Henry Thomas Rainey

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Henry Thomas Rainey (August 20, 1860 – August 19, 1934) was a prominent American politician during the first third of the 20th century. A member of the Democratic Party from Illinois, he served in the United States House of Representatives from 1903 to 1921 and from 1923 to his death. He rose to Speaker of the House, during the famous Hundred days of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.

Henry Thomas Rainey
Henry T. Rainey.jpg
40th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
March 9, 1933 – August 19, 1934
Preceded byJohn N. Garner
Succeeded byJoseph W. Byrns, Sr.
Leader of the House Democratic Caucus
In office
March 9, 1933 – August 19, 1934
Preceded byJohn Nance Garner
Succeeded byJo Byrns
House Majority Leader
In office
December 7, 1931 – March 3, 1933
Preceded byJohn Q. Tilson
Succeeded byJoseph W. Byrns
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 20th district
In office
March 4, 1923 – August 19, 1934
Preceded byGuy L. Shaw
Succeeded byScott W. Lucas
In office
March 4, 1903 – March 3, 1921
Preceded byJames R. Williams
Succeeded byGuy L. Shaw
Personal details
BornAugust 20, 1860
Carrollton, Illinois
DiedAugust 19, 1934 (aged 73)
St. Louis, Missouri
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materKnox College
Amherst College
Union College of Law


Early yearsEdit

Rainey attended the public schools and Knox Academy and Knox College, Galesburg, Ill. He transferred to, and graduated from Amherst College in 1883 and then the Union College of Law, in Chicago which he graduated in 1885. He was admitted to the bar in 1885 and commenced practice in Carrollton, Ill.

Political careerEdit

Rainey was appointed master in chancery for Greene County, Ill., from 1887 until 1895, when he resigned, and returned to private practice. He then decided to return to politics in 1902 getting elected to Congress and serving for nine terms before losing to Guy L. Shaw in 1920. Two years later, he won back his seat and served until his death.


Due to the Great Depression, the Republican party lost its majority in a landslide, and, with John Nance Garner elevated to the Speakership, Rainey ran for, and defeated John McDuffie for the Majority leadership. McDuffie remained as Whip.

Speaker of the HouseEdit

Statue of Henry T. Rainey, north of Carrollton, Illinois

With Speaker Garner having been inaugurated Vice President on March 4, 1933, Rainey, being next in line, was elected Speaker of the House when President Roosevelt called a special session of Congress two days later. Rainey gave the Roosevelt administration carte blanche to do whatever it wanted, allowing almost the entire New Deal to be passed with little or no changes.

More reforms were passed during the regular session starting December. Rainey died of a heart attack the following summer, on the eve of his seventy-fourth birthday, before the new Congress could meet.

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Waller, Robert Alfred. Rainey of Illinois: a political biography, 1903-34 (University of Illinois Press, 1977)
  • United States Congress. "Henry Thomas Rainey (id: R000014)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
James R. Williams
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 20th congressional district

Succeeded by
Guy L. Shaw
Preceded by
Guy L. Shaw
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 20th congressional district

Succeeded by
Scott W. Lucas
Preceded by
John Nance Garner
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
March 9, 1933 – August 19, 1934
Succeeded by
Joseph W. Byrns
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Q. Tilson
Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives
December 7, 1931 – March 3, 1933
Succeeded by
Joseph W. Byrns