Robert Bruce Macon (1859–1925)

Robert Bruce Macon was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the First District of Arkansas in the Fifty-Eighth through the Sixty-Second Congresses, serving from 1903 to 1913.

Robert Macon was born on July 6, 1859, near Trenton (Phillips County) to Robert Bruce Macon and Mary Jane Macon. Orphaned at the age of nine, he received his early education in the local public schools and at home, and he first supported himself through a variety of agricultural activities. However, farming in the post-Reconstruction South was particularly difficult work, and Macon eventually turned to politics and the study of law.

Before entering the legal profession, Macon served as a state lawmaker, occupying a seat in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1883 until 1887. In 1891, he was admitted to the Arkansas state bar, after which he began to practice in Helena (Phillips County). Macon quickly moved ahead professionally, serving first as the clerk of the local circuit court from 1892 to 1896, and then as prosecuting attorney for the first judicial district from 1898 to 1902. Next, he looked to return to the legislative arena. In 1902, running as a Democrat, Macon won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and he would represent the First District for a decade.

Macon was known for being a straightforward and direct congressman. He was reported to have the shortest biography in the Congressional Directory, and while Macon was very good at securing governmental funds for his district as well as the state, he also acquired a reputation as a fiscal watchdog. Moreover, he was known as a stickler about details and clarity in the legislative process, once engaging a colleague in a heated and extended discussion over whether a bill dealing with wildlife preservation was intended to cover mammals as stated in the bill or just birds as the sponsor’s floor comments seemed to indicate.

This same conscientious approach marked Macon’s committee work. He served on the Naval Affairs Committee, Revisal of the Laws Committee, and Committee on Expenditures of the Justice Department. In addition, he served as a member of the Committee on Pensions and the Committee on Levees and Improvement of the Mississippi River. Despite a solid reputation in the district and a stellar electoral record—only twice had he even faced a challenger in the general election—he was denied re-nomination in 1912, with Thaddeus Caraway receiving it instead.

Macon returned to his home in Helena and resumed his law practice, a course he continued until he retired in 1917.

Macon had married Minnie Laura Newberry in 1887; she died in 1890. He remarried in 1894, and he and his second wife, Laura, had a daughter with whom Macon was living when he died in Marvell (Phillips County) on October 9, 1925. Macon is interred in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.

For additional information:
“Robert Bruce Macon.” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=M000035 (accessed August 21, 2014).

“The Senator’s Secretary.” Saturday Evening Post, March 11, 1911, p. 30.

William H. Pruden III
Ravenscroft School

Last Updated: 09/03/2014

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