Nicholas “Nick” Longworth III (November 5, 1869 – April 9, 1931) was an American Republican politician who became Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
A lawyer by training, he was elected to the Ohio Senate, where he initiated the successful Longworth Act of 1902, regulating the issuance of municipal bonds. As congressman for Ohio’s 1st congressional district, he soon became a popular social figure of Washington, and married President Theodore Roosevelt‘s daughter Alice Lee Roosevelt. But their relationship cooled when he opposed her father in the Republican Party split of 1912. Longworth became Majority Leader of the House in 1923, and Speaker from 1925 to 1931. In this post, he exercised powerful leadership, tempered by charm and tact.
Early years and education
Longworth was the son of Nicholas Longworth II and Susan Walker. The Longworths were an old, prominent, and wealthy family which dominated Cincinnati. He had two younger sisters, Anna and Clara. Nicholas Longworth II was the son of Joseph Longworth and grandson of winemaker Nicholas Longworth I, both distinguished citizens of Cincinnati.
Nicholas Longworth III attended the Franklin School, a school for boys in Cincinnati, and then went on to attend Harvard College (Class of 1891), where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon (Alpha chapter) and the Porcellian Club. He was a talented, but not necessarily an industrious student; one friend wrote about him: “His good head made it easy for him to get perfectly respectable marks without doing much of any work.” After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Harvard, he attended Harvard Law School for one year, but transferred to and received his law degree from Cincinnati Law School in 1894.
Longworth was a violinist, and on their first visit to Bayreuth, his wife Alice Lee Roosevelt reported that “Nick was really a musician and cared deeply for music, but for me to listen to The Ring [i.e., Der Ring des Nibelungen], and, I think, Tannhäuser and Tristan [i.e., Tristan und Isolde] thrown in, was something in the nature of an endurance test.”  Later she observed that “In Washington, Nick never had much time to play his violin, and in those days there were very few people to play with him. In Cincinnati there were the orchestra, the College of Music, and the Conservatory to draw on, and soon we were having musical parties, at least once, and often two or three times a week. Until then I had not heard much chamber music—only an occasional concert that I felt was far too high-brow for me to try to understand. But week after week of quartets and trios at our house or at the houses of friends opened even my ears to a new capacity for hearing….. We would all have dinner first, the musicians and a few others who cared for music, and afterwards lose no time getting started, by about nine at the latest. From then on music and yet more music until midnight and usually long after. They all played because they loved it; there never were more delightful evenings.”  In a letter to Longworth’s sister Clara, Leopold Stokowski wrote “Your brother had a rare understanding of music. He penetrated directly into the spirit of music. It was his natural element.”
Professional life and entry into politics
Longworth began a law practice in Cincinnati after being admitted to the Ohio bar in 1894. His political career began with a position on the city’s Board of Education in 1898.
As the protégé of Republican boss George B. Cox, Longworth was elected to the Ohio General Assembly, serving in the Ohio House of Representatives in 1899 and 1900, then in the State Senate from 1901 to 1903. In 1902 he was instrumental in writing and passing the Longworth Act, a bill regulating the issuance of municipal bonds, which has been labeled “one of the most successful laws in Ohio’s history” Longworth was elected to the United States House of Representatives from the First Congressional District of Ohio which included the city of Cincinnati and the surrounding counties.
Longworth, a bachelor when he entered Congress, married Alice Lee Roosevelt, the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, on February 17, 1906, in a White House wedding that received wide-spread public attention Their only child, Pauline, was born in 1925 (and died at age 31).
Throughout his political career, Longworth championed issues regarding foreign affairs and the protective tariff.
As the progressive Republicans pulled apart from the conservatives in 1910–12, Longworth sided with the conservatives. When they bolted from the party in the 1912 election to support Theodore Roosevelt and establish their own party, Longworth, along with many of Roosevelt’s closest political allies, remained firmly behind Republican standard-bearer President William Howard Taft. Longworth agreed more with Taft than Roosevelt on critical issues like an independent judiciary and support for business.
As a result of the Republican Party rift, Longworth and his wife Alice found themselves on opposite sides of the divide in the fall campaign. She actively supported her father’s third-party presidential candidacy, even though her husband was running for reelection on the Republican ticket. Longworth narrowly lost his House seat to Democratic challenger Stanley E. Bowdle.
Majority leader and Speaker of the House
Longworth returned to Congress in 1915, after defeating Bowdle in an election rematch, and served until his death in 1931. He became House Majority Leader in 1923, and rose to speaker in 1925, succeeding Frederick Gillett, who had been elected to the Senate.
Soon after becoming speaker, he set out to restore to the speakership many of the powers that had been stripped away during the revolt against Joseph Cannon. He also punished 13 progressives, who supported Robert M. La Follette instead of Calvin Coolidge in the 1924 election. He expelled the rebels from the GOP caucus, and stripped even the committee chairmen among them of all seniority. Additionally, Longworth took control of the Steering Committee and Committee on Committees and placed his own men on the Rules Committee, guaranteeing that he controlled the work of the House.
Ignoring the progressive wing of the party, Longworth pursued legislation that aimed for balanced budgets and major tax reductions, resisting any new programs that would expand the role of government. However, Longworth defied President Herbert Hoover in 1931 by supporting the long-stalled veterans bonus bill; it passed but Hoover vetoed it, setting up the Bonus March of 1932.
Longworth reached across the aisle to Democrats, forging a productive relationship with John Nance Garner, that party’s House minority leader, who relied upon informal methods to strengthen his party’s influence. He enjoyed a close rapport with Garner, who said of Longworth, “I was the heathen and Nick was the aristocrat.” Together they hosted a daily gathering of Democratic and Republican congressmen in a secluded room in the Capitol, which became known as the “Bureau of Education.” This unofficial club provided a place for politicians to relax with a drink and get to know and work with one another across party lines.
Final days and death
Longworth served as speaker until the end of the 71st Congress on March 4, 1931, and was speaker-presumptive for the upcoming 72nd Congress at the time of his death (as he had won reelection in November 1930 and as at the time Republicans retained a narrow 3-seat House majority). He died unexpectedly on April 9, from pneumonia while visiting his friend Dwight Filley Davis (of Davis Cup fame), and Daniel J. Duckett in Aiken, South Carolina. His body was subsequently interred at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. At a memorial service held at the Library of Congress on May 3, 1931, his old friends Efrem Zimbalist and Harold Bauer played Brahms‘s D minor sonata.
Donald C. Bacon described Longworth as “Debonair and aristocratic, given to wearing spats and carrying a gold-headed cane. He was perpetually cheerful, quick with a joke or witty retort, and unfailingly friendly. He seemed never to have a care and made hard decisions with such ease and detachment that some people wondered if anything at all really mattered to him.”
One particular famous retort is attributed to Longworth. One day, while he was lounging in a chair at the Capitol, another member of the House ran his hand over Longworth’s bald pate and commented, “Nice and smooth. Feels just like my wife’s bottom.” Longworth felt his own head and returned an answer: “Yes, so it does.”
Journalist Frank R. Kent of The Baltimore Sun wrote of him:
Without any revision of the rules he completely recovered the power of the speakership and was the undisputed leader of the House with as autocratic control as either Reed or Cannon. It is true he exercised this power with infinitely more tact and grace and gumption and without that touch of offensive arrogance that characterized former House Czars. But he was just as much a Czar. What Mr. Longworth clearly proved was this matter of leadership depends not so much on the rules but on the man.
After his death in 1931, his widow, Alice, loaned Nicholas’ Stradivarius violin to 24-year-old Roman Totenberg for his American debut in 1935 when he played his interpretation of Beethoven’s Concerto in D Major with the National Symphony Orchestra. Totenberg played Longworth’s violin for years — including a 1936 appearance at the White House for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt — until he could afford a Stradivarius violin of his own.
- List of United States Congress members who died in office (1900–49)
- Honors: In 1962, the Longworth House Office Building was named in honor of Nicholas Longworth of Ohio, who served as Speaker of the House of Representatives (1925-1931) when the building was authorized.
- Burgess, Levi J. (1891). Reports of Cases argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Ohio. Banks & Brothers. p. vii.
- Goodman, R; Brunsman, B. J. (2005). This Day in Ohio History. Emmis Books. p. 115.
- De Chambrun, C. L. (1933). The Making of Nicholas Longworth: Annals of an American Family. Ray Long and Richard R. Smith, Inc. p. 141.
- Longworth, Alice Roosevelt. Crowded Hours. p. 127.
- Longworth, Alice Roosevelt. Crowded Hours. p. 228.
- De Chambrun, C. L. (1933). The Making of Nicholas Longworth: Annals of an American Family. Ray Long and Richard R. Smith, Inc. p. 222.
- “Grand Concourse: Nicholas Longworth”. The Supreme Court of Ohio & The Ohio Judicial System. Retrieved 2010-08-11.
- Glass, Andrew (February 17, 2009). “Alice Roosevelt marries in the White House, Feb. 17, 1906”. Politico. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
- Quinn, Sally (March 29, 2016). “At 90, Alice Roosevelt Longworth didn’t care who she offended in this mean, funny 1974 interview”. The Washington Post. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
- “OH District 1 (1912)”. www.ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
- “OH District 1 (1914)”. www.ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
- “Hatfield, Mark O. “Vice Presidents of the United States—John Nance Garner, 32nd Vice President (1933–1941),” US Senate Historical Office Online Article (1997) GPO and Online Edition”. Retrieved 2006-05-29.
- Glass, Andrew (December 7, 2009). “The 72nd Congress convenes, Dec. 7, 1931”. politico.com. Arlington, Virginia: Politico. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
- Bacon (1998) p 120
- Morrow, Lance (2006). The Best Year of Their Lives: Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon in 1948. Basic Books. p. 61. ISBN 0-465-04724-6.
- quoted in Bacon p. 140
- “Longworth House Office Building”. Architect of the Capitol. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
- Garraty, John A; Carnes, Mark C., eds. (1999). “Longworth, Nicholas”. American National Biography. 13. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Bacon, Donald C. (1998). “Nicholas Longworth: The Genial Czar”. In Smock, Raymond W; Hammond, Susan W (eds.). Masters of the House: Congressional Leadership Over Two Centuries. pp. 119–143.
- De Chambrun, Clara Longworth (1933). The Making of Nicholas Longworth; Annals of an American Family. New York: Ray Long and Richard R. Smith, Inc. Reprint, Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press,  – Note. Clara detested Nick’s wife Alice Roosevelt Longworth and she’s not even mentioned or pictured in her book on her famous brother.
- Longworth, Alice Roosevelt (1933). Crowded Hours; Reminiscences. New York: Scribner’s.
- United States Congress. “Nicholas Longworth (id: L000433)”. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- Nicholas Longworth at Find a Grave
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