‘Political Hell-raiser’ charts story of legendary Montana politician

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Democratic Senator Burton K. Wheeler served Montana in the U.S. Senate for 24 years, a career marked by almost continuous controversy as well as major accomplishment.

Political historian Marc C. Johnson has produced the first full-length biography of the Montana maverick, “Political Hell-Raiser: The Life and Times of Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana.”

Johnson will talk about Wheeler’s story, his continuing importance and Wheeler’s political relationship with Idaho’s famous Sen. William Borah at an event at the Well-Read Moose book store on April 26 beginning at 6 p.m.

Johnson, a former chief of staff to Idaho’s longest serving governor Cecil D. Andrus, has written on history and politics for the New York Times, The California Journal of Politics and Policy, Montana the Magazine of Western History and for his blog and podcast “Many Things Considered.”

Political Hell-Raiser, published by the University of Oklahoma Press, charts Wheeler’s political career from his tumultuous days as Montana’s U.S. attorney during World War I to his sensational investigation of the Justice Department in 1924 and his opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s “court packing’ plan in 1937. Wheeler’s anti-war stands against Roosevelt foreign policy prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, including his high-profile speeches on behalf of the controversial America First Committee saw the Montanan attacked as a Nazi sympathizer.

“Wheeler often said he always seemed to be caught up in controversy,” Johnson said, “but he relished these battles because he thrived at the center of political action and he was a significant player in virtually every major domestic and foreign policy issue from the beginning of World War I to the end of World War II.”

Richard A. Baker, the U.S. Senate Historian Emeritus and author of The American Senate: An Insider’s History, says Johnson’s book delivers “the long-awaited life story of the national statesman who represented Montana in the U.S. Senate with ‘more than one man’s share of fights’ during the 20th century’s transformative second quarter. At last, Burton K. Wheeler has the biography his public service deserves.”

Passionate about history and literature, Johnson is a book collector, a film buff and has been a long-time advocate for the humanities and civic education. He served as chair of the Idaho Humanities Council and the Federation of State Humanities Councils and has served as a National Endowment for the Humanities site visitor to several state humanities councils. He chaired the board of the Boise Public Library and currently serves as president of the North Tillamook Library Friends. He is also the current president of the board of the Nehalem Bay Health District.

Johnson is currently working on another book on U.S. Senate history.

The Well-Read Moose is in Riverstone in Coeur d’Alene at 2048 N. Main Street. Info: 208.215.2265

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