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United States Senator from New Hampshire
In office: November 8, 1954 - December 31, 1974
Preceded by: Robert W. Upton
Succeeded by: Louis C. Wyman
In office: August 8, 1975 - September 18, 1975
Preceded by: Louis C. Wyman
Succeeded by: John A. Durkin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Hampshire's 2nd district
In office: January 31, 1947 - November 7, 1954
Preceded by: Sherman Adams
Succeeded by: Perkins Bass
Born: May 11, 1900 Warren, New Hampshire
Died: February 24, 1989 (agedÊ88) Lebanon, New Hampshire
Political party: Republican
Norris H. Cotton (May 11, 1900 - February 24, 1989) was an American Republican politician from the state of New Hampshire. He was born on a farm in Warren, New Hampshire. He was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and Wesleyan University in Connecticut. While in college, he served as a clerk to the New Hampshire state senate and as a member of the New Hampshire state house of representatives in 1923 as one of the youngest legislators in history. He became a lawyer after attending The George Washington University Law School and practiced law in Lebanon, New Hampshire. He was elected to the state house of representatives again in 1943. He served as majority leader that year and as speaker during 1945. In 1946 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives from New Hampshire for the first time. He served until 1954 when he ran for a seat in the United States Senate from New Hampshire in a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Charles W. Tobey. He was elected to a full term in 1956, reelected twice and served in the Senate until 1975.
One of his most controversial votes came when he was the only Senator from New England to vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, Cotton would vote for later civil rights acts such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. He was a prominent leader of his party in the Senate, chairing the Senate Republican Conference from 1973 to 1975. He did not run for reelection in 1974. Three days before his final term ran out Cotton resigned to allow the governor to appoint Louis C. Wyman.
He was reappointed to the Senate in August 1975 after the election of his successor was contested. The closest Senate election in history, it went through two recounts at the state level, followed by protracted debate on the Senate floor, until both candidates agreed to a special election. Cotton served as a temporary senator until the September 1975 special election, the result of which was not challenged. Cotton returned to Lebanon, New Hampshire, where he died at age 88 from natural causes. The comprehensive cancer center at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon is named for Senator Cotton. The Federal building in Manchester, New Hampshire, also bears his name.