Smoot, Reed

Reed Smoot (1862-1941) was a Utah Mormon apostle who served in the United States Senate from 1903 to 1933.

President Roosevelt welcomed Smoot into the Senate at a time when many of the eastern establishment sought to deny him a seat because they regarded him as a polygamist. The General Federation of Women’s Clubs argued that seating a Mormon “shook the foundations of the American home.” Only a few years earlier Utah Congressman B. H. Roberts had been denied his seat in the House of Representatives because he was a polygamist. After a long and bitter public controversy, Smoot was seated, even though he was third in line to the LDS succession. Senate hearings into his fitness for office began on January 16, 1904, and did not end until February 20, 1907. The Senate investigative committee voted to deny Smoot his seat, but the full Senate voted to permit him to complete his term. The four-year hearings were actually more a prolonged debate about the legitimacy and social policies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints than an investigation of Smoot.

Smoot was re-elected in 1908. He continued to serve in the Senate until his defeat in the 1932 election.

Smoot became Roosevelt’s ally in some conservation legislation. In 1916 Smoot sponsored the Senate version of the legislation that led to the creation of the National Park Service.

Smoot is best known as the co-sponsor of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff in 1930 that raised duties on 20,000 items. Many historians believe that the Smoot-Hawley bill helped to precipitate the Great Depression.

After his retirement from the Senate, Smoot returned to Utah where he continued to be a senior apostle in the LDS church until his death on February 9, 1941.