Edward Gurney

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Edward John Gurney, Jr.


In office
January 3, 1969 – December 31, 1974
Preceded by George Smathers
Succeeded by Richard Stone

United States Representative
for the 5th district of Florida
In office
January 3, 1963 – January 3, 1969
Preceded by Newly-established district
Succeeded by Louis Frey, Jr.

Born January 12, 1914
Portland, Maine
Died May 14, 1996 (aged 82)
Winter Park, Orange County,

Florida

Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Natalie Ahlborn Gurney (died 1978)

(2) Leeds Dye Gurney (spouse at time of his death)

Children Edward Gurney, III
(suicide 1968)

Jill Holt
Sarah Stoner

Alma mater Colby College (Maine)
Harvard Law School
Duke University Law School

Military Service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1941–1946
Rank Private, commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel
Battles/wars World War II: European Theater of Operations
Awards Purple Heart; Silver Star

Edward John Gurney, Jr. (January 12, 1914 – May 14, 1996), was an attorney who was elected in 1968 as the first Republican United States Senator since Reconstruction for his adopted state of Florida. Earlier from 1963 to 1969, he was the second member of his party to win a seat in the United States House of Representatives from Florida.

Background

Born and reared in Portland Maine, he graduated in 1935 from Colby College in Waterville, Maine. In 1938, he earned his legal credentials from Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He launched his original law practice in New York City but left during World War II, in which after enlisting as a private, he was commissioned an officer in the European Theater of Operations. He was discharged in 1946 as a lieutenant colonel. In 1948, he earned a second law degree from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.[1]

Career

After completing his studies at Duke, Gurney relocated to Winter Park in Orange County in central Florida, where he established a law practice with Louis Frey, Jr., who succeeded Gurney in the U.S. House in 1969. In 1952, Gurney was elected city commissioner of Winter Park, where he had located after his studies at Duke. Later he was the city attorney for Maitland and the mayor of Winter Park from 1961 to 1962, when he won the first of three terms as the U.S. Representative for congressional district 5. [1]

After his indictment in an influence-peddling scandal involving the Federal Housing Administration, Gurney did not seek reelection to the Senate in 1974. His party nominated drug store magnate Jack Eckerd (1913-2004), who was in turn defeated in a three-candidate general election by the Democrat Richard Stone (1913-1991).[2] Acquitted of all charges after two trials, Gurney resumed his law practice. In 1978, he lost a bid to return to the United States House of Representatives to the Democrat Bill Nelson, a former astronaut and later a long-term U. S. Senator, who was unseated in 2018 by the Republican former Governor Rick Scott.

William C. Cramer, Florida's first Republican U.S. Representative elected in 1954 from a district in St. Petersburg, was defeated by Lawton Chiles in the 1970 U.S. Senate election. He was not politically close to Gurney though the two shared conservative philosophies. In that campaign, Gurney, like Governor Claude Kirk endorsed for his party's nomination, retired Judge George Harrold Carswell (1919-1992), a former segregationist who was not confirmed for a seat on the United States Supreme Court, for which he was nominated by U.S. President Richard M. Nixon. Cramer defeated the challenge from Carswell but was then defeated in a heavily Democratic year by Lawton Chiles.[3]

Gurney has been credited with modernizing Florida politics, using "sophisticated advertising and other media tools for his statewide campaigns."[1] In 1968, he benefited from Nixon's political "coattails," as the national GOP conducted what became known as a "Southern Strategy" to recruit to the Republican Party conservative white voters formerly allied with the Democrats. In the senatorial general election, Gurney defeated the Democratic former Governor Thomas LeRoy Collins (1909-1991), 1,131,499 votes (55.9 percent) to 892,637 (44.1 percent). Apparently, many supporters of third-party presidential candidate George C. Wallace of Alabama also voted for Gurney, rather than Collins who was a defender of civil rights. They hence became part of a coalition of an increasing number of Republicans in Florida allied with a declining number of white Democrats.

After losing the 1978 election to Bill Nelson, Gurney retired completely from politics, distraught over how the unproven charges had impacted him politically. His supporters believe that Gurney was targeted by the U.S. Department of Justice because of his steadfast defense on Nixon in the Watergate hearings, particularly the tough grilling on whistleblower John Dean. His death was not immediately released by his family, who had the body cremated.[1]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Tom Leithauser (May 22, 1995). [EX-SENATOR ED GURNEY DIES - Orlando Sentinel Ex-Senator Ed Gurney Dies]. The Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved on March 12, 2021.
  2. GURNEY, Edward John – Biographical Information.
  3. Billy Hathorn, "Cramer v. Kirk: The Florida Republican Schism of 1970," The Florida Historical Quarterly, LXVII, No. 4 (April 1990).