Sunday, February 26, 2017

Braswell Drue Deen (1893-1981), Braswell Drue Deen Jr. (1925- )

Portrait from the Philadelphia Inquirer, July 17, 1935.

    Three term U.S. Representative from Georgia Braswell Drue Deen was for several years one of a great number of "faceless" congressmen I'd happened across, and despite my many attempts at tracking down a portrait of him, Deen continued to be without a photograph to place with his name. Thankfully, a July 1935 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer was located recently and I now have a portrait to connect to this distinguished Peach State political figure! In addition to his Congressional service, Deen proved to be a man of many hats, being a farmer, teacher, school superintendent and newspaper publisher, and following his time as a representative advanced to the post of director of the Georgia Department of Public Welfare.
   One of twelve children born to Samuel Lee and Mary Victoria (Altman) Deen, Braswell Drue Deen was born in Baxley, Georgia on June 28, 1893. He attended the public schools of Appling County and later studied at the South Georgia Junior College at McRae. Deen would put his studies on hold in the late 1910s to serve as Appling County school superintendent from 1917-18 and during the First World War was secretary of the local Y.M.C.A. He married on July 1, 1917, to Corinne Smith (1898-1962), to whom he was wed for over forty years. The couple's union would see the births of five children, Annie Lois (died in infancy in 1922), Mildred Louise (1924-2008), Braswell Drue Jr. (born 1925), Walter George (1929-2008) and Ralph Lee (born 1940).
   Following his marriage Braswell D. Deen returned to his studies, becoming a student at the Emory University in Atlanta. He would earn a bachelor of philosophy degree in the class of 1922 and in the same year as his graduation entered into the post of superintendent of schools at Tennille, Georgia. He served there from 1922-24 and in the last named year began a three-year stint as president of the South Georgia Junior College.

Braswell Drue Deen, from the 1922 Emory University yearbook.

   In 1928 Braswell Deen entered into the newspaper business, becoming editor and owner of the Alma Times, a weekly paper based in Alma, Georgia. He would also dabble in banking and farming around this time and made his first foray into local politics in 1928, serving as a member of the Bacon County Democratic Executive Committee. In 1932 Deen announced his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia's 8th congressional district. In November of that year, he coasted to an easy victory, trouncing Republican nominee Henry Carswell by a vote of 20,021 to 912.
  Taking his seat at the start of the 1933-35 session, Deen would successfully run for reelection in November 1934, facing no opposition during that year's campaign. The 1935-36 session proved to be a landmark one for Deen, as he would serve on the house committee on education during this term. His service on that committee also saw him author and introduce house bill No. 12120, subsequently referred to as "the Bill for Further Development of Vocational Education in the Several States and Territories." Deen's legislation found an ally in U.S. Senator Walter F. George (also from Georgia), and the "George-Deen Act" (also referred to as the George-Deen Vocational Law) would set aside millions of dollars in federal aid to devote to the training of workers interested in agriculture, home economics, trade and industrial education. This act is notable for being the first instance of federal aid being provided to the states for the "vocational training of distributive workers and sales personnel" and also developed training programs (sponsored by state boards) for any interested citizens. 
   While the George-Deen Act is an integral part of Braswell Deen's congressional legacy, he also made headlines in 1936 when he took to the house floor to lambaste the play "Tobacco Road" then playing on Broadway. The play (based on a novel by Erskine Caldwell) was a farcical story set in rural Georgia and played on rural stereotypes, much to the chagrin of Deen. The Congressman from Georgia regarded the play as a smear on much of Georgia's rural population, calling it "infamous, wicked and damnable" and an "unfair sketch of Southern life." 

From the Thomasville Press, July 12, 1940.

   In November 1936 Braswell Deen was elected to his third term in Congress, besting Republican candidate Ben Ford by over 23,000 votes. He wasn't a candidate for a fourth term in 1938 and shortly after the conclusion of his term in 1939 was selected by then Governor Eurith D. Rivers as Director of the Georgia Department of Public Welfare. Deen's time in that post proved to be short-lived, as he resigned a year later in August 1940. The year 1940 also saw Deen's name mentioned as a potential candidate for Georgia Governor, and during that summer made speaking engagements booming his candidacy. He withdrew from the gubernatorial race in August of that year and later entered the Democratic primary for his old congressional seat. In the September primary election, Deen garnered 7,741 votes, losing out to incumbent representative John S. Gibson.
   For the remainder of his life Braswell D. Deen resided in Alma, Georgia and after leaving politics worked as an insurance broker and cattle raiser in that town. In 1950 he saw his son Braswell Drue Jr. begin the first of four terms as a state representative from Bacon County, and also lived long enough to see him advance to a seat on the Georgia State Court of Appeals.
  Braswell Drue Deen died at age 88 on November 29, 1981, of injuries sustained in an automobile accident near his home in Alma. The former congressman was survived by his children and was later interred at the Rose Hill Cemetery in Alma.

Portrait from the Georgia Official and Statistical Register.

   Public service would continue in the Deen family with Braswell Drue Deen Jr., the second child of Congressman Braswell D. Deen. During an exemplary career in public service that has extended over six decades, Deen served in the Marine Corps during the Second World War and earned his law degree from the University of Georgia. In the early 1950s, he began the first of four terms as a member of the Georgia State House of Representatives and would go on to serve a decade as Bacon County Attorney. In 1965 he was appointed to the Georgia State Court of Appeals, where he would serve until his retirement in 1990. 
   Braswell D. Deen Jr. was born on August 16, 1925 in McRae, Georgia. A graduate of the Bacon County High School, Deen was a congressional page during his youth and during the Second World War served with the First Division, U.S. Marine Corps. Deen was stationed in the Pacific Theater and took part in the invasions of the Peleliu and Okinawa Islands. At the latter invasion he was wounded by a Japanese knee mortar, and later was a recipient of the Purple Heart. 
   Following a period of recuperation in Guam and Hawaii Deen returned to Georgia and began the study of law at the University of Georgia. He would earn his bachelor of laws degree in 1950 and was a member of the firm of Deen and Powell in Alma, Georgia. In 1950 Deen made his first jump into politics, winning election as Bacon County's representative to the Georgia General Assembly. He would serve a total of four terms in that body (1951-52, 1953-54, 1957-58 and 1959-60) and left a lasting mark in the legislature by being the author of the Georgia Women Jurors Bill, a piece of legislation that "doubled the number of citizens available for jury duty."
   Braswell Deen Jr. married in June 1953 to Jean Strickland Buie (1925-2000). The couple were wed for nearly fifty years and would have two sons, Braswell Drue III (born 1959) and Sanders Buie (born 1962).

Braswell Deen Jr., from the 1951-52 Georgia Official and Statistical Register.

   In addition to his terms in the legislature Braswell Deen Jr. served as Bacon County Attorney for a period of ten years and in 1955 was named by the Georgia Jaycees as one of its "Five Outstanding Young Men In Georgia". In the following year he was the recipient of the Kotz Bennett Cup for Outstanding Citizen of the Year and in 1967 received the Citation of Merit from the Georgia Gerontology Society. 
   Further honors were accorded to Deen in June 1965 when he was appointed to the Georgia State Court of Appeals, filling out the term of Judge Robert Lee Russell Jr., who had died a few days previously. One year later Deen was elected to a full term of his own on that court and from 1974-79 served as its Presiding Judge. During the 1979-80 year, he was the court's Chief Judge and in 1981 returned to the position of Presiding Judge, which he would continue to hold until December 1990.
   Braswell Deen Jr. retired from the Georgia Court of Appeals in 1990. Following his retirement he has continued to be prominent in Georgia public life, teaching Constitutional Law classes and for a time was an adjunct professor of "origins" and chess at the Oglethorpe and Emory Universities. A writer and lecturer on a wide range of topics (including the origins of man, biology, criminal justice and the Second World War), Deen's written works include Deen's List: ABC's on ADR, A Handbook On Alternative Dispute Resolution (1995), Trial By Combat (2000) and Roots and Origins (2001).
   Now in his ninth decade, Braswell Drue Deen Jr. is a resident of Kennesaw, Georgia. He maintains a webpage and has an active Twitter account.

Judge Braswell D. Deen Jr.

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