Carey Estes Kefauver (July 26, 1903 – August 10, 1963) was an American politician from Tennessee who opposed the concentration of economic and political power under the control of a wealthy, exclusive elite and favored racial equality. A member of the Democratic Party, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1939 to 1949 and in the U.S. Senate from 1949 to his death in 1963.
After leading a much-publicized investigation into organized crime in the early 1950s, he twice sought his Party's nomination for President of the United States. In 1956, he was selected by the Democratic National Convention to be the running mate of presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson. Still holding his U.S. Senate seat after the Stevenson-Kefauver ticket lost to the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket in 1956, Kefauver was named chair of the U.S. Senate Anti-Trust and Monopoly Subcommittee in 1957 and served as its chairperson until his death.
Kefauver was born in Madisonville, Tennessee, to Robert Cooke Kefauver and Phredonia Bradford Estes. Robert Kefauver was a hardware merchant. Estes attended the University of Tennessee from 1922 to 1924, receiving a bachelor of arts degree. After a year of teaching mathematics and coaching football at a Hot Springs, Arkansas, high school, he attended Yale University, from which he received an LL.B. cum laude in 1927. For the next dozen years Kefauver practiced law in Chattanooga, first with the firm of Cooke, Swaney & Cooke, as a partner in Sizer, Chambliss & Kefauver, and later in the firm of Duggan, McDonald, & Kefauver. In 1935 he married Nancy Pigott of Glasgow, Scotland, eight years his junior, whom he had met during her visit to relatives in Chattanooga. They raised four children, one of them adopted.
Aroused by his role as attorney for the Chattanooga News, Kefauver became interested in local politics and sought election to the Tennessee Senate in 1938. He lost but in 1939 spent two months as newly elected governor Prentice Cooper's finance and taxation commissioner. When Congressman Sam D. McReynolds of Tennessee's Third District, which included Chattanooga, died in 1939, Kefauver was elected to succeed him in the House.
As a member of the House during President Franklin D. Roosevelt's time in office, Kefauver distinguished himself from the other Democrats in Tennessee's congressional delegation, most of whom were conservatives, by becoming a staunch supporter of the President's New Deal legislation. In particular, he backed the controversial Tennessee Valley Authority and was best known for his successful bid to rebuff the efforts of Tennessee Senator Kenneth McKellar to gain political control over the agency. As a member of the House, "Kefauver began to manifest his concern over the growing concentration of economic power in the United States", concentrating much of his legislative efforts on congressional reform and antimonopoly measures. He chaired, for instance, the House Select Committee on Small Business subcommittee that investigated economic concentration in the U.S. business world in 1946. That same year, Kefauver also introduced legislation to plug loopholes in the Clayton Anti-Trust Act.
In a May 1948 article that appeared in the American Economic Review, Kefauver also proposed that more staff and money be allocated to the Anti-Trust Division of the Justice Department and to the Federal Trade Commission; that new legislation to make it easier to prosecute big corporations be enacted; and that the danger of monopoly should be publicized more.
His progressive stances on the issues put Kefauver in direct competition with E.H. Crump, the former U.S. Congressman, mayor of Memphis and "boss" of the state's Democratic Party, when he chose to seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1948. During the primary, Crump and his allies accused Kefauver of being a "fellow traveler" and of working for the "pinkos and communists" with the stealth of a raccoon. In a televised speech given in Memphis, in which he responded to such charges, Kefauver put on a coonskin cap and proudly proclaimed, "I may be a pet coon, but I'm not Boss Crump's pet coon." After he went on to win both the primary and the election, he adopted the cap as his trademark and wore it in every successive campaign.
Kefauver was unique in Tennessee politics in his outspoken liberal views, a stand that established a permanent bloc of opposition to him in the state. Kefauver's success despite his liberal views was predicated largely on his support by the Nashville Tennessean, a consistently liberal newspaper that served as a focus for anti-Crump sentiment in the state. His constituency included many prominent citizens whose views were considerably less liberal than his but who admired him for his integrity.
Despite opposition from the Crump machine, Kefauver won the Democratic nomination, which in those days was tantamount to election in Tennessee. His victory is widely seen as the beginning of the end for the Crump machine's influence in statewide politics. Once in the Senate, Kefauver began to make a name for himself as a crusader for consumer protection laws, antitrust legislation, and civil rights for African-Americans. On civil rights, he was ambivalent: he admitted later that he had difficulty adjusting to the idea of racial integration, and in 1960 he held out to the last in favor of permitting cross-examination of black complainants in voting rights cases. But he did support the civil rights program generally and was a consistent supporter of organized labor and other movements considered liberal in the South at that time.
Kefauver's Anti-Trust and Monopoly Subcommittee also held hearings on the pharmaceutical industry between 1959 and 1963 that led to enactment of his most famous legislative achievement, the Kefauver-Harris Drug Act of 1962, after Kefauver expressed shock about the excess profits that U.S. drug companies were taking in at the expense of U.S. consumers. Some of what Kefauver's hearings on the U.S. pharmaceutical industry revealed includes the following:
"Witnesses told of conflicts of interest for the AMA (whose Journal, for example, received millions of dollars in drug advertising and was, therefore, reluctant to challenge claims made by drug company ads)…The drug companies themselves were shown to be engaged in frenzied advertising campaigns designed to sell trade name versions of drugs that could otherwise be prescribed under generic names at a fraction of the cost; this competition, in turn, had led to the marketing of new drugs that were no improvements on drugs already on the market but, nevertheless, heralded as dramatic breakthroughs without proper concern for either effectiveness or safety.
These positions made him even more unpopular with his state party's machine than ever before, especially after he, fellow Tennessee Senator Albert Gore Sr., and Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas became the only three southern Senators to refuse to sign the so-called Southern Manifesto in 1956. In fact, these unpopular positions, combined with his reputation as a maverick with a penchant for sanctimony, earned him so much enmity even from other Senators that one Democratic insider felt compelled to dub him "the most hated man in Congress."
Although the hearings boosted Kefauver's political prospects, they helped to end the twelve-year Senate career of Democratic Majority Leader Scott Lucas. In a tight 1950 reelection race against former Illinois Representative Everett Dirksen, Lucas urged Kefauver to keep his investigation away from an emerging Chicago police scandal until after election day, but Kefauver refused. Election-eve publication of stolen secret committee documents hurt the Democratic party in Cook County, cost Lucas the election, and gave Dirksen national prominence as the man who defeated the Senate majority leader.
In the 1952 presidential election, Kefauver decided to offer himself as a candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Campaigning in his coonskin cap, often by dogsled, Kefauver made history when, in an electrifying victory in the New Hampshire primary, he defeated President Harry S. Truman, the sitting President of the United States. Although Kefauver would go on to win twelve of the fifteen primaries that were held that year, losing three to "favorite son" candidates, primaries were not, at that time, the main method of delegate selection for the national convention. Kefauver, therefore, entered the convention a few hundred votes shy of the needed majority. In the 1952 Democratic Party presidential primaries, Kefauver received 3.1 million votes, while the eventual 1952 Democratic presidential nominee, Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson, received only 78,000 votes. Yet "the Kefauver campaign for the nomination in 1952 became the classic example of how presidential primary victories do not automatically lead to the nomination itself. So the Democratic Party political bosses blocked Kefauver's presidential nomination in 1952 and, instead, selected Stevenson. Although he began the balloting far ahead of the other declared candidates, Kefauver eventually lost the nomination to Stevenson. Stevenson, a one-term governor who was up for reelection in 1952, had previously resisted calls to enter the race, but he was nominated anyway by a "Draft Stevenson" movement that had been energized by his eloquent keynote speech on the opening night of the convention. He would go on to lose the general election to General Dwight D. Eisenhower in a landslide.
During the interim between his two presidential races, in the middle of a campaign for reelection to the Senate, Kefauver took the most courageous stand of his career in 1954, casting the sole Senate vote against a politically inspired Communist control bill.
In 1956, Kefauver again sought the Democratic Party presidential nomination and, initially, he again won some Democratic Party presidential primaries. In the March 13, 1956 New Hampshire presidential primary, for instance, Kefauver defeated Stevenson 21,701 to 3,806. A week later, Kefauver again defeated Stevenson in the March 20, 1956 Minnesota presidential primary, winning 245,885 votes compared to Stevenson's 186,723 votes. Kefauver was also victorious in the 1956 Wisconsin presidential primary.
By April 1956, "it appeared that Kefauver was on his way to a primary sweep matching the spectacular performance in 1952. Stevenson, however, was able to defeat Kefauver in the 1956 Oregon, Florida and California primaries and, overall, ended up winning more primary votes than Kefauver in 1956, before being re-nominated for president by the Democrats at the 1956 Democratic Party's national convention.
In 1956, Kefauver received active competition not only from Stevenson, but also from Governor W. Averell Harriman of New York, who was endorsed by former President Truman. Though Kefauver once again won the New Hampshire primary and upset all predictions by winning the Minnesota primary, he found himself hopelessly outmatched by Stevenson's lead in endorsements and fundraising. After a devastating loss in the California primary, Kefauver suspended his campaign.
Kefauver's hopes were rekindled, however, when Stevenson decided to let the delegates themselves pick his vice-presidential nominee, instead of having the choice dictated to them. Although Stevenson preferred Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts as his running mate, he did not attempt to influence the balloting for him in any way, and Kefauver eventually received the nomination. Stevenson went on to lose the election to Eisenhower once again, this time by an even bigger margin than in 1952.
When he ran for reelection to a third term in 1960, his first and, it would turn out, last attempt at running for office after refusing to sign the Manifesto, he faced staunch opposition for renomination from his party's still-thriving pro-segregation wing, and he won the primary by only a slim margin. During the general election itself, polls showed Kefauver's support to be near-nonexistent and it was later said that, on election day, no one outside of Kefauver's family could be found who would admit to having voted for him. Nevertheless, Kefauver swamped his opponent, winning an estimated 65% of the vote.
In 1962, Kefauver, who had become known to the public at large as the chief enemy of crooked businessmen in the Senate, introduced legislation that would eventually pass into law as the Kefauver-Harris Drug Control Act. This bill, which Kefauver dubbed his "finest achievement" in consumer protection, imposed controls on the pharmaceutical industry that required that drug companies disclose to doctors the side-effects of their products, allow their products to be sold as generic drugs after having held the patent on them for a certain period of time, and be able to prove on demand that their products were, in fact, effective and safe.
On August 8, 1963, after eating some apple pie given to him, Kefauver, a heavy smoker and drinker, suffered a massive heart attack on the floor of the Senate while attempting to place an antitrust amendment into a NASA appropriations bill that would have required that companies benefitting financially from the outcome of research subsidized by NASA reimburse NASA for the cost of the research. Two days after the attack, Kefauver died in his sleep of a heart aneurysm. That November, President Kennedy named his widow the first head of the new Art in Embassies Program – Kennedy's last appointment.
1956 United States Presidential Election (Vice President's seat)
|Richard Nixon (R) (inc.) 57.4%|
|Estes Kefauver (D) 42%|
|Thomas Werdel (States' Rights) 0.2%|
|C. Estes Kefauver Tennessee Campaigns|
|1960||U.S. Senate (TN)||Estes Kefauver (D*)||594,460||A. Bradley Frazier (R)||234,053|
|1954||U.S. Senate (TN)||Estes Kefauver (D*)||249,121||Tom Wall (R)||106,971|
|1948||U.S. Senate (TN)||Estes Kefauver (D)||326,032||B. Carroll Reece (R)||166,947||John R. Neal Jr. (I)||6,103|
|1946||TN-03||Estes Kefauver (D*)||26,779||George Bagwell (I)||2,725|
|1944||TN-03||Estes Kefauver (D*)||32,497||Foster Johnson (R)||11,541||Ernest W. Forstner (I)||3,894|
|1942||TN-03||Estes Kefauver (D*)||14,704||Walter Higgins (R)||3,831||Walter Harris (I)||902|
|1940||TN-03||Estes Kefauver (D*)||35,332||Jerome Taylor (R)||16,099|
|1939||TN-03||Estes Kefauver (D)||14,268||Casto Dodson (R)||5,355||John R. Neal Jr. (I)||375|