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THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Stewart, David Wallace
(January 22, 1887–February 10, 1974)

–lawyer, civic leader, and U.S. senator—was born in New Concord, Ohio, the son of Wilson and Mary Ann (Wallace) Stewart. He attended public schools in New Concord and Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, graduating with a B.A. in 1911. Stewart then moved to Cherokee, Iowa, where he taught school for one year. He then moved to Sioux City, where he worked as a coach and history teacher at Central High School for the next three years. He studied law at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1917. He returned to Sioux City and joined the law firm of Kindig, McGill, Stewart, and Hatfield.

    During World War I, Stewart joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served as a first sergeant in Company K, 13th Marine Regiment of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe. After the end of the war, Stewart returned to Sioux City and resumed his law practice. He also helped organize Monahan Post 64 of the American Legion in Sioux City and served as commander of that post.

    On September 15, 1920, Stewart married Helen Elizabeth Struble. They had one son, Robert. They also raised a nephew, John M. Stewart, and a niece, Helen Stewart.

    Early in his career, Stewart became active in civic and business affairs in Sioux City. He helped organize the First National Bank in Sioux City and served as president of the Sioux City Chamber of Commerce in 1925- 1926. He also was a member of the board of directors of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and the Boy Scouts. He chaired the executive committee of the Sioux City Bar Association for 20 years and was also a member of the Iowa and American Bar associations. He was also a member of Morningside Masonic Lodge, Abu Bekr Shrine Temple, the Sioux City Consistory, and the Sioux City Lions Club.

    In 1922 Stewart began a political career that would lead to his appointment to the U.S. Senate in just four years. It was a turbulent era in the Republican Party in Iowa, with conservative and progressive factions fighting incessant battles for control of the party organization and elective offices. Stewart started as a member of the Woodbury County Republican Central Committee in 1922. Two years later he supported the Insurgent progressive Republican Smith Wildman Brookhart for the U.S. Senate. Brookhart deeply offended conservative Republicans by openly attacking President Coolidge during the campaign. After apparently winning the election, Brookhart's Democratic opponent, Daniel Steck, successfully contested the election on the floor of the U.S. Senate, which voted in April 1926 to unseat Brookhart and seat Steck in his place. Brookhart immediately entered a primary challenge to three-term incumbent Senator Albert Cummins, beating Cummins in the June primary. In that campaign, Stewart supported Cummins.

    Then, on July 30, Cummins died suddenly, and the Republican state convention needed to reconvene to nominate a candidate to fill out the remainder of Cummins's term from the November election until the following March 4. There were a number of candidates much better known than Stewart, but he was chosen as a compromise candidate on August 6 because he had supported both the progressive Brookhart and the conservative Cummins within the preceding two years. The following day Governor John Hammill appointed Stewart immediately to the Senate to serve until the November election. The Democrats chose not to field a candidate to oppose Stewart, who was then elected without opposition on Election Day. Only 39 years old at the time, Stewart was one of Iowa's youngest U.S. senators.

    During his brief time in the Senate, Stewart became a strong supporter of the McNary—Haugen farm bill, which was passed during the following lame duck session but vetoed by Coolidge. He also helped guide a bill to authorize continued navigational improvement on the Missouri River.

    After the end of his short tenure in the Senate, Stewart returned to Sioux City and never sought elective office again. He resumed his law practice and continued his many civic activities. In 1930 he became a trustee of Morningside College, chairing the board from 1938 until 1962, a period of growth and expansion for the college. In 1961 the Sioux City Bar Association honored him as "Lawyer of the Year."

    Stewart died in Sioux City at age 87 from complications from surgery for a broken hip.
Sources Articles on David Wallace Stewart can be found in the Iowa Press Association, Who's Who in Iowa (1940); and the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Bicentennial Edition (1989). A lengthy article on Stewart's life is in the Sioux City Journal, 2/11/1974. Brief reference is made to Stewart's nomination and subsequent appointment to the Senate in George William McDaniel, Smith Wildman Brook hart: Iowa's Renegade Republican (1995). News and feature articles and editorials on his nomination for the Senate are found in the Des Moines Capital, 8/7/1926; Des Moines Register, 8/7/1926; and Des Moines Sunday Register, 8/8/1926.
Contributor: David Holmgren

Cite as: Holmgren, David. "Stewart, David Wallace" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 13 December 2018