Estes Kefauver

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Carey Estes Kefauver

In office
January 3, 1949 – August 10, 1963
Preceded by A. Thomas Stewart
Succeeded by Herbert S. Walters (appointed)

U.S. Representative for Tennessee's
3rd Congressional District
In office
September 13, 1939 – January 3, 1949
Preceded by Sam D. McReynolds
(died in office)
Succeeded by James B. Frazier, Jr.

Born July 26, 1903
Madisonville, Monroe County, Tennessee
Died August 10, 1963 (aged 60)
Bethesda, Maryland
Resting place Kefauver Family Cemetery in Madisonville
Nationality American
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Nancy Pigott Kefauver (married 1935–1963, his death)
Children Four children (one adopted)
Alma mater University of Tennessee
Yale Law School
Religion Baptist

Carey Estes Kefauver, known as Estes Kefauver (July 26, 1903 – August 10, 1963), was an avowedly liberal Democratic politician from his native U.S. state of Tennessee. Kefauver was his party's vice presidential nominee in 1956, but he and party standard bearer Adlai Ewing Stevenson, II, lost the general election to Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon.

Early life and career

Kefauver was born to a hardware merchant in Madisonville, the thinly-populated seat of government for Monroe County in southeastern Tennessee. He graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and taught high school for a year in Hot Springs, Arkansas. In 1927, he graduated from the Yale Law School and established his legal practice in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Political career

In 1939, he won the special election to fill the 3rd congressional district seat vacated by the death of fellow Democrat Sam D. McReynolds.[1] In 1948, he was elected to the U.S. Senate,[2] having unseated A. Thomas Stewart on the Democratic primary[3] and won additional terms in 1954[4] and 1960,[5] when his former rival Richard Nixon lost the presidential race but carried Tennessee in the race against John F. Kennedy, whom Kefauver had beaten for the vice-presidential slot in 1956.

In the 1948 Senate campaign, Kefauver began wearing a coonskin cap, seven years before the Walt Disney television series ran a multi-part presentation on Davy Crockett, the 19th century Tennessean who died at The Alamo; Disney cast Fess Parker to portray Crockett. Kefauver began wearing the camp to protest the role of Mayor Edward Crump of Memphis in the campaign. Crump, often called "Boss Crump," had accused Kefauver of being a "fellow traveler" and of working for the "pinkos and communists" with the sneakiness of a raccoon.

A staunch opponent of segregation, Kefauver refused to sign the Southern Manifesto in opposition to the Brown v. Board of Education United States Supreme Court decree of May 17, 1954.[6] He led numerous Senate investigations, including an attempt to determine if there was a link between the new medium of television and the increase in juvenile delinquency. He was particularly remembered for a probe conducted in 1950 into organized crime in an effort to expose the Mafia and Cosa Nostra. The Kefauver Committee, as it became know, heard from more than six hundred witnesses, the most spectacular being crime boss Frank Costello, who refused to allow his face to be filmed and then staged a walkout from the hearings.

Kefauver was also was a strong advocate for consumer protection, aimed particularly at the pharmaceutical industry, and small business, which he claimed faced unfair competition from large conglomerates. In the House, he was strongly supportive of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

In 1952, in his failed challenge to deny re-nomination to President Harry Truman, who decided to retire from office, Kefauver won twelve of the then fifteen party primaries, but the nomination went to the choice of the party leaders, Adlai Stevenson, the outgoing governor of Illinois. Kefauver lost again to Stevenson at the 1956 convention, but when Stevenson allowed the delegates to choose the vice-presidential candidate rather than making the selection himself, the delegates picked Kefauver in a close competition with fellow Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

A heavy smoker and drinker despite his Baptist faith, Kefauver died of a ruptured aortic aneurysmn in Bethesda. Maryland. He is interred at the Kefauver Family Cemetery in Madisonville, Tennessee. His Senate seat passed temporarily by gubernatorial appointment to Herbert S. Walters (1891–1973), a Democrat for whom Walters State Community College in Morristown in Hamblen County, Tennessee, is named.


  1. TN District 3 - Special Election Race - Sep 13, 1939. Our Campaigns. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  2. TN US Senate Race - Nov 02, 1948. Our Campaigns. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  3. TN US Senate - D Primary Race - Aug 04, 1948. Our Campaigns. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  4. TN US Senate Race - Nov 02, 1954. Our Campaigns. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  5. TN US Senate Race - Nov 08, 1960. Our Campaigns. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  6. GPO-CRECB-1956-pt4-3.pdf. Congressional Record. Retrieved May 28, 2021.

External links

  • Profile at United States Senate
  • Profile at Find a Grave
  • Profile at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress