Loss of Senator Estes Kefauver 50 Years Ago Still Felt Today

The column by D. Bruce Shine pasted below ran today in the Kingsport Times-News today. The late Senator Estes Kefauver believed in “Courage, Justice and Loving Kindness,” a message that will be on display at Thursday’s Tennessee For All Town Hall.

Estes KefaverTo some, 50 years ago is forever, for other it is just another time to remember.  I fall into the latter.

I don’t even need to close my eyes to remember the Paris I lived in during 1963.  I can see the city as it was then when I lived on the Left Bank.  It was a short walk from the Metro stop on the Boulevard Saint Germain, up the Boulevard Saint Michael, turning onto the Rue des Eccoles, and walked three blocks down to a small, clean 12-room hotel.

What I remember most about my hotel, which is now an expensive boutique hotel, were the owners, a middle aged couple, whose hot water heater didn’t work for weeks and didn’t have the heart to charge me for a cold morning shower.  Once the heater was repaired, my showers ceased being daily.

Spring in Paris is as pleasant as the song, and in the summer the city becomes warm but not like here.  In August, all self respecting Parisians depart for weeks, leaving the city to the tourists.

At the time, I was working in the International Secretariat of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was housed in a building abutting the Bois De Boulogne, down from the Arc de Triomphe at Porte Dauphine.

NATO’s headquarters had wide doors, wide halls, so that when peace was achieved with the Soviet Union, the complex could be turned into a hospital.  Unfortunately Gen. Charles de Gaulle kicked NATO out of France and into Belgium before peace was ever achieved.  The building is still not a hospital.

My boss in the information office of the International Secretariat was Raban Graf Adelman, a former member of the German Parliament/Bundestag.  In German “Graf” means “Count.”  During the day, he was Raban and after 5 p.m., he was Count Adelman.

My job was a direct result of U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver’s (D-TN) influence.  A leader in the NATO Parliamentarians, Kefauver made NATO hire me and assist in my developing a report, ultimately published by NATO on its non-military aspects.  Few copies today exist, one is in the Library of Congress and every national library of the then member states of NATO.

On August 9, 1963, I received a phone call from U.S. Ambassador to France Chip Bohlen’s office telling me he had a present for my 25th birthday from Senator Kefauver.  I went down to the U.S. Embassy at the Place de la Concorde.  Kefauver had sent a sterling silver ID bracelet, which I wear to this day.  I had indicated to him previously that I had hoped to acquire one someday.

The next day, August 10th, I was on the road to Stuttgart to spend time at Count Adleman’s castle in a small town outside that major city.  When arriving at Adelman’s very late in the day, I had a message to call our embassy in Paris.  I did and learned that Kefauver had died that morning of a dissecting aneurysm or ballooning of the wall of the ascending aorta at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

I turned 25 on August 11th and was devastated over Kefauver’s death, who had been a father figure for me since I was 13.

Here in Tennessee, the shock of Kefauver’s death was deep and genuine since he had just turned 60 on July 26.

The loss to his daughters, Diane, Gail, and Eleanor, son David, and wife Nancy was monumental.

Hundreds, including Vice-President Lyndon Johnson and Adlai E. Stevenson, journeyed to Madisonville for his funeral.  A plane load of 31 Senators and Congressman was in attendance.  Kefauver is buried on the grounds of the century-old mansion of his Aunt Lottie, where his son David and wife Mary now live.

Between 1939, when he was elected to Congress, until his death 24 years later, Kefauver made a massive imprint upon this nation.  His House of Representative service resulted in his selection by Look magazine as one of the House’s 10 best, due to no small part to his book “20th Century Congress.”  Time magazine did the same thing once he was in the Senate.  The book was the guide to the congressional reorganization act.

Elected to the Senate in 1948. Tennesseans reelected him in 1954 and 1960.  Twice he sought the Democratic presidential nomination, winning in 1952 the most state primaries, but losing the nomination to Illinois Governor Adlai E. Stevenson.

Stevenson went on to seek the 1956 Democratic presidential nomination, as did Kefauver.  Stevenson prevailed, however, the Democratic Convention selected Kefauver over Senator John Kennedy (D-MA), the only electoral defeat Kennedy ever suffered, when Stevenson opened the vice-presidential nominee selection to the convention delegates.

Kefauver chaired the Senate Anti-Trust and Monopoly subcommittee and had significant impact upon administered pricing and the marketing and research of pharmaceuticals.  In foreign affairs, he questioned our early involvement in Vietnam, while supporting NATO and the concept of an Atlantic Union.

Kefauver’s support of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education was a factor in keeping Tennessee from the deep racial strife which visited sister Southern states.

Newspapers from around the nation upon Kefauver’s death eulogized his contributions to America.

The New York Times best stated Kefauver’s contribution when it wrote: “Every American is the beneficiary of his dedication, his indomitability and the primacy he assigned human values.”

He was a caring human being.  I think of his wisdom and kindness to others near daily. Nancy Kefauver placed on his tombstone: “Courage, Justice and Loving Kindness,” which best expressed his nature and character.

A loss of 50 years ago still felt today.



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7 Responses to “Loss of Senator Estes Kefauver 50 Years Ago Still Felt Today”
  1. sandra says:

    Thank you for sharing this interesting piece of information, I find it strange that he “died” one year after Marilyn Monroe’s death, and a few months before JFK was killed. I wonder if he had learned of the Hit on JFK as Marilyn had on the hit on RFK, which failed thanks to her warning the AG in 1961. Possibly, he was quieted, as she was.

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