entered the White House, the legislative logjam broke, beginning when cloture was invoked to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Mansfield's style proved perfectly suited to handle the rush of legislation that encompassed Johnson's "Great Society" program. "I had never seen so much activity in my life around here!" said Stuart McClure, chief clerk of the Senate Education and Labor Committee. "We were passing major bills every week. It was unbelievable."

While he loyally supported President Johnson in public, behind the scenes Mansfield vigorously dissented from the president's policies in Vietnam. Mansfield, who had continued to travel to Vietnam to assess the situation personally, sent Johnson a series of memoranda that urged a diplomatic rather than a military solution to the war. When Richard Nixon became president in 1969, Mansfield made an extraordinary offer as a leader of the opposition party: If the president withdrew U.S. troops from Vietnam, Mansfield would publicly declare it the "best possible end of a bad war." President Nixon recognized that by rejecting this offer, he would turn Kennedy and Johnson's war into his own. Still he declined, not wanting to lose the war. Senator Mansfield then took a more open role by sponsoring bills to prohibit sending U.S. troops to Laos and Thailand and setting a date to remove U.S. forces from Cambodia.

Following the Watergate burglary in 1972, Senator Mansfield set up the Watergate Committee, chaired by North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin. To help reassert congressional authority, he also cosponsored the War Powers Act of 1973. Under his leadership in the 1970s, the Senate also adopted a series of institutional reforms, from the "sunshine" requirements for opening committee meetings to public scrutiny to reducing the number of votes needed to invoke cloture from two-thirds to three-fifths.

After a record-setting 16 years as majority leader, Mansfield retired from the Senate in 1977. President Jimmy Carter appointed him U.S. ambassador to Japan, a post he continued under President Ronald Reagan. In the 1990s, he advised President Bill Clinton on normalizing relations with Vietnam. Mansfield died at the age of 98 in 2001 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
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creatorOf Mike Mansfield letter, 1958 L. Tom Perry Special Collections20th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts
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referencedIn Philip A. Hart papers, 1949-1976, 1959-1976 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
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referencedIn Mike Mansfield Non-Constituent Correspondence Collection, 1968-1971 University of Montana--Missoula Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections
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referencedIn Anderson, Jack, 1922-2005. Mike Mansfield oral history collection, 1951-1985 [sound recording]. Library of Congress
referencedIn Cooper, Lorraine Rowan, 1906-1985. Papers, 1936-1983 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations (Nixon Administration). 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations. 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Oval Office tape number 498 Richard Nixon Library
referencedIn Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations (Nixon Administration). 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations. 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Executive Office Building tape number 355 Richard Nixon Library
referencedIn National Security Files (Nixon Administration). 1968 - 1975. Henry A. Kissinger's (HAK) Office Files Richard Nixon Library
referencedIn Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations (Nixon Administration). 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations. 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Camp David hard wire tape number 189 Richard Nixon Library
creatorOf Recordings and Transcripts of Telephone Conversations and Meetings. 11/22/1963 - 1/3/1969. John F. Kennedy Assassination Related Recordings and Transcripts. 11/22/1963 - 3/28/1967. LBJ Recording of Telephone Conversation, K Series, Mike Mansfield, 4:46P
creatorOf Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations (Nixon Administration). 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations. 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Oval Office tape number 481 Richard Nixon Library
referencedIn Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations (Nixon Administration). 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations. 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Oval Office tape number 543 Richard Nixon Library
creatorOf Recordings and Transcripts of Telephone Conversations and Meetings. 11/22/1963 - 1/3/1969. John F. Kennedy Assassination Related Recordings and Transcripts. 11/22/1963 - 3/28/1967. LBJ Recording of Telephone Conversation, K Series, Mike Mansfield, 3:40P Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
referencedIn Chester Bowles papers, 1924-1982 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Johnson family. Johnson family : papers, 1859-1971. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations. 1900 - 2003. Moving Images Relating to Military Aviation Activities. 1947 - 1984. MANILA SEATO CONFERENCE National Archives Library, National Archives Records Administration
referencedIn Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations (Nixon Administration). 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations. 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Oval Office tape number 504 Richard Nixon Library
creatorOf Papers of John F. Kennedy: President's Office Files. 1/20/1961 - 11/22/1963. Papers of President Kennedy: President's Office Files: Countries. 1/20/1961 - 11/22/1963. John F. Kenendy President's Office Files: Countries: USSR Vienna Meeting. 4/13/1961 - 6/21/1961. Mansfield Memorandum to the President Observations on the forthcoming talks in Vienna May 26, 1961 John F Kennedy Presidential Library
creatorOf Recordings and Transcripts of Telephone Conversations and Meetings. 11/22/1963 - 1/3/1969. John F. Kennedy Assassination Related Recordings and Transcripts. 11/22/1963 - 3/28/1967. LBJ Recording of Telephone Conversation, K Series, Mike Mansfield, 7:22A Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
referencedIn Neuberger, Richard L. (Richard Lewis), 1912-1960,. Neuberger Family Photographs Collection [graphic], 1893-ca. 1997, (bulk 1950-1966). Oregon Historical Society Research Library
referencedIn Ira Berkow, papers, undated, 1960-2011 American Jewish Historical Society
referencedIn Francis R. Valeo Papers, 1916-1987, (bulk 1946-1985) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations (Nixon Administration). 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations. 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Oval Office tape number 675 Richard Nixon Library
creatorOf Scott, Hugh, 1900-1994. Papers of Hugh Scott [manuscript], 1944-1981. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations (Nixon Administration). 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Sound Recordings of Meetings and Telephone Conversations. 2/16/1971 - 7/18/1973. Oval Office tape number 499
referencedIn Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection, 1943-1975 George Mason University. Special Collections and Archives.
referencedIn Baldwin, Hanson Weightman, 1903-1991. Hanson Weightman Baldwin papers, 1900-1988 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Media Resources Center (University of Michigan) films and videotapes, 1930s and 1948-1986 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
Relation Name
associatedWith Albert, Carl Bert, 1908-2000. person
correspondedWith Anderson, Clinton Presba, 1895- person
associatedWith Archer, James H., 1882-1973. person
associatedWith Arthur E. Scott, 1917-1976 person
associatedWith Asahi Shinbun (Tokyo, Japan) corporateBody
associatedWith Atkins, Oliver F., 1916-1977. person
associatedWith Baldwin, Hanson Weightman, 1903-1991. person
associatedWith Berkow, Ira person
associatedWith Bowles, Chester, 1901-1986. person
associatedWith Brown, Bob, 1947 Dec. 11-, interviewer person
associatedWith Brown, Prentiss Marsh, 1889-1973 person
associatedWith Buckley, James Lane, 1923- person
correspondedWith Butte (Mont.). Mayor. corporateBody
associatedWith Byrd, Harry Flood, 1887-1966. person
associatedWith Byrd, Harry Flood, 1914- person
associatedWith Cooper, Lorraine Rowan, 1906-1985. person
associatedWith De Voto, Bernard Augustine, 1897-1955. person
associatedWith Edna Bertha (Rankin) McKinnon, 1893-1978 person
associatedWith Engelhard, Emelia M., 1877-1973. person
correspondedWith Flaherty, James J., 1890-1979. person
associatedWith Greenewalt, Crawford H., 1902-1993. person
associatedWith Harris, Fred R., 1930- person
associatedWith Hart, Philip A. (Philip Aloysius), 1912-1976 person
correspondedWith Hocking, William Ernest, 1873-1966 person
correspondedWith John F. Fleming, Incorporated. corporateBody
correspondedWith Johnson family. family
associatedWith Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963 person
associatedWith Kilpatrick, James Jackson, 1920-2010. person
associatedWith Lerner, Max, 1902- person
associatedWith Lerner, Max, 1902-2001. person
correspondedWith Lincoln Back Country Protective Association corporateBody
associatedWith Lorraine (Rowan) Cooper, 1906-1985 person
spouseOf Mansfield, Maureen Hayes, 1905-2000 person
associatedWith McKinnon, Edna Rankin, b. 1893. person
associatedWith Meglen, Joseph, 1910-1986 person
associatedWith Merritt, Clifton R. (Clifton Reeve), 1919-2008. person
associatedWith Michigan State University. corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Montana School of Mines corporateBody
associatedWith Montana, The Magazine Of Western History. corporateBody
associatedWith Moody, Blair, 1902-1954 person
associatedWith Neuberger, Richard L. (Richard Lewis), 1912-1960, person
associatedWith Oliver F. Atkins, 1916-1977 person
associatedWith Peterson, F. Ross. person
associatedWith Pray, George Washington, 1825-1890 person
associatedWith Price, Margaret Bayne, 1912-1968 person
associatedWith Ryskamp, Charles. person
associatedWith Scigliano, Robert. person
associatedWith Scigliano, Robert G. person
associatedWith Scott, Arthur E., 1917-1976. person
associatedWith Scott, Hugh, 1900-1994. person
correspondedWith Shackford, Roland Herbert, 1908-1998. person
correspondedWith Shirley, Richard C. person
associatedWith Smith, Howard K. (Howard Kingsbury), 1914-2002. person
correspondedWith Tobacco Valley Improvement Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Toole, K. Ross (Kenneth Ross), 1920-1981. person
memberOf United States. Congress. House corporateBody
memberOf United States. Congress. Senate corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf University of California, Los Angeles corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. Media Resources Center. corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf University of Montana--Missoula corporateBody
associatedWith University of Oklahoma. Political Commercial Archive. corporateBody
associatedWith Valeo, Francis R. (Francis Ralph), 1916-2006. person
associatedWith Wolf, Robert, 1920-2005, person
associatedWith Yellowtail, Robert. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Great Falls MT US
New York City NY US
Butte MT US
Missoula MT US
District of Columbia DC US
Subject
Montana
United States--Foreign relations, 1977-1981
Artifacts
Material Types
Transportation
Advertising, political
Subscription television--History--Sources
Sound Recordings
Mines and Mineral Resources
Environmental Conditions
Subscription television--United States--History--Sources
Legislators--Correspondence
Legislators--United States--Correspondence
Native Americans
United States--Foreign relations--1981-1989
Labor History
Television advertising
Public works
Moving Images
Japan--Foreign relations--United States
Women
United States--Foreign relations--Japan
Correspondence
Baccalaureate addresses--Michigan State University
Civil rights
International relations
Scrapbooks
Photographs
United States--Politics and government--20th century
Occupation
Diplomatic and consular service, American--Japan
Soldiers--Montana
Professors (teacher)
Marines (soldiers)
Miners--Montana
Legislators--United States
Mining engineers--Montana
Representatives, U.S. Congress--Montana
Ambassadors--United States
Senators, U.S. Congress--Montana
Function

Person

Birth 1903-03-16

Death 2001-10-05

Male

Americans

English

Information

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