Today is George W. Norris Day in Nebraska.
State law says that, on this day, Nebraska schools are to have “suitable exercises” to recognize what Norris’ work still means to Nebraskans and the nation.
Some historians consider George William Norris one of the greatest U.S. politicians. He represented Nebraska for 40 years combined in the House and Senate.
He was a registered Republican most of his life, but he believed that it was his duty to act and vote according to his conscience — not according to party views.
In Nebraska, Norris was the driving force behind the state’s having the nation’s only one-house legislature.
Nationally, he was the Senate powerhouse behind the 1933 Tennessee Valley Authority Act. The TVA built dams on the Tennessee River and its tributaries to control flooding, generate low-cost electricity and create jobs during the Great Depression.
Norris also worked to pass the 1936 Rural Electrification Act. Not only did this connect rural America with the rest of the nation, it also made farming more efficient and profitable.
Those weren’t the limits of Norris’ accomplishments, however.
To honor Norris on his special day, we offer a quiz about him. Test how much you know about this noteworthy Nebraskan.
1. What Nebraska city has the Senator George Norris State Historic Site, which was his residence?
C. Beaver City
2. Who lauded Norris in the book “Profiles in Courage,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for history?
A. Theodore “Ted” Sorensen
B. George F. Will
C. John F. Kennedy
D. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
3. George Norris was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1961 as part of the 100th anniversary of his birth. He had posed earlier for the bust by an artist who also sculpted many world and national leaders. Who was this famous sculptor?
A. John Biggers
B. Gutzon Borglum
C. Jo Davidson
D. James Earl Fraser
4. Norris was elected to both the House and the Senate as a Republican, yet he publicly criticized Republican Presidents Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. Norris endorsed Hoover’s Democratic rival, Al Smith, and backed all of Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential campaigns. With support from FDR and the Nebraska Democratic Party, Norris ran and won his Senate seat as an independent in 1936 before losing re-election in 1942. Where did Norris’ second wife, Ellie, say he fit on the political spectrum?
5. Norris was the man behind the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. What does that amendment do?
A. It sets the time and date when terms of office end for the president, vice president, senators and representatives.
B. It gives women the right to vote in national elections.
C. It repealed Prohibition.
D. It provides that senators be elected by popular vote and not by the Electoral College.
6. How long before his death did Norris tell his hometown newspaper on his July 11 birthday: “I never expected to live this long; this birthday only means that it is getting closer to the end. I am not as strong as I used to be and I am very nervous”?
A. One year
B. Two months
C. Three weeks
D. Four days
7. Norris promoted the concept of a nonpartisan, one-house state legislature. He believed that such a system would curb abuses of conference committees, which allowed the ruling party to rewrite legislation to favor its own positions. Nebraska voters enthusiastically endorsed the idea in 1934, but the change did not take effect immediately. In what year did Nebraska’s Legislature first meet as a one-house, nonpartisan body?
8. Norris worked with President Franklin Roosevelt to push through Congress the New Deal legislation that created the Tennessee Valley Authority. Tennessee has a plethora of things named for George Norris. The town of Norris, Tenn., housed the workers who built nearby Norris Dam, the first in the TVA’s chain of dams. The dam impounds Norris Lake. Tennessee’s Norris State Park includes the lake and dam. Nebraska has fewer things named for the man. The State Capitol in Lincoln has the George W. Norris Legislative Chamber. In the Omaha area are Norris Middle School and Norris Elementary School. What districts are they in, respectively?
A. Bellevue Public Schools and Omaha Public Schools
B. Omaha Public Schools and Millard Public Schools
C. Millard Public Schools and Westside Community Schools
D. Westside Community Schools and Papillion-La Vista School District
9. What career field had Norris worked at in Nebraska before entering politics?
A. He was a physician.
B. He was a lawyer.
C. He was a college professor.
D. He was a banker.
10. The U.S. Postal Service put George Norris on a stamp in 1961. The stamp referred to him as “Gentle Knight of Progressive Ideals.” What did the stamp cost when it was issued?
A. 7 cents
B. 23 cents
C. 12 cents
D. 4 cents