Lester C. Hunt

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Lester Callaway Hunt, Jr.

In office
January 3, 1949 – June 19, 1954
Preceded by Edward V. Robertson
Succeeded by Edward D. Crippa

In office
January 4, 1943 – January 3, 1949
Preceded by Nels H. Smith
Succeeded by Arthur G. Crane

In office
June 13, 1948 – January 3, 1949
Preceded by Horace Hildreth
Succeeded by William Preston Lane, Jr.

9th Secretary of State of Wyoming
In office
January 7, 1935 – January 4, 1943
Preceded by Alonzo M. Clark
Succeeded by Mart Christensen

Born July 8, 1892
Isabel, Edgar County
Illinois, USA
Died June 19, 1954 (aged 61)
Washington, D.C.
Resting place Beth-El Cemetery (Cheyenne)
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Emily Nathelle Higby Hunt
Children Lester "Buddy" Hunt, Jr.

William and Ola Callaway Hunt

Alma mater llinois Wesleyan University

St. Louis University (DDS degree)

Occupation Dentist; Politician

Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1917–1919 (Active)
1919–1954 (Reserve)
Rank First Lieutenant; promoted to major
Unit Army Dental Corps
Army Reserve

Lester Callaway Hunt, Sr. (July 8, 1892 – June 9, 1954), was a dentist and a Democratic politician in his adopted U. S. state of Wyoming. In 1942, he was elected to the first of his two consecutive terms as governor. While still in office he was elected in 1948 by a large margin to the United States Senate for the term beginning on January 3, 1949.[1]


Born in Isabel in Edgar County in eastern Illinois, Hunt visited Wyoming for the first time while playing semi-professional baseball. He graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington and worked for a railroad to pay his expenses for dental school at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating in 1917, he moved to Lander in Fremont County, Wyoming, where he established his dental practice. During World War I, he joined the United States Army Dental Corps, and served as a lieutenant from 1917 to 1919. Hunt resumed his practice in Lander. He was a president of the Wyoming State Dental Society and began his career in government with his appointment as president of the Wyoming State Board of Dental Examiners, a post which he filled from 1924 to 1928.[2]

Political career

Hunt was elected in 1933 to the Wyoming legislature for Fremont County.[3] From 1935 to 1943, Hunt was the Wyoming Secretary of State. In 1935, he commissioned the painter Allen Tupper True (1881–1955) to design the "Bucking Horse and Rider" featured on Wyoming motor vehicle license plates since 1936. As Secretary of State, Hunt personally claimed the copyright of The Wyoming Guidebook, a Works Progress Administration publication, after the governor and the legislature declined to keep the copyright on the "Bucking Horse and Ryder." Hunt endorsed all quarterly royalty checks and turned them over to the state treasurer, and he transferred the copyright to the State of Wyoming in 1942. Governor Hunt sponsored eugenics legislation that would have allowed the sterilization of inmates at Wyoming institutions if "afflicted with insanity, idiocy, imbecility, feeblemindedness, or epilepsy." The legislation failed, and Hunt later expressed regret for having sponsored it.[4]

Hunt became the first person elected to two consecutive four-year terms as governor, serving from 1943 to 1949, having left the governorship midway into his second term. He successfully proposed the establishment of a teacher retirement system.[5] Republican Senator Edward Vivian Robertson (1881–1963) questioned allegedly lenient policies underway at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center, which housed internees from Japan. Hunt disagreed with Robertson's assessment and termed the internees' "living standard" to be "rather disgraceful." But at the end of the war, Hunt said he did not want " a single one of these evacuees to remain in Wyoming."[6]

Senator Hunt was an advocate for health and dental insurance policies and supported for the expansion of Social Security. He opposed racial segregation, which was then compulsory in the District of Columbia. Though conciliatory toward Republican U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, Hunt opposed the investigation led by Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin into communist subversion of the U. S. government. Hunt proposed legislation to restrict congressional free speech by removing the protection of immunity. Under Hunt's plan, individuals could file suit for alleged slanderous statements. Such legislation has not been passed by Congress.[7]

In June 1953, Hunt's son, Lester "Buddy" Hunt, Jr. (1927–2019), later a resident of Chicago, where he worked for Catholic Charities USA,[8] was convicted and fined $100 for soliciting an undercover male police officer. McCarthy joined with Senators Styles Bridges of New Hampshire and Herman Welker of Idaho blackmailing Hunt by demanding that he cease his reelection bid in 1954 and resign from the Senate so as to keep the information about Hunt's son confidential.[1]

On June 19, 1954, Hunt committed suicide in his Senate office; The New York Times attributed the suicide to a kidney ailment, others to the exposure of his son.[2] The tragedy further damaged McCarthy's national image, and a few months later the Senate censured him, but twenty-two Republicans still stood with McCarthy.[9]

Allen Drury (1918–1998), a journalist for United Press International, made the Hunt blackmail and suicide story the theme of his 1959 Pulitzer Prize-winning of his 1959 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Advise and Consent.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Lester Callaway Hunt (1892-1954). findagrave.com. Retrieved on March 4, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hunt Takes Life in Senate Office; Wyoming Democrat Fires Shot Through Brain; Kidney Ailment is Blamed. The New York Times (June 20, 1954). Retrieved on March 4, 2021.
  3. Benjamin Storrow (April 14, 2013). The Suicide of Wyoming Sen. Lester Hunt. Casper Star-Tribune. Retrieved on March 4, 2021.
  4. Rodger McDaniel, "Dying for Joe McCarthy's Sins: The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt, 2013, p. 54.
  5. Larson, History of Wyoming, p. 496.
  6. T. A. Larson, History of Wyoming, (Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1965), p. 480.
  7. Hunt, Democrat, BACKS G.O.P. AIMS; Senator Sees Eisenhower Vote in Wyoming as a 'Mandate' to Support Program. The New York Times (December 6, 1952). Retrieved on March 4, 2021.
  8. Lester Callaway Hunt, Jr.. wikitree.com. Retrieved on March 4, 2021.
  9. N.H. should reassess legacy of Senator Styles Bridges. The Boston Globe (December 29, 2012). Retrieved on March 3, 2021.
  10. Thomas Mallon (June 28. 2009). 'Advise and Consent' at 50. The New York Times.

External links

  • Profile at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Profile at WyoHistory.org