Carey Estes Kefauver (July 26, 1903 – August 10, 1963) was an American politician from Tennessee who opposed the concentration of economic and political power under the control of a wealthy, exclusive elite and favored racial equality. A member of the Democratic Party, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1939 to 1949 and in the U.S. Senate from 1949 to his death in 1963.
After leading a much-publicized investigation into organized crime in the early 1950s, he twice sought his Party's nomination for President of the United States. In 1956, he was selected by the Democratic National Convention to be the running mate of presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson. Still holding his U.S. Senate seat after the Stevenson-Kefauver ticket lost to the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket in 1956, Kefauver was named chair of the U.S. Senate Anti-Trust and Monopoly Subcommittee in 1957 and served as its chairperson until his death.
Kefauver Committee Edit
In 1950, Kefauver headed a U.S. Senate committee investigating organized crime. The committee, officially known as the United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce, was popularly known as the Kefauver Committee or the Kefauver hearings. The Committee held hearings in fourteen cities and heard testimony from over 600 witnesses. Many of the witnesses were high-profile crime bosses, including such well-known names as Tampa mobster Charlie Wall, and New York mobsters Willie Moretti, Joe Adonis, and Frank Costello, the latter making himself famous by refusing to allow his face to be filmed during his questioning and then staging a much-publicized walkout. A number of politicians also appeared before the committee and saw their careers ruined. Among them were former Governor Harold G. Hoffman of New Jersey and Mayor William O'Dwyer of New York City. The committee's hearings, which were televised live just as many Americans were buying televisions, made Kefauver nationally famous and introduced many Americans to the concept of a criminal organization known as the American Mafia for the first time ever. In fact, in 1951, Kefauver appeared as a celebrity guest on the new game show What's My Line? discussing the hearings briefly with the panel, showing how popular these hearings were with early television viewers.
Although the hearings boosted Kefauver's political prospects, they helped to end the twelve-year Senate career of Democratic Party leaders of the U.S. Senate Majority Leader Scott W. Lucas. In a tight 1950 reelection race against former Illinois Representative Everett Dirksen, Lucas urged Kefauver to keep his investigation away from an emerging Chicago police scandal until after election day, but Kefauver refused. Election-eve publication of stolen secret committee documents hurt the Democratic Party in Cook County, Illinois, cost Lucas the election, and gave Dirksen national prominence as the man who defeated the Senate majority leader.