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Senator Henry M. Jackson, 1912-1983: Legislative Record

The portal provides a general overview of key archival, printed, and visual resources in UW Libraries Special Collections that document Senator Jackson's long and distinguished career in public service.

Legislative Record

Jackson's record of legislative activities and accomplishments, including his committee service, is extensively documented throughout the Henry M. Jackson Papers, most notably in the following series: Legislation-HMJ Sponsored Bills, Legislative Correspondence, Subject Series, Speeches and Writings, News Releases, and Committee Records and Aides' Papers. Additional source material will be found in the Photographic and Graphic Materials and Sound Recordings series, including documentation of Jackson's participation in several committee hearings, questioning witnesses and engaging with fellow legislators, committee staff members, and others during session breaks.

U.S. House of Representatives (1940-1952)

Jackson represented the 2nd District of the State of Washington for six consecutive terms, from 1940 to 1952. During these years, he focused on issues of particular relevance to constituents in his home state and in the Pacific Northwest as a whole. Through his appointment to the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, Jackson concentrated on fishing, logging, and farming industries in Washington, and in 1949 he secured a key position on the influential House Appropriations Committee, Interior Subcommittee. Within the first year of his appointment to the Interior Subcommittee, Jackson worked with fellow Northwest legislators to establish the Columbia Valley Authority (modeled after the Tennessee Valley Authority), which sought to consolidate federal agencies operating hydroelectric dams along the Columbia River. Legislation to create a Columbia Valley Authority ultimately failed to pass, but Congressman Jackson continued to work diligently, through his work on the Interior Subcommittee, to secure financing for regional power and public works projects for the Northwest.

Jackson's earliest years in the House of Representatives coincided with the United States' entry into World War II. Jackson strongly supported President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast to internment camps in the interior Far West. Jackson later recanted his support of the internment of Japanese Americans and actively used his position in the Congress to authorize federal appropriations to Japanese Americans displaced by Executive Order 9066.

Jackson also was attuned to the concerns of his Native American constituency. As Chairman of the House Indian Affairs Committee he authored and helped pass the Indian Claims Commission Act of 1946, an unprecedented measure to resolve long standing grievances of Native American tribes against the United States government by enabling tribes to seek financial redress for treaty violations.

In January 1949, Jackson was appointed to the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy (JCAE), and he remained an active member until the Committee was disbanded in 1977. Service on the Joint Committee played a crucial role in shaping Jackson's perspective on national defense and foreign policy.

Key House Committee Service of Congressman Henry M. Jackson

Committee Subcommittee
Atomic Energy Joint Committee. (U.S. Congress)  
Appropriations Committee.
  • Interior Subcommittee.
Civil Service Committee.  
Conservation of Wildlife Resources Select Committee.  
Democratic Steering Committee.  
Flood Control Committee.  
Indian Affairs Committee.  
  • Alaska Problems Subcommittee.
  • Ship Design Construction Subcommittee.
  • Steel Shortage Subcommittee.
  • Tax Liability of Ship Operators Subcommittee.
Rivers and Harbors Committee.  
Small Business Select Committee.
  • Anti-Monopoly Subcommittee.
  • Log and Lumber Policy Subcommittee.

U.S. Senate (1953-1982)


With his move to the Senate Jackson expanded the range of his legislative activities to include a variety of issues of broader national and international significance. This expanded scope was reflected in his service on a diverse array of key committees including, among others, the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, the Government Affairs Committee, and the Intelligence Select Committee. Over time, his work in all these arenas brought him increasing prominence at home and abroad.

Detailed below are selected highlights from Jackson's Senate career, which serve to illustrate the broad range of his accomplishments during his 30 years in the Senate.



Statehood for Hawaii and Alaska

Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, Territories Subcommittee hearings that lead to statehood for Alaska in 1958, and for Hawaii in 1959.

Alaska Lands and Resources

Jackson played a key role in the passage of important legislation concerning the management of Alaska's natural resources and lands. In 1971 he sponsored passage of the Alaska Native Settlement Claims Act, which authorized the transfer of 44 million acres of land back to Alaskan native peoples. In 1973, Senator Jackson oversaw passage of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Bill. Balancing rising environmental awareness in the region with concern about a looming energy crisis, the bill authorized construction of a 789-mile pipeline from oil fields in Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska. Jackson also played a leading role in the drafting and passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (Alaska Lands Bill), protecting 100 million acres of wild lands in the state, which was signed into law in 1980.

Environmental Policy and Conservation

Throughout his Senate career Jackson pioneered many significant pieces of legislation in the area of national environmental policy and conservation. As Chairman of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee (Energy and Natural Resources Committee after 1977), Jackson wrote and aided passage of legislation, including the Wilderness Act of 1964, to establish national parks and seashores, and to develop wilderness areas. For the Northwest, Jackson sponsored legislation that created both the North Cascades National Park, in Washington, and Redwood National Park, in Northern California. Olympic National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park also benefited from Senator Jackson's legislative efforts.                                                                                                                                  

Perhaps Jackson's greatest contribution in the area of environmental protection was his authorship and passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 Among other things, NEPA laid the groundwork for the establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It also established the requirement that environmental impact statements be prepared for all major federal projects, setting the stage for similar legislation at the state and local level.

There'll be thousands of young people working in our forests next summer.

Because Senator Jackson had an idea.

-Brochure, Youth Conservation Corps

Jackson also sponsored passage of the Public Lands for Parks Bill of 1969, which authorized the sale at discounted rates, or donation of federal lands, to local and state governments, for parks and recreational use. In 1971 he and his fellow Senator from Washington state, Warren G. Magnuson, worked together to aid passage of a bill to establish a Youth Conservation Corps. This legislation allowed disadvantaged youth to contribute and participate in the conservation of national parks and wilderness areas throughout the United States.


Educational Reform for Native Americans

In 1972 Senator Jackson sponsored the Indian Education Act, landmark legislation that established a comprehensive approach to addressing the unique needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students. This legislation focused national attention on the educational needs of American Indian learners, reaffirming the federal government's special responsibility related to the education of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Government Operations and Consumer Affairs

Jackson's initial years in the Senate coincided with the McCarthy Era and Red Scare of the early 1950s. Then Senate Minority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson selected Jackson as a Democratic representative to the Government Operations Committee Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy. As a member of the committee, Jackson took a strong public stand repudiating McCarthy's tactics and charges that large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers held positions in the federal government and elsewhere, while at the same time he criticized the Eisenhower administration's reductions in funding for national defense, thus foreshadowing Jackson's increasing engagement in issues of foreign policy, arms control, and national defense.

In 1953, through the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jackson challenged the Defense Department's decision to deny a promotion to the rank of Rear Admiral to Captain Hyman G. Rickover, "Father of the Nuclear Navy," in effect forcing Rickover into retirement. Responding to what Jackson saw as the Defense Department's failure to recognize the importance of atomic power to the modern Navy and national defense, and suspecting that anti-Semitism had played a role in the decision to deny Rickover's promotion, Jackson launched a vigorous and highly public campaign on Rickover's behalf, and eventually forced the Defense Department to reverse its decision.


"Senator from Boeing"

Some years later, the TFX fighter plane (F-111 fighter plane) controversy of 1962-1963 earned Jackson the nickname” Senator from Boeing", when Jackson challenged the Kennedy administration's decision to award the TFX contract to General Dynamics of Fort Worth, Texas, over the Boeing Company of Seattle. At Jackson's urging, Senator John McClellan, Chairman of the Government Operations Committee, launched a series of high profile hearings to investigate the TFX contract decision, which revealed the role that political influence had played in assignment of the contract.

As Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Policy Machinery of the Government Operations Committee, Senator Jackson brought together leading experts in the area of policy-making to testify before the Subcommittee and to publish a study on their findings. That report, Organizing for National Security (1962) brought about the dissolution of the National Security Council's Operations Coordinating Board, in an attempt to streamline policy making in the foreign policy arena. The Committee's work and resulting report also highlighted Jackson's non-partisan approach to matters of foreign policy.

Senator Jackson also took an interest in consumer affairs. In 1973 & 1974 he co-chaired prominent hearings of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which brought seven oil company executives before the Subcommittee for questioning on the oil market and inflated profits. These Subcommittee hearings were covered extensively in the media and brought Jackson additional attention nationally on the eve of his Presidential bid in 1976.

Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties (SALT I & II)

Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I), in 1972. As Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Arms Control, Senator Jackson steered the course of negotiations around SALT I, underpinning its development with his own sponsored amendment, the Jackson Amendment, which was an attempt to counter perceived weaknesses in the American strategic position by mandating a parity in United States strategic capability relative to that of the Soviet Union.

"How can you say it's an arms-limitation agreement when you are more than doubling the strategic nuclear menace? That's nonsense. And I have voted for every arms control agreement that's been before the Congress. I know that I'm accused of being hard. I'm neither a hawk nor a dove. I just don't want my country to become a pigeon.”

-Senator Henry M. Jackson [iv]

Some years later, in 1979, Jackson fully repudiated the SALT II Treaty, which had been negotiated under the administration of President Jimmy Carter, and led the Senate challenge that ultimately prevented its ratification.

Foreign Policy and Human Rights

In 1972, the Nixon administration approached Congress over trade agreements that would grant most favored nation (MFN) status and increase trade benefits to the Soviet Union. Senator Jackson and co-sponsor Congressman Charles A. Vanik of Ohio, concerned about the plight of dissidents and Jews seeking to leave the Soviet Union, submitted the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the U.S. Trade Act of 1972, creating an inextricable link between the designation of MFN status and freedom of emigration. While the Jackson-Vanik Amendment was strategically written in response to the Soviet crackdown on its Jewish citizens who were attempting to emigrate to Israel and other nations beyond the Soviet sphere of influence, the wording remained open-ended so as to encompass emigration of any sort from any country. While the Jackson-Vanik Amendment increased tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during an era of détente, it also lent an unprecedented and enduring moral and human rights dimension to United States foreign policy.

“Scoop really started the whole human rights push in the United States and American foreign policy, I guess in the 1970s, with the talk and the development of the idea of the Jackson Amendment. Where, really for the first time we said, Look, our foreign policy is not just involved in what the geopoliticians call "our interests," but that it also has a moral dimension.”

-Ben Wattenberg [iii]

Key Committee Service of Senator Henry M. Jackson
Committee Subcommittee
Armed Services Committee.
  • Arms Control Subcommittee.
  • Conflict of Interest Subcommittee.
  • Military Construction Subcommittee.
  • Nuclear Test Ban Safeguards Subcommittee.
  • Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee.
  • Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) Special Subcommittee.
Government Operations Committee.
  • National Policy Machinery Subcommittee.
  • National Security Staffing Subcommittee.
  • Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Interior and Insular Affairs Committee.
  • Indian Affairs Subcommittee.
  • Irrigation and Reclamation Subcommittee.
  • Minerals, Materials and Fuels Subcommittee.
  • Parks and Recreation Subcommittee.
  • Public Lands Subcommittee.
  • Territories Subcommittee.
  • Water and Power Resources Subcommittee.
Water Resources Select Committee.  
Internal Revenue Taxation Joint Committee.  
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.  
Democratic Steering Committee.  
Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
  • Parks and Recreation Subcommittee.
  • Public Lands Subcommittee.
Governmental Affairs Committee.
  • Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Intelligence Select Committee.  
Presidential Campaign Activities Select Committee.  


[i] Kaufman, Robert G. 2000. Henry M. Jackson: a life in politics. Seattle: University of Washington Press, p. 106-108.

[ii] Ibid., p. 201-202.

[iii] 3560-033, item 3560_23_3b_Clip.mp3 [4:44 to 5:30]: Posthumous, 1984-1987, Sync sound reels for the posthumous film, "SCOOP", Boris and Sonya Goldberg, Ben Wattenberg

[iv] 3560-033, item 3560_17a_22_4_Clip.mp3, Interview with Senator Jackson on energy and the Northern Tier Pipeline, Northwest Press Conference, 1979


Kaufman, Robert G. 2000. Henry M. Jackson: a life in politics. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Ognibene, Peter J. 1975. Scoop: the life and politics of Henry M. Jackson. New York: Stein and Day.

Prochnau, William W. and Richard W. Larsen. 1972. A certain Democrat: Senator Henry M. Jackson; a political biography. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc.