Lamar Jeffers

Lamar Jeffers (1888-1983) was a six-term Alabama congressman who represented Alabama's Fourth Congressional District from 1921 to 1935. During his tenure, he championed causes related to veterans' affairs and was also known for his fervent support of segregation and white supremacy. Jeffers was also a noted World War I hero, earning a Distinguished Service Cross (America's second highest military honor) while serving in France.

Lamar Jeffers Jeffers was born in Anniston, Calhoun County, on April 16, 1888, to William H. Jeffers, a captain in the Confederate States Army, and Anna Frances (Jenkins) Jeffers; he was the youngest of ten children. Jeffers attended local schools and pursued higher education at the Alabama Presbyterian College in Anniston. He married Martha Ruth Burton of Oxford, Calhoun County, in 1911, and had at least one son, Lamar Jeffers Jr. He enlisted in the Alabama National Guard in 1904 and served until 1914. Jeffers was elected clerk of the circuit court of Calhoun County in January 1917; he held the position only briefly. He resigned from his post in May to enlist in the U.S. Army. Before being sent overseas, he trained at Fort McPherson in East Point, Georgia, achieving the rank of captain. Jeffers served with the 326th Infantry Regiment of the Eighty-second Division, known as the "All-American Division," in France. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross for valor for his actions in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in the fall of 1918 in Saint-Juvin, France. On the night of October 10th-11th, Jeffers led his men to reconnoiter a badly damaged bridge and then supervised its repair while under intense machine gun fire. Once secured, Jeffers directed his men across the bridge and into open terrain, where he was wounded; all of his officers and almost two-thirds of his men were killed or wounded. Jeffers continued to advance until he collapsed after being shot through the jaw by a machine gun bullet. He later was promoted and retired as a major.

After recovering from his wounds, Jeffers became interested in pursuing Alabama political office. Jeffers unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Fred L. Blackmon of Alabama's Fourth Congressional District in the Democratic primary in 1920. Following Blackmon's death in 1921, Jeffers was elected to take his seat in the Sixty-seventh Congress and won reelection to the six subsequent congresses, serving from June 7, 1921, to January 3, 1935. While Democrats regularly ran unopposed during this period, Jeffers often faced Republican challengers, including Adolphus Parker Longshore, who served in the Alabama House of Representatives and was a member of the Progressive movement. While in Congress, Jeffers served as chairman of the Committee on Civil Service during the Seventy-second and Seventy-third congresses. He also was noted for supporting veterans' issues. He often courted the votes of mothers of veterans based on promises to support the interests of their sons. Jeffers also sought women's votes based on his support of women's education and funding for women's organizations. Some historians who study the Jim Crow era in Alabama report that Jeffers was known for his, at times, fiery rhetoric regarding race and his failure to condemn lynching. Jeffers failed in his bid to earn re-nomination in 1934 and was succeeded in Congress by Samuel F. Hobbs.

Jeffers studied law during his tenure in Washington and later practiced there. He was a member of the American Legion and a member of the Freemasons as well as other fraternal organizations. Jeffers retired to Daytona Beach, Florida, and died there on June 1, 1983. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Further Reading

  • Brophy, Alfred. Reconstructing the Dreamland. New York: Oxford University Press. 2002.
  • Moore, Daniel. Men of the South: A Work for the Newspaper Reference Library. New Orleans: Southern Biographical Association, 1922.
  • Schuyler, Lorraine. Weight of Their Votes: Southern Women and Political Leverage in the 1920s. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2008.

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