KERN, John Worth (1849-1917)
Senate Years of Service: 1911-1917

KERN, JOHN WORTH, a Senator from Indiana; born in Alto, Howard County, Ind., December 20, 1849; attended the common schools and the normal college at Kokomo, Ind.; taught school; graduated from the law department of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1869; admitted to the bar the same year and commenced practice in Kokomo; unsuccessful candidate for election to the State house of representatives in 1870; city attorney of Kokomo 1871-1884; reporter of the Indiana Supreme Court 1885-1889; member, State senate 1893-1897; special assistant United States district attorney 1893-1894; city solicitor of Indianapolis 1897-1901; unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Governor in 1900 and 1904; unsuccessful candidate for Vice President of the United States on the Democratic ticket with William Jennings Bryan in 1908; elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1911, to March 3, 1917; unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1916; Democratic caucus chairman 1913-1917; chairman, Committee on Privileges and Elections (Sixty-third and Sixty-fourth Congresses); died in Asheville, N.C., August 17, 1917; interment on the Kern estate near Hollins, Va.; reinterment in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Ind., in 1929.

Majority of his papers were destroyed by a servant following the death of Kern's second wife.

Indiana Historical Society
Indianapolis, IN
Papers: 1 letter (1910); correspondence in League of Women Voters of Indiana records, 1910-ongoing; and in Noble Chase Butler papers, 1809-1933.

Indiana State Library
Indianapolis, IN
Papers: 2 items (1910,1914); and a small number of items in other collections including the John B. Stoll papers, 1854-1926.

Indiana University
Lilly Library
Bloomington, IN
Papers: A substantial amount of political correspondence in the Claude Bowers papers, ca. 1893-1972; and correspondence in James Whitcomb Riley papers, 1858-1944. Finding aid.

  • Bowers, Claude G. The Life of John Worth Kern. Indianapolis: Hollenbeck Press, 1918.
  • Haughton, Virginia F. "John W. Kern: Senate Majority Leader and Labor Legislation, 1913-1917.'' Mid-America 57 (July 1975): 184-94.
  • ___. "John Worth Kern and Wilson's New Freedom: A Study of a Senate Majority Leader.'' Ph.D. dissertation, University of Kentucky, 1973.
  • Moore, Betty J. "The Majority Leader of the United States Senate: The Leader's Effectiveness as a Major Determinant in the Leadership Model.'' Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park, 1986.
  • Oleszek, Walter J. "John Worth Kern: Portrait of a Floor Leader.'' In First Among Equals: Outstanding Senate Leaders of the Twentieth Century, edited by Richard A. Baker and Roger H. Davidson, pp. 7-37. Washington: Congressional Quarterly, 1991.
  • Roberts, George C. "Woodrow Wilson, John W. Kern and the 1916 Indiana Election: Defeat of a Senate Majority Leader.'' Presidential Studies Quarterly 10 (Winter 1980): 63-73.
  • Sehlinger, Peter J. "John W. Kern: A Hoosier Progressive.'' In Gentlemen from Indiana: National Party Candidates 1836-1940, edited by Ralph D. Gray, pp. 189-217. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1977.