American politician, senator, and vice-president, was born near Lowes, Graves County, Ky., Nov. 24, 1877, in Graves County, Kentucky, United States. Son of John Wilson and Electra (Smith) Barkley. After studying law, he was admitted to the bar in 1901. Barkley later served as prosecuting attorney of McCracken County, Ky., 1905-1909, and as judge of the McCracken County Court, 1909-1913. He was elected to the national House of Representatives in 1912, serving from 1913 to 1927, and in 1926 was elected to the United States Senate, where he remained from 1927 to 1949, becoming majority leader in 1937. In 1923 Barkley was an unsuccessful candidate for governor of Kentucky. In 1948 he was nominated for vice-president of the United States on the Democratic presidential ticket with President Harry S. Truman and was elected in November.
Though previously known as a moderate conservative, Barkley supported President Roosevelt and his New Deal program. Barkley supported President Roosevelt in his foreign policy and voted for the Neutrality Act of 1939, for the lend-lease program of 1941, and for other similar measures. Barkley supported the reciprocal trade policy and in April 1947 was reelected president of the United States delegation to the Interparliamentary Union at Cairo, Egypt. Barkley supported the Marshall Plan, worked for U.S. recognition of Israel, and opposed the Taft-Hartley labor bill.
In 1948 he was nominated for vice-president of the United States on the Democratic presidential ticket with President Harry S. Truman and was elected in November.
He resigned from the Senate and was inaugurated as vice-president on Jan. 20, 1949. A supporter of the administration's program, in April 1949 he attended the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty. In 1954 he was elected United States Senator from Kentucky. Always a vigorous campaigner for his party, Barkley was active to the last. He died while making a political speech to the students of Washington and Lee University, at Lexington, Va., on Apr. 30, 1956.