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The "Iron Man" of Kentucky

Alben Barkley: A Life in Politics - James K. Libbey

Alben Barkley's name is not one commonly known today, yet he enjoyed a long and distinguished career in politics in one of the most dramatic eras in American history. Born into poverty, he became a lawyer and at a young age embarked on a career in public service starting with local offices. First elected to Congress in 1912, he served in first the House of Representatives and then the Senate, where he became Majority Leader and was instrumental in the passage of key parts of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program. After serving a term as Truman's vice president, Barkley won election yet again in 1954 and was a sitting senator when he died two years later.


There has long been a need for a proper study of Barkley and his accomplishments, and there are few better suited to provide one than James Libbey. The author of several shorter studies of the Kentucky politician, Libbey provides the first full-length biography of Barkley's life and the times in which he lived. It's a solid book that provides a useful overview of Barkley's career, though one without the detailed analysis of his legislative leadership that his position warrants. Despite this, Libbey's book is to be recommended for the introduction it provides to the "Iron Man" of Kentucky politics, one that captures something of the engaging personality that made him so successful as a politician and as a leader.