The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004

Book Reviews

a household name" (p. ix). Despite that obscurity, Lowitt makes a convincing case
for why Harris's political career deserves a book-length examination.
Harris achieved what can only be called a meteoric rise in his fortunes. As the
youngest member of the Oklahoma State Senate, he campaigned in 1964 to fin-
ish out the unexpired term of Sen. Robert S. Kerr in the U.S. Congress. He was
thirty-four years old when he moved to Washington, where he quickly established
himself as a dedicated member of the Eighty-ninth Congress, which itself was
poised to enter one of the most active periods in its history. It did not take long
for Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey to take notice of Harris, particularly
given Harris's regional ties to Johnson's home state, and soon the Oklahoma sen-
ator found himself running in prominent circles. Achieving national exposure as
a member of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (popularly
known as the Kerner Commission), Harris also served as chairman of the
Democratic National Committee in 1969 and even made short-lived bids to win
the Democratic nomination for president in 1972 and 1976.
In those attempts, Harris ran under a banner he called "New Populism," and
Lowitt charts well the steps Harris took in trying to develop an ideological
alternative to the Great Society liberalism that was under attack by the late
196os. And it is clear from Lowitt's account that the rapidity of Harris's politi-
cal rise and fall was tied to the rapidity of change in American politics general-
ly between 1964 and 1976.
But this study does not answer the deeper meanings of the question, "who is
Fred Harris?" While Lowitt did abundant research in appropriate sources, and
provides, at times, a lively picture of Harris's personal style and political rhetoric,
readers will not get a clear sense of the man as he negotiated his quite wild polit-
ical ride. A couple of decisions that Lowitt made in crafting his account may sug-
gest the reasons behind the lack of flesh and bones here. First, with the aim of
remaining unbiased, the author chose not to meet his subject, which means that
readers will not gain the benefits of Harris's recollections or his interpretations
of past events, which would have been fascinating to know. Second, Lowitt
allowed Harris's work schedule largely to determine the organization of the
book; each chapter takes up a particular chunk of time (usually several months)
and follows Harris chronologically through the various issues with which he was
concerned. Although we thus gain an understanding of the variety of tasks
Harris faced as a senator, such a narrative structure allows few opportunities for
Lowitt to explore how Harris worked through the major political themes of his
time. Harris's political career may have been brief, but the timing of it and of his
own ambitions call out for an even closer look.
Wzlliams College KAREN R. MERRILL
George Bush: A Lifetime of Service. By Ken Anderson. (Austin: Eakin Press, 2002.
Pp. vi+156. Photographs, timeline, places to visit, bibliography, acknowl-
edgments, index. ISBN 1-57168-663-0. $17.95, cloth. ISBN 1-57168-600-2.
$12.95, paper.)



Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed November 26, 2015.