The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

Estes Kefauver (1903-1963)

Estes Kefauver, son of a hardware merchant, was born in Madisonville, Tennessee, and received a B.A. from the University of Tennessee in 1924 and a law degree from Yale University in 1927. He practiced law for twelve years and then, in 1939, entered into the political arena, successfully running for congressman from Tennessee's Third District. In the House, Kefauver supported President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs, especially the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). He also worked for electoral reform and antitrust legislation. After nine years in the House, Kefauver ran for the U.S. Senate. During the campaign, the conservative political machine led by Ed Crump accused him of having communist sympathies and compared him to a deceitful racoon. Kefauver responded by donning a coonskin cap, which became his enduring political trademark. Kefauver won the Senate seat in 1948 and allied himself with liberal Democrats. Although he was a strong supporter of union rights, he was only a lukewarm supporter of civil rights. He admitted that he did not wholeheartedly support racial integration and, in 1960, he was one of the last hold-outs to vote for legislation protecting the rights of African Americans in voting rights cases. As chairman of the Senate Crime Committee, Kefauver earned national prominence in his fight against organized crime, which gave him good reason to seek the 1952 Democratic presidential nomination. However, President Truman and Democratic party leaders endorsed Adlai Stevenson instead. Four years later, Kefauver again failed to get the nomination, but was chosen to run as Stevenson's vice-presidential running-mate. The ticket was defeated by incumbent President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Kefauver returned to the Senate and earned a reputation as an ardent anti-monopolist. He died of an aneurysm in Maryland in 1963.

Source: American National Biography Online. Internet on-line. Available From

Published by the Model Editions Partnership

Recommended citation: Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker, Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based on unpublished letters. .

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