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Estes Kefauver

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Kefauver writes to the editor of The Atlantic Monthly

regarding the Dixon-Yates scandal and

congressional investigative powers

Carey Estes Kefauver, 1903–1963. Congressman and United States Senator from Tennessee. Political content Typed Letter Signed, Estes, with autograph postscript, one page, 8” x 10½”, on stationery of the United States Senate, Washington, D.C., August 8, 1955.

Kefauver, a year away from securing the Democratic vice presidential nomination, writes to Edward Weeks, editor of The Atlantic Monthly, regarding an article on congressional investigative powers.  In full:  “I am terribly sorry to have been so long in answering your letter regarding the proposed article on ʻInvestigative Powers of Congress.ʼ  I have been having a very hectic time, engaged as I was in the investigation of the Dixon Yates matter as well as the closing of Congress.  /  I think you have a very good suggestion and will send you several inserts for you to work into the article and do the necessary editing.  /  I certainly appreciate your interest.”

The Dixon-Yates affair to which Kefauver refers involved a contract between the United States Atomic Energy Commission and the Mississippi Power Generating Company to build a $107 million power plant to supply electricity to Memphis, Tennessee.  The contract was signed by the leaders of two private energy companies, Edgar Dixon, the president of Middle South Utilities, and Eugene Yates, chairman of the board of the Southern Company, whose companies were involved.  The plan was to supply electric power to the AECʼs Tennessee plant in order to replace power from the Tennessee Valley Authority that could then be used to supply the growing demands of the city of Memphis.  Although the AEC estimated that the arrangement would cost an extra $4–$6 million per year, and AEC General Manager Kenneth Nichols preferred that the TVA procure the power directly, Eisenhower favored buying power from private interests and ordered the AEC to negotiate the contract.  Both Eisenhower and AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss favored the plan, and the Republican-controlled Joint Committee for Atomic Energy approved it. 

Liberals saw the contract as a Republican attempt to destroy the TVA.  Kefauver, whose home state of Tennessee was affected, vocally opposed the contract.  After the Democrats took control of the Joint Committee for Atomic Energy, its new chairman, New Mexico Democratic Senator Clinton Anderson, reopened the Dixon-Yates hearings and forced the AEC to cancel the contract. 

In July 1955, Kefauver, who chaired the Senate Antimonopoly Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, investigated of the role of Eisenhowerʼs Chief of Staff, Sherman Adams, in creation and approval of the contract.  Adams invoked executive privilege and refused to appear before Kefauverʼs subcommittee.

A Yale law graduate, Kefauver practiced in Chatanooga and served in Tennessee state government before he was elected to Congress in 1939.  He served in the House of Representatives through 1948, when he was elected to the first of three terms in the United States Senate.  His election to the Senate ended “Boss” Edward H. Crump’s domination of Tennessee politics.

In the Senate Kefauver gained national attention in 1950–1951 as chairman of the Special Committee on Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, better known as the “Kefauver Committee.”  He published the results of the investigation in Crime in America (1951). 

Kefauver sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1952 but lost to Adlai Stevenson, whom Harry S. Truman supported.  As this letter anticipates, Kefauver sought the nomination again in 1956.  Once more he lost to Stevenson, but the convention chose him as the vice presidential nominee over a young Massachusetts Senator named John F. Kennedy.  Stevenson and Kefauver lost the 1956 election in a landslide to incumbents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon.

Kefauver was a supporter of civil rights legislation.  In 1960, he had to overcome the active opposition of a staunch segregationist in the Tennessee Democratic primary in order to keep his Senate seat.  He served in the Senate until he died on August 10, 1963.

Kefauver has signed this letter with a full signature in blue-gray fountain pen.  The letter shows some handling, and it has horizontal folds, pencil notations in blank areas, staple holes at the upper left corner, and a paper clip impression along the lower right margin.  Overall it is in very good to fine condition.

Unframed.

 

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