Albert represented the southeastern portion of Oklahoma (Congressional District 3) as a Democrat for 30 years, starting in 1947. He is most well-known for his service as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1971 to 1977. At 5 feet 4 inches tall, Albert was often affectionately known as the "Little Giant from Little Dixie", and held the highest political office of any Oklahoman in American history.
As Majority Leader, Albert was a key figure in advancing the Democratic legislative agenda in the House, particularly with health care legislation. Medicare, the federal program of hospital insurance for persons 65 and older, was initially proposed by the Kennedy Administration as an amendment to the Social Security program. Albert knew the bill had insufficient Congressional support for passage due to the opposition of ten key Republicans and eight key southern Democrats. He advised President Kennedy to seek Senate passage of the measure first. Albert calculated that the Senate should bring it to the House as a conference committee report on their own welfare bill, instead of trying direct introduction into the House.
Although well-planned, Albert's efforts on behalf of the Medicare bill were not successful at that time. After the Kennedy assassination, Albert worked to change House rules so that the majority Democrats would have greater influence on the final decisions of Congress under President Lyndon B. Johnson. The changes included more majority leverage over the House Rules Committee, and stronger majority membership influence in the House Ways and Means Committee. With these changes in place, Albert was able to push through the Medicare bill, known as the Social Security Act of 1965, and he shepherded other pieces of Johnson's Great Society program through Congress.
Albert also chaired the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The convention was one of the most chaotic conventions in American history. Riots and protests raged outside the convention venue, and disorder reigned among convention delegates tasked with leading the party after the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the increasing casualties of the Vietnam War, and Johnson's refusal to accept renomination for a second term as president.
In 1973, during Albert's second term as Speaker and Nixon's second term as president, Vice President Spiro Agnew was indicted for tax evasion and money laundering for bribes he took while he was Governor of Maryland. Agnew resigned as Vice President and eventually pleaded nolo contendere to the charges, as part of a package plea agreement. This event suddenly placed Albert as next in line to assume the presidential powers and duties, should that office become vacant.
Under the provisions of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Nixon nominated Republican House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford to replace Agnew as Vice President in October 1973. As the Watergate crisis began to unfold, many believed that Nixon would also resign from office, possibly before both Houses of Congress could confirm Ford as Vice President. Had Nixon resigned without a sitting Vice President to succeed him, Albert would have become Acting President under the Presidential Succession Act of 1947.
Agnew's resignation was the first occasion since the ratification of the Twelfth Amendment in which it was possible for a member of one party to assume the presidency after a member of the opposing party vacated the office. As Speaker of the House, Albert was first in line after Nixon to the presidency, and presided over the only body with the authority to impeach Nixon. In other words, Albert could have maneuvered to make himself Acting President. However, Albert concluded that he, as a Democrat, had no right to a Presidency that the American people had entrusted by election to a Republican. He announced that he would become only Acting President and would resign immediately after the House and Senate had confirmed a Republican Vice President. The Vice Presidency was vacant for about seven weeks; Ford was confirmed and sworn in as Vice President in December, 1973.
The country was confronted with the issue of succession eight months later. Nixon resigned on August 9 1974, and the office of Vice President was once more left vacant when Ford was sworn in as President that day. After former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller was nominated by Ford, then confirmed and sworn into office as Vice President in December, the issue of Albert's presidential succession was finally laid to rest.
A different issue arose during Albert's last term in office when he was confronted with the Tongsun Park scandal. He was accused of accepting bribes from a lobbyist who was also a member of South Korean intelligence. Albert decided to retire at the end of the 94th Congress in January 1977.
Several institutions and buildings in Oklahoma bear Albert's name. Carl Albert Middle School and Carl Albert High School in Midwest City and Carl Albert State College in Poteau are named for him. Carl Albert Indian Health Facility in Ada is part of the Public Health Service) and is administered by the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. Durant named its Carl Albert Park for him, and a monument to Albert resides at his birthplace in McAlester.
The University of Oxford established a monument to Albert in the Eunomia Chambers of the St Peter's College Law Library.
MWC Carl Albert 31, East Central 24: Carl Albert tops East Central: David Oku's 27-yard run lifts the Titans past the defending Class 5A champion Cardinals.
Nov 25, 2006; Byline: John D. Ferguson Nov. 25--BROKEN ARROW -- David Oku scored on a 27-yard run with 49 seconds left to give No. 3 Midwest...
5A Championship: Carl Albert wins, completes sweep: The Titans shut out Chickasha for their first ever state baseball title.
May 17, 2007; Byline: Guerin Emig May 17--SHAWNEE -- Midwest City Carl Albert won a baseball game and made history at Shawnee's Ed Skelton...