19th Century Era: Seward The Abolitionist vs. The Sherminator
8. William Seward, Whig/R - New York, 1801-1872
William Seward – perhaps best known for being Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state (one of the “Team of Rivals”) and purchasing Alaska during the Andrew Johnson administration (“Seward’s folly”) – served in the Senate for two terms (1849-1861). It was there where he was one of the most prominent anti-slavery voices. Seward, who also served as New York governor, lost the Republican presidential nomination to Abraham Lincoln in 1860.
9. John Sherman, Whig/R - Ohio, 1823-1900
John Sherman – brother of famed Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman – served in the Senate during the latter half of the 19th Century, and he’s best known for authoring the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which sought to curb monopolies anti-competitive behavior.
Mixed Centuries Era: Virginia’s Byrd vs. Carolina’s Ervin
8. Harry Byrd Sr., D - Virginia, 1887-1966
Harry Byrd is perhaps the most noteworthy Virginia politician of the 20th century, serving as both governor (1926-1930) and senator (1933-1965). In the Senate, he opposed most of FDR’s New Deal, as well as Truman’s top foreign-policy initiatives like the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine, despite being a fellow Democrat. Byrd also opposed the civil-rights legislation and efforts of the 1950s and 1960s.
9.Sam Ervin, D - North Carolina, 1896-1985
Sam Ervin, known as the “Ol’ Country Lawyer,” was a constitutional expert who was well liked by colleagues and chaired the “Watergate Committee,” which aired televised hearings of the Nixon Watergate scandal. Nixon resigned the presidency in 1974.
20th Century Era: The Justice vs. The Great New Dealer
8. Hugo Black, D - Alabama, 1886-1971
Hugo Black was one of the more notable senators during the Great Depression and New Deal, it’s because of him that there is lobbying disclosure. His investigation of public utility company lobbyists exposed them as running a telegram-fixing campaign because of a Senate inquiry to break up the big utility companies. Afterward, FDR appointed Black to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and he became the last senator to don a black robe and join the court. But the pick stirred controversy when it was revealed he had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan briefly as he tried to rise to power in politics out of Alabama. But he wound up being a strong defender of civil liberties on the court, where he served from 1937-71.
9.Robert F. Wagner, D - New York, 1877-1953
Robert F. Wagner, the Depression-era, German-born New Yorker and Banking committee chairman, is responsible for some of the most sweeping social and economic legislation in history, such as Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act. He also introduced legislation urging the creation of Israel in 1945 (Taft-Wagner). After leaving the Senate, he devoted himself even more to that cause. He was on the cover of Time in 1934 and his portrait hangs in the Senate Reception Room, along with Arthur Vandenberg, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Robert M. La Follette, Sr., and Robert A. Taft, Sr.
Modern era: The Longest-Serving Senator vs. Leader Daschle
8. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., 1917-2010
Robert Byrd grew up poor in the Appalachian coalfields of West Virginia to become the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate (51 years, from 1959-2010). A defender of the Senate and legislative branch, Byrd was majority leader, minority leader, president pro tempore, and Appropriations chairman, helping to dole out federal dollars to West Virginia. In his early years, he belonged to the Ku Klux Klan and filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But later in his career, he was an ardent supporter of President Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American president. Byrd died in office at the age of 92.
9.Tom Daschle, D - South Dakota, 1947- current
For 10 of his 18 years in the Senate, Tom Daschle served as the top Democrat in the chamber, including more than two years as majority leader (2001-2003). He worked both with and against the Republican Bush administration after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, raising concerns about the Patriot Act and its curbing of civil liberties. Daschle was popular among colleagues and widely regarded for his affable style and willingness to work across the aisle. But his loss for re-election in 2004 proved that no one – including Senate leaders – was politically safe.