Connally was born on a farm near Waco, Tex., on Aug. 19, 1877. He attended a country school and graduated from Baylor University in 1896 and from the law school of the University of Texas in 1898. After service during the Spanish-American War, he practiced law at Marlin, Tex.; in 1900 he began his 50-year political career. He was a member of the Texas House of Representatives for two terms, became attorney for Falls County, and in 1916 won election to the U.S. House of Representatives; he remained there until 1928, when he went to the Senate.
In the House a Connally proposal led to President Harding's call for the 1921 Disarmament Conference. During the early 1920's he was a leader against the Ku Klux Klan. At the 1932 Democratic National Convention, he helped put Speaker J. N. Garner on the ticket for vice-president and to ensure Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidential nomination.
As a senator Connally was a consistent New Dealer, opposing only the National Recovery Act and the 1937 court-packing bill. He opposed the poll tax, but as he wanted it removed by state rather than federal action, he took part in filibusters against national legislation to this end. He also pushed through the Senate the bill establishing the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
In foreign affairs he opposed neutrality legislation, led the fight to repeal the arms embargo in 1939, and also arranged for passage of the Lend-Lease Act of 1941. In World War II he worked closely with President Roosevelt to plan the United Nations and served as a delegate to the April 1945 San Francisco Charter Conference. He was also a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations in 1946; adviser at the 1946 Paris Peace Conference on treaties with Italy, Romania, Finland, Hungary, and Bulgaria; and delegate to the 1947 Rio Conference which agreed to Western Hemisphere solidarity against aggression.
Connally guided the Marshall Plan and the Atlantic Pact through the Senate. In June 1950, when South Korea was invaded by the Communists, Connally gave his opinion that Senate debate would delay a declaration of war. This led President Truman to label the fighting a "police action" so that he could act without formal congressional approval. Connally retired from the Senate in 1953. He died in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 28, 1963.