George William Norris (1861-1944) McCook, Nebraska
George William Norris is considered by some political scholars to be the preeminent example of an effective United States Senator. Having moved to Nebraska in 1885 to practice law, Mr. Norris quickly became an influence in south central Nebraska, serving three terms as prosecuting attorney of Furnas County and seven as judge in Nebraska's Fourteenth judicial district.
In 1889, Mr. Norris moved to McCook, Nebraska, where, in 1902, he was elected to the House of Representatives. For the next 40 years, Norris served in either the House or the Senate on Nebraska's behalf.
Mr. Norris' accomplishments are many, but two of these accomplishments have rendered Nebraska unique among its fellow states.
The first of these is our state system of government. Mr. Norris wrote and promoted the Nebraska constitutional amendment that created the Unicameral Legislature in Nebraska, the only single house legislature in the nation. This new single body system promised efficiency and economy in state government.
The second of these accomplishments had an indirect bearing on Nebraska and its unique status among states. Norris is credited with planning the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which combined flood control with hydroelectric generation. TVA, as it is known, had the added benefit of putting thousands of unemployed back to work during the Great Depression of the 1930's. The first TVA dam, completed in 1936, was named in Norris' honor.
TVA was the forerunner of the Rural Electrification Act (REA), which eventually brought electricity to the farms and ranches across the nation. Nebraska is unique in this area in that we are the only state that has all of its electricity generated by publicly owned power plants. The idea of harnessing Nebraska's vast network of rivers and streams for their potential for hydroelectric generation began with and was encouraged by Norris' work on TVA. Incidentally, very little of Nebraska's electricity today is generated by hydroelectric means.
George William Norris is perhaps the greatest among a long line of distinguished Nebraska legislators. It should be noted that Mr. Norris was the first person selected to the newly created Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1961.