Immortal Five

How many of you have been in the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C.? How many of you have been in the gallery above the floor of the Senate? How many of you have ever been in the public reception room just off the floor of the Senate?
This reception room is used by visitors and others who wish to speak to one of the Senators on the floor while the Senate is in session. Attendants are available to carry your card or a written message to the Senators, and they will usually come out to the reception room in response to the message. This is what is termed “calling a Senator off the floor.”
There is nothing unusual about this reception room—easy chairs, well padded settees--things you will find in most reception rooms. But as you look around the room, you will see the portraits of five former Senators.
Can you tell me why these five portraits are there?
These five Senators are called, “The Immortal Five.” They have been selected by the Senators themselves as the greatest Senators of all time. I will give you a brief sketch of these honored Senators. First comes the gentleman from New Hampshire. Who is he?
He’s Daniel Webster, one of the great orators of all time, master of debate, statesman—honored by his state by having his statue placed in the Hall of Fame and honored by his fellow Senators by being named one of “The Five Immortals. Daniel Webster served in Congress and the Senate and also served as Secretary of State under three Presidents—Harrison, Tyler and Fillmore. He was a candidate for the nomination as President without success.
Next comes the gentleman from Kentucky! Who is he? He was Henry Clay, the master parliamentarian, an impressive orator, a magnetic and charming personality with a brilliant record of public service—Senator, Congressman, Speaker of the House, Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams, and a candidate for President in three elections. His statue also stands in The Hall of Fame, placed there by the people of Kentucky. His record of public service earned for Henry Clay his place among “The Five Immortals.”
Next comes the gentleman from South Carolina. Do you know his name?It’s John C. Calhoun, one of the great statesmen of the pre-Civil War days. His record of public service includes the South Carolina State Legislature, the House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate. He served as Secretary of War under President Monroe, Vice President under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, and Secretary of State under President John Tyler.
John C. Calhoun was the leading proponent of States Rights during the period leading up to the War Between the States. His statue also stands in the Hall of Fame representing his beloved South Carolina, and I am confident the honor of being selected as a member of the Immortal Five was well deserved. Daniel Webster said about Calhoun that he was the most brilliant man in the history of the Senate.
Next come two 20th Century Senators—the first is the gentleman from Wisconsin. Do you know his name? It’s Robert M. La Follette, a pioneer in progressive government. He served his state as a District Attorney, Governor and United States Senator. They called him “Fighting Bob” for he fought the party bosses, the political organizations, the big business monopolies. He was the unconquerable foe of special economic privilege, the champion of the little man. He believed in the ideals of human liberty and democracy, and for this cause he devoted his service and his life. It is no wonder that “Fighting Bob” La Follette was honored by having his statue placed in the Hall of Fame and the members of the SEnate selected him as one of “The Five Immortals.”
The last member of this distinguished group is the gentleman from Ohio. Can you name him? Robert A. Taft, an able political analyst. He was an unusual political leader for he lacked the fine art of oratory and he lacked blind devotion to the party line. He refused to bow to any group and refused to keep silent on any issue. He was straight forward and did not pull his punches. He once told a group of Midwest farmers that he was “tired of seeing them riding up to a meeting in Cadillacs, then complaining about the price of wheat.”
Bob Taft sponsored legislation to curb the power of Labor Unions, and this brought down on his head the wrath of the entire labor movement, but he stuck to his guns and passed the Taft-Hartley law through the Senate which regulates to some extent the Labor Unions.
Bob Taft was known far and wide as “Mister Republican” and “Mister Integrity,” and when he died in 1953, the people of Ohio raised the necessary funds to have a life-size statue of their favorite son placed on the grounds of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.This memorial is a fitting tribute to the last but not least of “The Five Immortals.”

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