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Eugene Siler
Eugene Siler.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky
In office
January 3, 1955 – January 3, 1965
Preceded byJames S. Golden
Succeeded byTim Lee Carter
Constituency8th district (1955–63)
5th district (1963–65)
Personal details
Born(1900-06-26)June 26, 1900
Williamsburg, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedDecember 5, 1987(1987-12-05) (aged 87)
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Lowell Jones Siler
Children4 (including Eugene Jr.)

Eugene Edward Siler Sr. (June 26, 1900 – December 5, 1987) was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Kentucky between 1955 and 1965. He was the only member of the House of Representatives to oppose (by pairing against) the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. That resolution authorized deeper involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War.

Life and career

Siler, a self-described "Kentucky hillbilly", was born in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Siler was a staunch Republican and hailed from a traditionally Republican region of Kentucky. Siler served in the United States Navy during World War I and in the United States Army as a captain during World War II.[1] His war-time experiences left him, according to David T. Beito, "cold to most proposals to send American troops into harm's way."

Siler graduated from Cumberland College in Williamsburg in 1920 and from the University of Kentucky at Lexington in 1922.[1] He attended law school at Columbia University and returned to Williamsburg to be a small-town lawyer. Siler was a devout Baptist and became a renowned preacher. He abstained from alcohol, tobacco, and profanity; and, as a lawyer, rejected clients seeking divorces or who were accused of alcohol-related crimes.

In 1945, Siler was elected a judge of the Court of Appeals of Kentucky. He refused his 150-dollar expense allotment, instead donating it to a special fund Siler set up for scholarships. As a judge, Siler frequently quoted scriptures from the bench. He did the same in his speeches during his 1951 run for governor. This, according to Beito, earned him "a statewide reputation as a 'Bible Crusader.'" Siler was the Republican nominee for Governor of Kentucky in 1951. He was defeated by Democrat Lawrence Wetherby, who won 346,345 votes (54.6%) to Siler's 288,014 (45.4%).

During his tenure in the House of Representatives, which began in 1955, Siler consistently stressed social conservatism. He sponsored a bill to ban liquor and beer advertising in all interstate media. He stated that permitting these ads was akin to allowing the "harsh hussy" to advertise in "the open door of her place of business for the allurement of our school children". Additionally, he was "100 percent for Bible reading and the Lord's Prayer in our public schools".

Like his friend and fellow Republican, Representative Harold Royce Gross, Siler considered himself a fiscal watchdog. He opposed junkets, government debt, and high spending. Siler made exceptions for his home district, however, by supporting flood control and other federal measures that aided his district.

Like Gross, Siler was a Taft Republican (or Old Right Republican) who was opposed to entangling military alliances and foreign interventions. Siler was a consistent opponent of foreign aid; he was one of only two congressmen to vote against John F. Kennedy's call up of reserves during the Berlin crisis. He supported Barry Goldwater in 1964 but did not share his interventionist foreign policy views. This non-interventionism did not seem to bother his constituents.

Siler did not sign the 1956 Southern Manifesto, and voted in favor of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960,[2][3] as well as the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,[4] but did not vote on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[5]

Siler was critical of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In 1964, after deciding not to seek reelection, he quipped, in jest, that he would run for President as an antiwar candidate—he pledged to resign after one day in office after ordering the troops brought home. He considered the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized President Johnson to take "all necessary steps" in Vietnam, as a "buck-passing" pretext to "seal the lips of Congress against future criticism."

In 1968, the worsening situation in Vietnam prompted Siler to return to politics, unsuccessfully seeking the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. Siler ran on a platform calling for withdrawal of all U.S. troops by Christmas. Ernest Gruening (D.-Alaska) and Wayne Morse (D.-Oreg.), the only two U.S. Senators who voted against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, were also defeated that year.

Siler was married to Lowell Jones Siler and had four children, one of whom, Eugene Edward Siler Jr., became a federal judge. He died at his daughter's Louisville home on December 5, 1987.[6]


See also

DodgerBlue flag waving.svg Conservatism portal


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "HR 6127. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1957".
  3. ^ "HR 8601. PASSAGE".
  5. ^ "H.R. 7152. PASSAGE".
  6. ^ Loftus, Tom (December 6, 1987). "Former Kentucky congressman Eugene E. Siler is dead at 87". The Courier-Journal. p. 29. Retrieved June 18, 2020 – via
Party political offices
Preceded by
Eldon S. Dummit
Republican nominee for Governor of Kentucky
Succeeded by
Edwin R. Denney
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
James S. Golden
U.S. Representative, Kentucky 8th District
January 3, 1955 – January 3, 1963
Succeeded by
seat lost to redistricting
Preceded by
Brent Spence
U.S. Representative, Kentucky 5th District
January 3, 1963 – January 3, 1965
Succeeded by
Tim Lee Carter
This page was last edited on 15 April 2021, at 10:23
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