Norris had great skill in debating, so he decided to go to law school. He graduated with a law degree from Indiana State Normal School in Valparaiso, Indiana in 1883.
With a deed for 80 acres of land as a gift from his mother and a loan of $300 from one of his sisters, Norris moved to Beatrice, Nebraska in 1885. His next home would be in Beaver City, Nebraska, where he married Pluma Lashley in 1890 and served as a city attorney.
In 1899, he moved his family to McCook, Nebraska, and became a judge. He witnessed the impact of farm foreclosures, when farmers could not make payments for their land so they were forced to leave. After several years of harsh weather on the crops, Norris found a legal way to postpone some farmers losing their lands. George’s wife, Pluma, died in 1901.
"I have done my best to repudiate wrong and evil in government affairs."
— Senator George W. Norris, 1942
Senator Norris’ accomplishments during the years that he represented Nebraska in Washington, D.C. included writing the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is also known as the "Lame Duck" amendment. He first proposed this amendment in 1923 and helped it pass in 1933. A "lame duck" is someone who is about to leave office. Often, not much gets done in the time between either losing the next election or announcing that he or she won’t be running again. Sometimes, other politicians practically ignore the "lame duck" official, making government very unproductive.
The Twentieth Amendment shortened the amount of time between the November election and when newly elected politicians took office. It called for the newly elected Congress to begin their work on the first Monday in January and the new President to be inaugurated about two weeks later.
Norris believed that the federal government should control natural resources so the greatest number of U.S. citizens could benefit. Norris fought to preserve and complete the work of the TVA to put this belief into action.
The TVA was a forerunner of the Rural Electrification Act (REA), which eventually brought electricity to farms and ranches across the nation.
The TVA provided a series of dams, which not only brought flood control, but also water to farmers during drought as well as electricity to those who could not otherwise afford it, especially in rural areas.
Senator Norris always thought it was pointless to have two groups of elected officials doing the same thing, and thereby, wasting money. The results appear to have proven him right.
George Norris died at his home at the age 83 on September 2, 1944. He left a legacy of integrity and efficiency in government. In 1961, George Norris was the first person inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame.
In 1961, George Norris was the first person inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame.
Learn more about him and all its members.