George William Andrews Jr. (1906-1971) was a Democratic representative to Congress from 1944 to 1965, serving 14 consecutive terms for the Third District. He was a fiscal conservative who vehemently opposed civil rights legislation and advocated abolishing the public school system rather than integrate it. He helped secure federal funding to develop the Chattahoochee River Valley and the Alabama-Coosa River System.
Andrews was born in Clayton, Barbour County, on December 12, 1906, to George William Sr. and Addie Bell (King) Andrews. In 1909, the family relocated to Union Springs, Bullock County, where his father practiced law. Andrews attended public schools in Union Springs and in 1916 began working for a local grocer; in high school, he became a night operator at a locally owned telephone company. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 1925 and from the University of Alabama Law School in 1928. He was president of his senior class, as well as a member of Sigma Nu social fraternity, Omicron Delta Kappa honorary fraternity, and Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity. Andrews campaigned in Bullock County for Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith that year in what was a hotly contested election. Also in 1928, he was admitted to the Alabama State Bar and opened a law practiced in Union Springs with his father.
From 1931 to 1943, Andrews served as district attorney for the Third Judicial Circuit of Alabama. On November 25, 1936, he married Leslie Elizabeth Bullock, with whom he would have two children. Beginning in January 1943, Andrews served in the U.S. Naval Reserves as a lieutenant (junior grade) and was assigned to naval Intelligence, working in the Judge Advocate General's Office in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, during World War II until November, when he was nominated to fill the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives left vacant by the death of Henry B. Steagall. Andrews ran unopposed and won the March 1944 special election to represent Alabama's Third District, which encompassed 12 counties in the eastern part of the state. He was sworn in on March 21, 1944, and became the first U.S. serviceman to be elected to Congress during the war. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Andrews conferred with Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt regarding military funding. In addition to Appropriations, for which he became a senior and powerful member, he served on the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Department, the Roads Committee, and the Committee on World War Veteran's Legislation and chaired the General Government Matters subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. Andrews additionally served on the Appropriations subcommittee for the Department of Defense and the Public Works subcommittee. He secured millions of dollars in federal funding for the expansion of U.S. Army installations at Fort Rucker and Fort Benning as well as for the development of the Chattahoochee River valley.
In 1956, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education declaring segregation of public schools unconstitutional, Andrews and eight other Alabama representatives signed the Declaration of Constitutional Principles, also known as the "Southern Manifesto." The document, signed by a total of 99 southern representatives, criticized what signatories viewed as "judicial activism" and abuse of power by the Supreme Court and the federal government and declared that adherents would do everything in their power to protect white supremacy and segregation. In 1957, Andrews proposed a bill to create a "Commission on Human Resettlement," which would have provided financial assistance to allow African Americans in Alabama to move to states that supported integration. He also authored a weekly newspaper column in the Montgomery Advertiser titled "George Andrews Reports from Washington," in which he commented in civil rights legislation, agriculture, military and veterans issues, foreign aid, economics, and legal issues.
In June 1963, he spoke at the dedication of the Chattahoochee lock and dam system that he lobbied to secure federal funding for in the 1940s. During his time in Congress, Andrews strongly supported improvements to the Black Warrior and Tombigbee River System. On April 28, 1965, he notified officials of the Coosa-Alabama River Improvement Association that they would appear before the House subcommittee on Appropriations for Public Works to explain the economic benefits of developing the river system. Their testimony resulted in the appropriation of $28,740,000 for five projects, including the Claiborne Lock and Dam, Jones Bluff Lock and Dam, H. Neely Henry Dam, Walter Bouldin Dam, and Millers Ferry Lock on the Alabama-Coosa River System.
On December 9, 1971, Andrews underwent heart surgery to repair a weakening aortic artery and endured a second surgery on Friday December 24, following signs of infection. He died from post-surgery complications on December 25, 1971, in Birmingham and was buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Union Springs, where Edward G. Latch, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, delivered his eulogy. His wife, Elizabeth Andrews, succeeded him, thereby becoming the first woman to represent Alabama in the U.S. House of Representatives. The George W. Andrews Lake, Lock and Dam on the Chattahoochee River near Gordon, Houston County, and the George W. Andrews Federal Building in Opelika were named in his honor in 1972.
George W. Andrews Papers: 1939-1972. Auburn University Library Special Collections and Archive, Auburn, Alabama.
Marie B. Owen. The Story of Alabama: A History of the State. Vol. 5. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1978.