Last modified on June 2, 2021, at 21:11

Claude Pepper

Claude Denson Pepper

Chairman of the
House Rules Committee
In office
January 3, 1983 – May 30, 1989
Preceded by Richard Walker Bolling
Succeeded by Joe Moakley

U.S. Representative for the 3rd Congressional District
(since renumbered several times) (Miami and Miami Beach)
In office
January 3, 1963 – May 30, 1989
Preceded by Robert Lee Fulton "Bob" Sikes
Succeeded by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

In office
November 4, 1936 – January 3, 1951
Preceded by William Luther Hill
Succeeded by George Smathers

Member of the
Florida House of Representatives
In office

Born September 8, 1900
Near Dudleyville
Chambers County, Alabama
Died May 30, 1989 (aged 88)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Mildred Webster Pepper (married 1931–1979, her death)
Children No children

Joseph Wheeler Pepper (1873–1945)
Lena Corine Talbot Pepper (1877–1961)

Alma mater Camp Hill High School
University of Alabama
Harvard Law School
Occupation Attorney, Professor

Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army

(the former Student Army Training Corps)

Battles/wars World War I

Claude Denson Pepper (September 8, 1900 – May 30, 1989) was a prominent leader of liberals in the U.S. state of Florida from the 1930s to the 1980s. A Democrat, he served in the United States Senate from 1936 to 1951 and the United States House of Representatives for a district in Miami and Miami Beach. He was also known for support of issues important to the elderly.[1]

Early life and education

Pepper was born on a farm near Dudleyville in Chambers County, Alabama, and graduate in 1917 from Camp Hill High School. For a time, he operated a hat cleaning and repair business, taught school in Dothan in southeastern Alabama, and worked in a steel mill before he began his studies at the University of Alabama. He served in the United States Army in World War I, and in 1921 received a bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. He taught law at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where one of his students was later senatorial colleague J. William Fulbright, subsequently the UA president. In 1924, he graduated from Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and later opened his legal practice in Perry in Taylor County in northern Florida.[2]

Political career

Liberal segregationist senators Tom Connally, Walter F. George, Richard Russell, Jr., and Claude Pepper filibustering an anti-lynching bill in 1938.

After one term as a state representative, Pepper won the 1936 special election to succeed Senator Duncan U. Fletcher. Pepper was a strong advocate for the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration and backed the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the last of the major New Deal legislation. He also opposed anti-lynching legislation of Blacks to appease Southern racists, vowing for maintaining white supremacy following the Supreme Court ruling in Smith v. Allwright that banned white primary elections.[3]

Charles Kramer, a KGB agent and member of the Perlo group of Soviet spies, transmitted to the Soviet Union vital war production and weapon design information while serving on his staff.[4] When World War II ended, Pepper was conciliatory toward Joseph Stalin despite Stalin's broken promise to President Franklin Roosevelt to hold democratic elections and respect the right of self-determination of peoples. Pepper opposed Truman's policy of Containment to stop the spread of Soviet Communism. Pepper supported progressive Henry Wallace against Harry Truman for president in 1948.

After the theft of U.S. atomic secrets by New Deal Democrats and communists began killing American servicemen in the Korean War with Soviet-built weapons, Pepper was unseated in the regular 1950 Senate election by the more conservative George Smathers, then a two-term U.S. Representative from House District 4. Pepper returned to his law practice in 1951, this time in the capital city of Tallahassee.[5]

Thirteen years later, Pepper was elected from the then newly established District 3 (since renumbered multiple times) seat in the U.S. House. as a representative, he then began espousing anti-communist positions and was critical of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who was unpopular in south Florida. He chaired the House Permanent Select Committee on Aging and attempted to strengthen Social Security and Medicare. From 1983 to 1989, he chaired the House Rules Committee. Upon his death at the age of eighty-eight, he was honored with a state funeral. Eleven years later, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor.[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Reginald Thomas (May 31, 1989). Claude Pepper, Fiery Fighter for Elderly Rights, Dies at 88. The New York Times.
  2. Ric A. Kabat, "From Camp Hill to Harvard Yard : The early years of Claude D. Pepper," The Florida Historical Quarterly, October 1, 1993, pp. 153=179.
  3. Mormino, Gar R. (October 30, 2020). The strange career of Claude Pepper | Column. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  4. White Notebook #3, Translation of original notes from KGB archival files by Alexander Vassiliev between 1993-1996. Translated by Steve Shabad, reviewed and edited by Alexander Vassiliev and John Earl Haynes (2007).
  5. Mallary Rawls (May 4, 2015). Claude Pepper's Time in Tallahassee. Florida State University Special Collections. Retrieved on February 25, 2021.

External links