GORDON BROWNING was born in Carroll County, Tennessee. After being awarded B.S. and M.S. degrees from Valparaiso University, he studied at Cumberland University Law School, receiving his LL.D. degree in 1915 and beginning the practice of law in Huntingdon. He served as an officer in both world wars. After making an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1920, he won election in 1922 and served continuously in Congress until 1935. The following year he undertook a successful campaign for governor and after taking office launched an ambitious program to increase appropriations for education, establish a merit system for state employees, require automobile licensure, improve highways, continue development of the Tennessee Valley Authority, reorganize state government, balance the budget, and refund the state debt. Much of his program was successful, but when policy differences developed between him and Ed “Boss” Crump (the former Memphis Mayor who had similarly parted ways with Browning’s gubernatorial predecessor), Crump withdrew his support and instead backed William Prentice Cooper for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1940. Browning went on to serve as Chancellor of the 8th Judicial District. Although he ran unsuccessfully for a return to the state house in 1946, he won the office of governor back in 1948 during an election year when the Crump political machine went down to defeat in its efforts to prevent the election of Estes Kefauver to the U.S. Senate. During his second term, Browning concentrated on a rural roads program and the improvement of educational facilities. His third term was marked by charges of fraud and mismanagement in connection with the state purchase of a hotel building in Nashville, and he was defeated in the 1952 Democratic gubernatorial primary. He served for a time as president of the Tennessee Valley Insurance company and was a respected member of the Tennessee Historical Commission. He died in Huntingdon.
Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress
Past Governors of Tennessee
Philips, Margaret I. The Governors of Tennessee. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2001.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
White, Robert H. Messages of the Governors of Tennessee, 1933-1945. Nashville: The Tennessee Historical Commission, Vol. 11, 1952.