Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 4, Fall 2009, pp. 331-332
U.S. Senator Robert S. Kerr-often called the "uncrowned king of the Senate"-died in 1963. In a special election the next year, Fred Harris, a Democratic state senator, surprisingly defeated highly popular football coach Bud Wilkinson to serve out the rest of Kerr's term. Reelected in 1966 and remaining a senator until 1973, the young and energetic Harris allied with Lyndon Johnson's Great Society program. As senator, he pushed legislation to aid agricultural interests in Oklahoma and the Southern Plains, called for reforms to alleviate racism, introduced bills supporting various American Indian groups, and served on the Kerner Commission, which studied the causes of civil unrest in America's riot-plagued cities. Though his tenure in the Senate was relatively short, Harris's national stature caused Hubert Humphrey to consider him as his vice presidential running mate in 1968. Harris later sought the presidential nomination in both 1972 and 1976, gaining some early support but insufficient to keep him in either race for long.
After his retreat from politics, Harris became a highly successful political science professor at the University of New Mexico, publishing a popular textbook on American governmenr and other works analyzing the structure and workings of the U.S. Congress. He has also written novels, and the felicitous style. that has made him successful as an author comes across in this enjoyable autobiography.