Furnifold McLendel Simmons

Furnifold McLendel Simmons (January 20, 1854 – April 30, 1940) was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from March 4, 1887 to March 4, 1889 and U.S. senator from the state of North Carolina between March 4, 1901 and March 4, 1931. He served as chairman of the powerful Committee on Finance from March 4, 1913 to March 4, 1919. He was an unsuccessful contender for the 1920 Democratic Party nomination for president. Simmons was a staunch segregationist and white supremacist, and a leading perpetrator of the Wilmington insurrection of 1898.

Furnifold McLendel Simmons
Simmons seated in a suit
United States Senator
from North Carolina
In office
March 4, 1901 – March 4, 1931
Preceded byMarion Butler
Succeeded byJosiah Bailey
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1887 – March 3, 1889
Preceded byJames E. O'Hara
Succeeded byHenry P. Cheatham
Personal details
Born(1854-01-20)January 20, 1854
Pollocksville, North Carolina
DiedApril 30, 1940(1940-04-30) (aged 86)
New Bern, North Carolina
Political partyDemocratic

Life and careerEdit

Simmons was born in Pollocksville, North Carolina, the son of Mary McLendel (Jerman) and Furnifold Greene Simmons.[1][2] After Republicans won control of the North Carolina legislature in 1894, Simmons led efforts to disenfranchise black voters and return Democrats to power across the state. He allied with white supremacist newspapers to stoke fears of black men as predators of white women and too incompetent to be trusted as office holders or voters. Simmons also set up hundreds of "White Government Unions," which aimed to "announce on all occasions that they would succeed if they had to shoot every negro in the city."[3] As a result, Democrats swept the 1898 election, and the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 broke out the following day.

In 1901 Simmons won the Democratic nomination for the US Senate. From his Senate seat, he then ran a powerful political machine, using A. D. Watts "to keep the machine oiled back home," in the words of one journalist.[4] Simmons remained in office for the next thirty years.

Senator Simmons refused to endorse Al Smith, the Democratic nominee for president in 1928 and the first Catholic nominated by a major party, winning him praise from members of the Ku Klux Klan.[5] Still, rejecting the Democratic nominee in 1928, together with the Great Depression, led to Simmons being defeated in the 1930 Democratic primary by Josiah W. Bailey, who was backed by Governor O. Max Gardner.


  This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website http://bioguide.congress.gov.

  1. ^ Leonard, John William (1907). "Men of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporaries".
  2. ^ "Simmons, Furnifold McLendel | NCpedia".
  3. ^ Zucchino, David (2020). Wilmington's Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy. Atlantic Monthly Press. pp. 65–69, 75, 96. ISBN 978-0-8021-2838-6.
  4. ^ News & Observer: "What the obituary didn't say" by Rob Christensen Archived July 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Chiles, Robert (2018). The Revolution of '28: Al Smith, American Progressivism, and the Coming of the New Deal. Cornell University Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-1-5017-0550-2.

External linksEdit

Party political offices
First Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from North Carolina
(Class 2)

1918, 1924
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 2nd congressional district

March 4, 1887 – March 4, 1889
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 2) from North Carolina
March 4, 1901 – March 4, 1931
Served alongside: Jeter Connelly Pritchard, Lee Slater Overman, Cameron A. Morrison
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Boies Penrose
Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance
March 4, 1913 – March 4, 1919
Succeeded by
Boies Penrose
Honorary titles
Preceded by Dean of the United States Senate
November 24, 1929 – March 4, 1931
Succeeded by
Preceded by Oldest living U.S. senator
July 24, 1938 – April 30, 1940
Succeeded by
Preceded by Most senior living U.S. senator
(Sitting or former)

October 21, 1938 – April 30, 1940
Succeeded by