Newhouse, Peterson Lead 35 Members to Introduce Congressional Gold Medal Bill Honoring Justin Smith Morrill, Founder of Land-Grant Universities

June 23, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) led 35 other Members to introduce H.R. 3034, a bipartisan resolution recognizing the legacy of Justin Smith Morrill, the founder of the land-grant university system, by posthumously awarding him the Congressional Gold Medal.

Rep. Newhouse: “As a farmer and graduate of Washington State University, I am personally grateful, along with the millions of men and women who have attended land-grant universities, for the legacy of Justin Smith Morrill. Justin Smith Morrill is a man who has provided generations and millions of Americans – particularly those from working class families and rural communities – with access to higher education throughout the nation. His achievements have inspired American history, values, and culture, and will be recognized and honored by generations to come. For these reasons, it is fitting to bestow Senator Justin Smith Morrill, a great American hero, with a Congressional Gold Medal.”

Rep. Peterson: “The land-grant university system established by Justin Smith Morrill plays an important role in agricultural research, extension and educational programs. Through land-grant universities, researchers have been able to help farmers increase productivity, prevent plant and animal disease, improve human nutrition and health, and discover and utilize new technologies. I am pleased to honor Justin Smith Morrill’s legacy.”

Monica Lee Morrill, Descendant of Justin Smith Morrill: “It's humbling and encouraging to reflect on the enduring history of Justin Smith Morrill's public service. In the U.S. House of Representatives and in the U.S. Senate he had a boundless passion for all Americans to have the opportunities to engage in economic, agricultural, and educational research and innovation. Justin Morrill's policies, which I've studied for over 20 years, also created a space beyond college campuses -- visitors and residents of Washington, D.C. equally relish the architecture, landscaping and geographical intent Senator Morrill worked so diligently to achieve, so that generations later we enjoy the lasting impact he made on our nation’s capital. He was a man who honored his oath to the U.S. Constitution in word and deed. I am deeply touched that so many diverse members in the U.S. Congress believe his public service is exemplary and admirable. In this way, Senator Morrill is not just my relative, but a member of the family to all Americans who cherish our precious liberties.” 

Ron Mittelhammer, Dean, College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, Washington State University: “Washington State University, and its College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, are deeply appreciative and strongly supportive of the resolution to award Justin Smith Morrill with the Congressional Gold Medal. Morrill was an educational visionary whose work in Congress resulted in nothing less than a new educational order in the United States. Through legislation that he sponsored, ‘Land Grant’ Universities were ultimately created and supported in every state, and these institutions were charged with having broad scientific and practical reach, as well as explicit public purpose. Another of Morrill’s impactful visions for the land grant university system was to provide broad access to educational opportunities. The Land Grant Universities have to date graduated 11 U.S. Presidents, and educated tens of millions of Americans. Moreover, Morrill’s land grant system of universities led to the most advanced and impactful agricultural research programs in the world. The work of Justin Smith Morrill was truly transformational for this country, and for its citizens.”


The Honorable Justin Smith Morrill (April 14, 1810 – December 28, 1898), the son of a blacksmith and farmer, was born in Strafford, Vermont. He prospered as a merchant and businessman in his early years and served in public office the remainder of his life. Morrill was elected to six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1855-1867) and six terms in the United States Senate (1867-1898), making him the longest serving Member of Congress in the 19th Century. During his tenure, he chaired the House Committee on Ways and Means, the Senate Committee on Finance, and the Senate Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds.

In Congress, he authored his namesake, the Morrill Act of 1862 which created the land-grant university system. Today, land-grant and other public universities award nearly 1 million degrees annually and perform more than $37 billion in research. In 1890, he authored the second Morrill Act, which created historically black land-grant universities. As the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Buildings and Grounds, he served as the principle advocate for financing and constructing the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress and planned the location of the U.S. Supreme Court Building. He also raised funds to complete the unfinished Washington Monument and advocated for the Smithsonian Institution throughout his service in Congress.

For the text of the resolution, click here.

Introduced by Reps. Newhouse and Peterson, additional cosponsors include:

Reps. Ralph  Abraham (LA),  Don Beyer (VA),  Mike Bost (IL),  K. Michael Conaway (TX),  John K. Delaney (MD),  Suzan K.  DelBene (WA),  Paul A. Gosar (AZ),  Jody B. Hice (GA),  Evan H. Jenkins (WV),  Lynn Jenkins (KS),  Ron Kind (WI),  Doug LaMalfa (CA),  Doug Lamborn (CO),  David Loebsack (IA),  Frank D. Lucas (OK),  James P. McGovern (MA),  John R. Moolenaar (MI),  Gwen Moore (WI),  Donald Norcross (NJ),  Steven M. Palazzo (MS), Bill Posey (FL),  Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA),  David Rouzer (NC),  Edward R. Royce (CA),  Bobby L Rush (IL),  David Scott (GA),  John Shimkus (IL),  Chris Stewart (UT),  Glenn GT. Thompson (PA),  Michael R. Turner (OH),  Jackie Walorski (IN),  Timothy J. Walz (MN),  Peter Welch (VT),  Bruce Westerman (AR),  David Young (IA)