This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 26th amendment to the U. S. Constitution that gave men and women from 18 to 21 years of age the right to vote.
Shown in this week’s 1946 photo is West Virginia Congressman Jennings Randolph and actress Loretta Young. Randolph, a Democrat, was an ardent supporter of the amendment, and he sponsored it eleven times as a congressman and senator. When 18-year old men were drafted during World War II, Randolph thought they should have the right to vote. With the Vietnam War as the tipping point, the amendment was ratified by three-fourths of the states in 1971. Randolph was honored to select the first 18-year old citizen to vote and chose Ella Mae Thompson Haddix, a Republican, of Randolph County. Her brother was killed in Vietnam in 1967 without having the right to vote.
Born Gretchen Young in 1913, Loretta Young was a child actress in silent films. She went on to perform in 100 films and won an Academy Award. To many, however, she is best remembered for her weekly television performance on the Loretta Young Show that ran from 1953 to 1961 on NBC. When the show was aired, she had the longest running prime time television program hosted by a woman. Many older Americans still associate Young with their family’s first television set. She was active in the Republican Party and supported President Richard Nixon who very reluctantly stood out of the way of the effort to pass the 26th amendment during his presidency.
What Randolph and Young are discussing in the photo is anyone’s guess.
Photo: Courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives.
Sources: NPR, Wheeling Intelligencer, Las Angeles Times, Washington Post.