The Senator’s Son
- June 4, 2015
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A young lawyer from Marengo never really had political aspirations to represent Indiana in Congress – he just wanted a chance to serve as Indiana’s governor.
His career in politics took a few twists and turns along the way, but William Ezra Jenner eventually served eight years in the Indiana State Senate and 12 years in the United States Senate.
Jenner made two attempts to run for governor, his son and Madison attorney Bill Jenner said, but those attempts to gain the Republican nomination were unsuccessful.
The senator’s son revisits his father’s private and public lives in a biography recently released by Hawthorne Publishing.
Bill Jenner said he had considered writing a book about his father for a while to leave a chronological history for the next generation.
“A lot of history gets lost,” he said, and he wanted to make sure his father’s political achievements were in print for his four sons and his 12 grandchildren.
But the book almost didn’t happen.
Bill Jenner said he worked on the book for several years, researching bits and pieces and putting newspaper articles saved by his mother into order.
He was writing the book on paper in long-hand, and corrections took a long time to rewrite.
“I had almost given up,” he said.
A chance meeting with Hanover College Professor Emeritus Bob Trimble gave new energy to the project.
Trimble knew the senator — his wife and mother-in-law had worked with him during his time in office.
Trimble helped Bill Jenner transfer his hand-written pages to a computer which allowed for an easier editing process.
The book briefly outlines the senator’s early life – his upbringing in Crawford County and extended family. Although Crawford County wasn’t known for its economic wealth, county residents took politics seriously, Bill Jenner wrote.
As a junior in high school, William Jenner was selected to represent his county in the Junior Assembly – a mock state legislature experience for students sponsored by the Department of Education.
It was there, Bill Jenner believes, that his father got hooked on politics. The elder Jenner was selected as president pro-tempore of the senate side of the student group. One of his speeches at the assembly won an award.
Bill Jenner also believes his father’s time studying at Lake Placid Club School in New York exposed him to life outside of Indiana and the workings of Washington, D.C.
The book highlights William Jenner’s election to the Indiana Senate in 1934 at the age of 26. Three years later, the young senator was selected to serve as the minority floor leader. After re-election to the seat, he also served as the Senate majority leader and president pro-tempore.
William Jenner continued to serve in the state Senate until history intervened, his son wrote. He resigned his Senate seat after the U.S. joined World War II and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps.
“That was probably a mixture of patriotism and political savvy,” Bill Jenner said.
There would have been no political career without some type of service during the war. In April 1944, William Jenner was hospitalized with a sinus infection and vision issues. A month later, he returned home to undergo surgery.
While still in an Army hospital, Jenner was elected by the Republican state convention to the U.S. Senate to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Frederick Van Nuys. He then went on to win a full-term election to the Senate in 1946 and won re-election in 1952.
During William Jenner’s time in the Senate, he served alongside John Kennedy, Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon.
“Dad knew them all,” Bill Jenner said.
But the Washington social scene never really appealed to him, plus he wanted to be with his family and for his son to have a place to call home, Bill Jenner said.
“It’s always been a little daunting to think he retired so I could have roots,” Bill Jenner said.
William Jenner announced his retirement and did not seek re-election in 1958. He never ran for political office again.
“To accomplish all of that by the age of 49 is quite remarkable,” his son said.
Jenner’s book is available at Village Lights Bookstore, Hawthorne Publishing’s website at www.hawthornepub.com and other online bookstore websites.
© May 16th, 2015 Madison Courier Newspaper