Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Estes

Estes Kefauver in a coonskin cap
Born today in 1903 in Madisonville, Tennessee, one of the great progressive populist politicians of all time, Estes Kefauver. He fought tirelessly for civil rights, civil liberties, antitrust enforcement, and consumer protection legislation. "Too liberal for Tennessee," he was nonetheless reelected twice to the Senate, where he died of a heart attack he suffered during a debate on consumer protection. He and his colleague from Tennessee, U.S. Senator Albert Gore Sr., were the only members of the Senate from the South (not counting Lyndon Johnson, who wasn't asked - but probably would have joined them) who categorically refused to sign the so-called Southern Manifesto in 1957, and Kefauver was the only man to vote against legislation to make simply being a Communist illegal. I'm adding (thanks, Bonnie) here that he wore that coonskin cap because E H Crump, a powerful Memphis politician, accused him of being a raccoon-like Communist stooge. Donning the cap during a campaign stop in Memphis, Kefauver announced: "I may be a pet coon, but I'm not Boss Crump's pet coon."

He was one of my parents' favorite politicians; I remember how sad they were when he died. He was much loved - thousands of people turned out for his funeral - and much missed. Would that we had more like him now.

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2 Comments:

At 11:34 AM, July 26, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Also Adlai's VP running mate in 1956 -- perhaps you're too young to recall ;-)

 
At 9:14 PM, July 27, 2011 Blogger Bonnie had this to say...

One of many things that I loved about the late lamented Harold's Deli on Gay Street in Knoxville was the Estes Kefauver poster that stayed on the wall as long as there was a Harold's Deli. But you really should explain the coonskin cap (which had nothing to do with Davy Crockett).

 

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