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Carey Estes Kefauver

Carey Estes Kefauver

United States Senator Carey Estes Kefauver (1903-1963) was an influential Tennessee Democrat who often broke ranks with his more conservative Southern colleagues to support economic and political reform. He became the first candidate of his region to develop a national political following during his two campaigns for the presidency.

Estes Kefauver was born in Madisonville, Tennessee, on July 26, 1903, to Robert Cooke Kefauver and Phredonia (Estes) Kefauver. The Kefauvers were a politically distinguished family: Estes' paternal great-grandfather was a successful banker who was elected to the Tennessee State Senate in 1847, while his maternal great-grandfather ran for Congress unsuccessfully against David Crockett in 1828.

Kefauver graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1924 and three years later received a law degree cum laude from Yale University. He returned to Tennessee, established a practice in Chattanooga, and during the next 12 years became one of the city's most successful corporate attorneys. Despite extensive family and professional connections with wealthy, conservative Chattanoogans, Kefauver's political and philosophical sympathies gravitated toward reform and liberalism. He became the attorney for the Chattanooga News, the city's daily newspaper which championed publicly owned utilities, revision of Tennessee's constitution, reforms in local government, and improved labor conditions. Kefauver embraced most of these causes, and in 1936 he became president of the Volunteers, a coalition of young business and professional men and labor union leaders who wanted to reform county government. Kefauver's work with the Volunteers introduced him to the low wages and poor working conditions in Chattanooga's textile mills, and his sympathy for workers won him union support throughout his political career.

Election to Congress

That career began in 1939 when Kefauver won a special election to fill the seat of Third District congressman Sam D. McReynolds, who died in office. During the campaign Kefauver supported President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program and advocated federal aid to education and support of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), two positions he would maintain for the remainder of his legislative career. During nine years in the House of Representatives Kefauver successfully defended TVA from its critics, including powerful Tennessee senator Kenneth D. McKellar; advocated anti-monopoly legislation to protect small business from corporate takeover; and urged the elimination of the poll tax as a voting requirement.

In 1948 Kefauver, in his first campaign for the U.S. Senate, won an upset victory over Judge John A. Mitchell, the candidate of the Memphis-based political machine of Democratic boss Edward H. Crump. Kefauver assembled a coalition of labor, women's, African American, and professional groups as his chief supporters and adopted the coonskin cap as his trademark after Crump attacked him as a "pet coon."

Although Kefauver's surprising victory briefly attracted national attention, his early Senate years afforded prolonged nationwide exposure. In 1950 he coauthored the Kefauver-Cellar Act, which regulated corporate purchases of competitor's assets, and in 1950 and 1951 he chaired a special Senate committee appointed to investigate organized crime. The nationally televised "Kefauver Committee" hearings, held in a dozen major cities, generated little new information on the crime syndicate but gave the Tennessee senator important national publicity and influenced his decision to run for president in 1952. After entering the New Hampshire presidential primary and handily defeating President Harry S. Truman, who later withdrew from the race, Kefauver won 13 of the 15 remaining primaries, losing only in Florida and the District of Columbia. Although he seemed assured of the nomination, Kefauver's opponents— including President Truman, big city political bosses, and conservative Southern Democrats—combined to block his selection and eventually swung the convention to Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson. Stevenson and vice-presidential candidate John Sparkman of Alabama were in turn defeated by the Republican ticket of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and California Congressman Richard Nixon.

Kefauver ran for the Democratic presidential nomination a second time in 1956, but the party again chose Adlai Stevenson. The Tennessee senator, however, did score a dramatic second ballot victory over Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy for the vice-presidential nomination. Kefauver vigorously campaigned for the ticket, particularly in the Midwest and West, hoping to capitalize on farm belt resentment over President Eisenhower's agricultural policies, but the Democratic ticket was again defeated by President Eisenhower and Vice-President Nixon.

Successful Fight for Re-election

Many supporters urged Kefauver to make one last campaign for the presidency in 1960, but he decided instead to concentrate his efforts on his upcoming re-election campaign to the U.S. Senate. Kefauver's nearly decade long focus on national affairs and his liberal voting record had eroded his support among many Tennessee voters. His votes for both the 1957 and 1960 civil rights acts were cited by opponents as examples of his incompatibility with Tennessee and Southern politics; his 1958 Senate committee hearings on the pharmaceutical industry prompted out-of-state drug manufacturing companies to contribute substantial campaign funds to his opponent, Judge Andrew T. Taylor; and his bitter rivalry with former Tennessee governor Frank Clement and his successor, Buford Ellington, further hampered the senator's re-election efforts. Nevertheless, Kefauver waged an intense campaign which took him to each of the state's 95 counties. He pulled together the coalition that first propelled him to the Senate in 1948, and, after receiving timely endorsements from Democratic vice-presidential nominee Lyndon Johnson and other Southern senators, he was reelected to a third term by a 2 to 1 margin in what the Nashville Banner called "one of the most surprising votes in Tennessee's political history."

No longer engaged in national politics nor restricted by its demands and compromises, Estes Kefauver devoted his full attention to legislative matters. In 1962 he supported the 24th amendment to the Constitution, which abolished the poll tax, and coauthored the Kefauver-Harris Drug Control Act, which reduced the price and raised the safety requirements for prescription drugs. In 1963 he led the fight against American Telephone and Telegraph's efforts to dominate the telecommunications satellite program. As part of that campaign he introduced on August 8 an amendment to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration appropriation act to require A. T. & T. to reimburse NASA for research that would specifically benefit that corporation. During the debate over the appropriations bill amendment Kefauver suffered a heart attack, was hospitalized, and died the next day, August 10, 1963.

Further Reading

The best biographies of Kefauver are Charles L. Fontenay, Estes Kefauver: A Biography (1980); Harvey Swados, Standing Up for The People: The Life and Work of Estes Kefauver (1972); and Bruce Gorman, Kefauver: A Political Biography (1971). The Kefauver Senate Hearings on Organized Crime are discussed in William Howard Moore, The Kefauver Committee and the Politics of Crime 1950-1952. Kefauver wrote three books outlining his political views: Crime in America (1951), In a Few Hands: Monopoly Power in America (1965), and A 20th Century Congress (1947). See Robert Sobel, editor, U.S. Congress, Senate, Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1971 (1971) for a discussion of Kefauver's legislative contributions. □

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Kefauver, Estes

Kefauver, Estes 1903-1963

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Carey Estes Kefauver was born to Phredonia Estes and Cooke Kefauver July 26, 1903 on a farm near Madisonville, Tennessee. His older brother, Robert, and younger sisters, Nancy and Leonora, rounded out his family. Following a career in law and service in the U.S. House of Representatives (19391949) and the U.S. Senate (19491963), Kefauver died in Washington, D.C. August 10, 1963. Kefauver attended local public schools, and then entered the University of Tennessee, where he participated in various extracurricular activities. He earned a BA in 1924 but had already begun to study law. After brief service as a teacher and coach in Arkansas, Kefauver entered Yale Law School and was granted an LLB cum laude in 1927. He had previously passed the Tennessee bar examination, so Kefauver moved to Chattanooga and joined first a practice set up by his cousins and later another firm, where he became a junior partner in 1930. Civic affairs, work with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and representation of a local newspaper promoting government reform led Kefauver into political activism, and in 1936 he was narrowly defeated in a state senate bid.

In 1939 Kefauver was appointed state finance and taxation commissioner, served briefly, returned to his law practice, then entered a special election for Tennessees third congressional district (Chattanooga) seat upon the incumbents death. Kefauver won, and was reelected four times; in 1948 he sought a U.S. Senate seat and won a plurality victory in the Democratic primary over the incumbent and a third candidate sponsored by Tennessees Boss Crump. He was reelected in 1954 and 1960, and in intervening years pursued the Democratic presidential nomination. In 1952 President Harry S. Truman and other party leaders offset Kefauvers surprising string of primary victories and delivered the nomination to Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson; the 1956 rematch also produced a Stevenson nomination, but Kefauvers withdrawal in favor of Stevenson late in the campaign encouraged Stevenson to allow convention delegates to select his running mate. Kefauver was nominated, but the Democratic ticket was again defeated in the election, by Dwight Eisenhower.

Kefauvers presidential efforts grew out of his work chairing the Senates Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce during the Eighty-first and Eighty-second Congresses. While a congressman, Kefauver had supported Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, the TVA, and government reform and antitrust policy; he sponsored the modern presidential succession statute and supported abolition of the poll tax. Kefauvers involvement in a House investigation of judicial corruption, as well as his personal ambition, underscored by encouragement of some newspaper executives, caused him to see opportunity in a Senate study of organized crime. Events overcame the Democratic Senate leaderships reluctance, and internal Senate politics led to Kefauvers selection as chair when the committee was authorized in May 1950.

The committee held hearings in several cities and began to attract attention as witnesses helped to build a case that criminal elements had developed a national organization substantially rooted in illegal gambling and protected from law-enforcement efforts through bribery and the efforts of friends in useful offices. Public interest in the investigation grew with the publicizing of the connections between racketeers and various public officials, as well as several prominent political organizations; it flourished as hearings first in New Orleans and subsequently in other cities were televised. Committee proceedings were less popular, however, in the White House and in Democratic Senate Majority Leader Scott Lucass office, as they suggested ties between the Kansas City Democratic organization (President Trumans home base) and gangsters and between Cook County, Illinois, Democrats (Lucass base) and criminal elements. Kefauver refused to defer study of them, which probably led to Lucass defeat in his 1950 reelection bid and Trumans opposition to Kefauvers 1952 Democratic presidential nomination quest. The committees work bore legislative fruit only after the Kennedy administration took office, but several states defeated legalized gambling, and a number of cities established crime commissions in the immediate wake of its reports.

Kefauver had married Nancy Paterson Pigott, Scottish-born daughter of American expatriates and an aspiring artist, in 1935. Daughter Eleanor was born to the couple in 1941, and when other children did not quickly follow, they adopted six-week-old David in 1946. Diane was then born in 1947, and Gail completed the family upon her birth in 1950.

Kefauver fell ill during the summer of 1963 and was diagnosed as having an aortal aneurism; it burst before remedial measures could be taken, and he died at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He was buried in the family cemetery in Madisonville, Tennessee.

SEE ALSO Congress, U.S.; Crime and Criminology; Mafia, The

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fontenay, Charles L. 1980. Estes Kefauver: A Biography. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Gorman, Joseph Bruce. 1971. Kefauver: A Political Biography. New York: Oxford University Press.

Moore, William Howard. 1974. The Kefauver Committee and the Politics of Crime, 19501952. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

James F. Sheffield Jr.

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Kefauver, Carey Estes

Carey Estes Kefauver (kēfôvər), 1903–63, U.S. Senator from Tennessee (1949–63), b. Madisonville, Tenn., known as Estes Kefauver. He became a Chattanooga lawyer and in 1938 was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until he entered the Senate in 1949. His victory in the senatorial race was conspicuous because it ended "Boss" Edward H. Crump's domination of Tennessee politics. As chairman of the Senate crime investigating committee in 1950 and 1951, Kefauver attracted nationwide publicity. Crime in America (1951) was Kefauver's own book on the results of this investigation. Reelected to the Senate in 1954, he won the Democratic party's nomination for Vice President in 1956, but, with Adlai Stevenson, was defeated in the Eisenhower landslide. A supporter of civil-rights legislation, Kefauver won (1960) reelection after overcoming the active opposition of a staunch segregationist in Tennessee's Democratic primary. He was a principal sponsor of a law enacted in 1962 to protect the public from harmful and ineffective pharmaceuticals.

See biography by J. B. Gorman (1971) and C. L. Fontenay (1980).

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