Graham Barden, Congressional Education and Labor Chair

Barden, circa 1939-49. Image from N.C. State University Libraries.On September 25, 1896, long-time eastern North Carolina congressman Graham Barden was born in Sampson County.

After a stint in the Navy and studies at UNC, Barden set up a law practice in New Bern where he also taught school and coached football. Known for his pleasant disposition, he was often called “Happy” or “Hap.” It was that sunny outlook that led him to politics, and he served as a local judge and state legislator before being first elected to Congress in 1935.

While in Congress, Barden had a special interest in education and labor-related issues, chairing the House Committee on Education and Labor from 1949 to 1961 and being key to the passage of Barden-La Follette, Taft-Hartley and Landrum-Griffith Acts, all of which concerned vocational training and labor unions.

Though he hardly campaigned during his 12 reelection bids to Congress, Barden fought hard for federal projects in his district, securing a temporary base during World War II and three of North Carolina’s four current major military installations.

When he announced his 1961 retirement from Congress, more than 100 of his colleagues met to try to talk him out of it. He enjoyed a quiet retirement in New Bern and died in 1967.

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