Sometimes a third-hand story has more than the usual value. This is one of those times.

As the Senate debates whether Governors should be able to appoint a Senator to fill a vacancy in the U-S Senate, Wisconsin’s Senator Russ Feingold shared a story from Senator Richard Byrd about the election by the General Assembly of William Warner as one of our United States Senators in 1905. The issue has gained currency in the Congress because of the Blagojevich scandal in Illinois and his appointment of a replacement for Barack Obama upon Obama’s election to the presidency. The provision in the 17th Amendment has been used several times in Missouri.   

William Warner was elected by the legislature in 1905, had an undistinguished career, and was not elected to a second term.

He was one of the last U.S. Senators from Missouri to be elected by the legislature. The 17th Amendment, which provides for popular elections, was ratified in 1913, making Missouri’s 1914 Senatorial election the first to be decided by popular vote.

The amendment also contains a provision allowing governors to fill Senatorial vacancies. The provision has been used more than a half-dozen times in Missouri:

William Joel Stone died April 14, 1918 and Xenophon P. Wifely was appointed to succeed him.

Selden Spencer died May 10k 1925 and was replaced by George H. Williams.

Harry Hawes resigned Feb. 3, 1933 and was succeeded by Joel Bennett Clark who was elected to a full term by popular vote in 1932.

Jack Briggs was appointed January 18, 1945 to replace Harry Truman who had been sworn in as Vice-President and had resigned his Senate seat.

Thomas Hennings died in office September 13, 1960, succeeded by Edward V. Long who was elected to a full term in November.

Long, who had lost a re-election bid to Thomas Eagleton, resigned December 27, 1968 and was replaced by Eagleton. Long’s resignation a few days before his term ended gave Eagleton aome seniorority in the Senate in his first term.

Stuart Symington, who had announced earlier he would retire, did so on December 27, 1976, and was succeeded by John C. Danforth, who had won election in November, gaining seniorority benefits similar to those of Eagleton.

Jean Carnahan was appointed to serve in the place of her late husband who had been killed in a plane crash in October, 2000, a few weeks before the election but nevertheless won election. She was defeated in 2003 by Jim Talent who served the remaining four years of the Mel Carnahan term before losing to Claire McCaskill in 2006.

Now, listen below to Senator Feingold share the story from Senator Byrd’s book on the kind of mayhem that occurred in the Missouri legislature when it elected U-S Senators. (The Capitol in which all of this happened, by the way, burned after being hit by lightning Feb. 5, 1911).

upload feingold’s speech (2:09 mp3)