United States Congressman, Senator
A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Lister Hill (named to honor Dr. Joseph Lister, father of antiseptic surgery) represented his black belt Congressional district from 1923-1939, supporting creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Federal aid to education, and the aspirations of the New Deal. Succeeding to the Senate after Senator Hugo Black's appointment to the United States Supreme Court, Hill effectively advocated strengthening the nation's educational and health systems.
Two years after his election to the Senate, he became Senate majority whip (1941-1947). As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare and as Chairman of a related Subcommittee on Appropriations, he found himself in a powerful position to help shape important legislation and to steer it through the upper house.
His leadership touched such programs as the GI Bill of Rights, federal aid to education, the National Institutes of Health, the Comprehensive Health Planning and Public health Service Act, the Hill-Burton Act (providing for the construction of thousands of new hospitals and medical facilities), Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the National Library of Medicine (cosponsored with Senator John F. Kennedy in 1956), the Medical Library Assistance Act of 1965 and others.
Lister Hill belonged to the nation as much as to Alabama and the South. During
his long years in the Congress, he would, from time to time, break with his
southern colleagues to follow his own conscience. For example, in opposition
to most southerners in the Congress, he favored federal control of offshore
oil with revenue to be earmarked for education.
Nationally respected journalist, William S. White, wrote of Senator Hill: "Countless millions owe their lives to Lister Hill. He has done more for the public health than any American in history."