Walter Huddleston

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Walter Darlington "Dee" Huddleston

Preceded by John Sherman Cooper
Succeeded by Mitch McConnell

Kentucky State Senator for District 10
In office
January 4, 1966 – December 1972
Preceded by Paul L. Fuqua
Succeeded by Joseph W. "Joe" Prather

Born April 15, 1926
Cumberland County
Died October 16, 2018 (aged 92)
Warsaw, Gallatin County, Kentucky
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Martha Jean Pearce Huddleston (married 1947-2003, her death)
Children Two sons, including

Stephen Huddleston

Alma mater University of Kentucky
Religion United Methodist

Military Service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1944-1946
Battles/wars World War II

Walter Darlington Huddleston, known as Dee Huddleston (April 15, 1926 – October 16, 2018), was a state senator from 1966 to 1972 and then a two-term United States Senator for his native state of Kentucky from 1973 to 1985. A Democrat, Huddleston's tenure was sandwiched between the well-known Moderate Republicans John Sherman Cooper and Mitch McConnell, an Alabama native who is the current Senate Republican Leader in a 50-50 divided chamber. McConnell narrowly defeated Huddleston in the same 1984 election in which Ronald W. Reagan won his second term as U.S. President.

Life and career

Huddleston was born one of eleven children in a family in Burkesville in Cumberland County in south central Kentucky. After he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the United States Army and served as a tank gunner in Europe during and after World War II from 1944 to 1946. He then attended the University of Kentucky in Lexington, from which he graduated in 1949. In 1947, he wed the former Martha Jean Pearce (1929–2003), and the couple had two sons.

Huddleston was a manager of radio stations in Kentucky from 1949 to 1972. He entered politics in 1965, he was elected to the Kentucky State Senate, a post that he filled from 1966 to 1972. He was elected as a state senator in 1965, serving until 1972; for a time, he was the majority leader of the chamber.

In 1972, Huddleston ran for the U.S. Senate seat which was being vacated by the retiring John Sherman Cooper, a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War. With Richard M. Nixon winning reelection by a landslide as president, Huddleston in 1972 bucked the Republican tide by defeating former Governor Louie B. Nunn, 51 to 48 percent.[1] Huddleston was reelected in 1978 with 61 percent of the vote over the Republican former state Representative Louie R. Guenthner, Jr. (1944-2012) of Louisville.

In 1984, Huddleston's Republican opponent, Mitch McConnell, a county judge in Jefferson County, strongly supported by Senate Republican campaign chairman Richard Lugar of neighboring Indiana, gained political traction with a series of television campaign ads making sport of Huddleston's attendance record in the Senate. An ad prepared by Roger Ailes depicts hunting dogs supposedly looking for Huddleston's whereabouts. McConnell accused Huddleston of putting "his private speaking engagements ahead of his Senate responsibilities."[2]Despite these ads, the race was still hotly contested, and the outcome was not known until late in the evening of the general election. McConnell unseated Huddleston by 3,437 votes, 49.9 to 49.5 percent.[3]

Huddleston was known as a moderate Democrat. He entered the Senate the same day that later U.S. President Joe Biden of Delaware. Biden, who claimed to be a "moderate" until he took office as president, unseated the Moderate Republican Senator J. Caleb Boggs in the 1972 election. In the late 1980s, Huddleston was the head of the English Language Political Action Committee, He also served on the board of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. After leaving the Senate, Huddleston became a lobbyist before moving to Elizabethtown in Hardin County in west central Kentucky.

In 2012, Huddleston announced that health problems compelled him to step down as the chairman of First Financial Service Corporation.[4] He died at the age of ninety-two in Warsaw in Gallatin County in northern Kentucky.


  1. "Nixon sweeps to landslide victory," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, November 8, 1972.
  2. Jane Mayer, "Who Let the Attack-Ad Dogs Out?, The New Yorker, February 15, 2012.
  3. Mark R. Chellgren (November 7, 1984). Dee upset by McConnell in close race. Williamson Daily News. Retrieved on September 7, 2021.
  4. CEO of First Financial in Kentucky Stepping Down for Health Reasons. (February 10, 2012). Retrieved on September 7, 2021.