June 4, 2014 Oklahoma’s most unlikely congressman

Americans grumble about how crazy the members of Congress sometimes act, but Oklahoma had one who was downright certifiable.

His name was Manuel Herrick, and he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1920 through an improbable fluke and Herrick’s own persistence.

Herrick’s mother believed him to be literally the second coming of Jesus Christ, and called him “Emmanuel.” Manuel, as he preferred to be called, was similarly delusional. In 1893, after he was arrested trying to rob a train, Herrick was ruled insane and institutionalized. When he got out, he tried to establish himself as a preacher but no church would have him. He ran for a number of local offices in Noble County, where the Herrick family had settled in 1892, with no success. In 1918 he received a total of 56 votes as an independent candidate for Oklahoma’s Eighth Congressional District.

In 1920, Herrick filed as a Republican. He had little chance against the Republican incumbent, Dick Morgan. Morgan, in fact, was so popular no other Republican bothered to file against him. There was just one problem: Morgan died on the last day of the filing while traveling out of state. Herrick became the GOP’s candidate, and in the Republican landslide of 1920, he won with relative ease.

In Washington, Herrick created a furor by announcing he intended to conduct a beauty contest in order to chose his wife; he wound up being sued by one of the women when no marriage proposal ensued. Herrick was defeated in 1922 and spent the next decade vainly trying to regain his place in Congress. He later moved to California, where he made one final bid for Congress.

In 1952, Manual Herrick froze to death in a blizzard.

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