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American National Biography Online Wherry, Kenneth Spicer (28 Feb. 1892-29 Nov. 1951), businessman and politician, was born in Liberty, Nebraska, the son of David Emery Wherry, a storekeeper, and Jessie Comstock. When he was eight months old, his family moved to Pawnee City, Nebraska, where his father opened a farm implement, furniture, and undertaking establishment. Wherry graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1914 and studied law and business at the Harvard School of Business Administration. He served in the Naval Flying Corps during World War I but did not go overseas. After reading law privately, he won admission to the Nebraska bar in 1931. In 1915 Wherry joined the prospering family firm, which now included an auto dealership. He opened Ford showrooms in two nearby towns, became president of Wherry Brothers in 1927, and later boasted of being certified in undertaking in three states. He took a civic activist's role in such endeavors as the county fair board. In 1920 he married Marjorie Colwell; they had two children. The Wherrys were Presbyterians and Republicans. Like his father, a five-term mayor, Wherry took avidly to politics. In 1928 he was elected both mayor of Pawnee City (serving until 1931) and to the first of two terms as state senator. He lost bids for the Republican nomination for governor in 1932 and U.S. senator in 1934. Though initially close to George W. Norris's wing of the party and progressive on such issues as banking and aid to farmers, Wherry grew more conservative in the 1930s. Norris's refusal to advance his career may have prompted Wherry to shift allegiance. Additionally, if, as one journalist claimed, Wherry's primary (and far from unique) bugaboo was "remote bigness," by the late 1930s New Deal "big government" had increasingly come to fill that role. In 1938 Wherry became mayor again and eventually served four terms. Chosen chairman of the state Republican party in 1939, he earned acclaim for his energetic electioneering. In 1942, as Republican nominee for U.S. senator, he won a three-way race, retiring Norris from public life. He was reelected in 1948. Wherry espoused a fundamentalist Republicanism as a senator. He fought the New and Fair Deals with a conservatism often more obdurate even than that of Robert A. Taft. Reviling the Office of Price Administration's "totalitarian controls" and the harm they did farmers and small businessmen, he defended the latter's interests as a member of two special committees on small business. He later opposed the Brannan Plan, federal aid to education, public housing, and other trappings of what he deemed the "socialistic welfare state." Wherry's chief legislative contribution was a 1947 law altering the presidential succession, as ordained in 1886, by interposing the Speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate between the vice president and the members of the cabinet. In a rare instance of agreement with Harry S. Truman, Wherry thought it more democratic to place the two legislative officers ahead of unelected presidential appointees in the succession. An isolationist, Wherry opposed such foreign policies as aid to Greece and Turkey, the Marshall Plan, and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), warning that the Truman Doctrine portended "a perpetual state of war emergency and government by control and crisis." He thought air power ample to defend the free world. In 1951 he authored a resolution opposing Truman's plan to send troops to Europe until Congress had elaborated a policy on the issue, but a softer substitute was passed. Wherry was outraged by the firing of General Douglas MacArthur. Wherry's energetic partisanship gained him the post of minority whip, despite his junior status, in 1944. He was elected minority leader in 1949. A roughhouse partisan orator, Wherry often pounded his chest with his fists to emphasize a point. Such noted "Wherryisms" as references to "Indigo China" and "opple amportunity" showed that his verve sometimes outpaced his syntax. He died in Washington, D.C., of lung cancer. Bibliography The Wherry papers are at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Most thorough on Wherry is Harl Adams Dalstrom, "Kenneth S. Wherry" (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln, 1965). Sketchier and more admiring is Marvin E. Stromer, The Making of a Political Leader: Kenneth S. Wherry and the United States Senate (1969). Also see Dalstrom, " 'Remote Bigness' as a Theme in Nebraska Politics: The Case of Kenneth S. Wherry," North Dakota Quarterly (Summer 1970), and William S. White, "Portrait of a Fundamentalist," New York Times Magazine, 15 Jan. 1950, pp. 14ff. Glimpses of Wherry appear in Allen Drury, A Senate Journal (1963). An obituary is in the New York Times, 30 Nov. 1951. Richard M. Fried Citation: Richard M. Fried. "Wherry, Kenneth Spicer"; http://www.anb.org/articles/07/07-00328.html; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. Access Date: Copyright (c) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. From American National Biography, published by Oxford University Press, Inc., copyright 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Further information is available at http://www.anb.org.