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Claude Pepper

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Pepper sends condolences on the death of his former Senate colleague:

“He was a fine America and his loss will be one which we will all feel." 

Claude Denson Pepper, 1900-1989.  United States Senator from Florida, 1936-1951; United States Representative from Florida, 1963-1989.  Typed Letter Signed, Claude Pepper, one page, 6¼" x 8", with integral leaf attached, on stationery of the United States Senate, Washington, D.C., October 24, 1940.  With original envelope.

Pepper sends a heartfelt note of condolences to the son of former Illinois Senator William H. Dieterich, who had just died.  He writes, in part:  “I was very much grieved to learn of the Senatorʼs death.  He was one of my very good friends, whom I highly respected.  /  He was a fine American and his loss will be one which we will all feel.  /  I did want you to know that my sympathy is with you and also extend my sympathy to your sister."

Like Pepper, Dieterich (1876-1940) was a Democrat.  He served a term in the House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate in 1932 and then served but one Senate term and did not run for reelection in 1938.  He returned to the practice of law but died while on a business trip on October 12, 1940.

Pepper went to the United States Senate after a special election in 1936 and quickly became a leading New Dealer and a leader of the liberals in the Senate.  His 1938 campaign focused on a wage-hour bill that ultimately became the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.  He also sponsored the Lend-Lease Act under which the United States gave aid to Britain during the early stages of World War II. 

Pepper broke with President Harry S. Truman in 1948, however, and sought to dump him from the Democratic ticket in favor of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who refused to run.  Truman thought little of the man he dubbed “Publicity crazy Pepper" in the first place.  In 1950, Truman supposedly called Pepperʼs protégé George Smathers into the Oval Office and said, "I want you to do me a favor.  I want you to beat that son of a bitch Claude Pepper."  Smathers did.  Pepper lost largely because of his pro-Soviet stance.  After he toured the Soviet Union in 1945, Pepper had declared that Soviet Premier Josef Stalin was "a man Americans could trust"—an assessment that history showed was blatantly wrong.  In 1946, he had told a pro-Soviet group that "Probably nowhere in the world are minorities given more freedom, recognition and respect than in the Soviet Union [and] nowhere in the world is there so little friction, between minority and majority groups, or among minorities."  In 1948, Pepper reiterated to the same group that the Soviet Union was a nation that had recognized the dignity of all people; it was, he said, a nation whose fundamental sympathy lay with the progress of mankind and in which discrimination against anyone on account of race was a crime. 

In 1962, Pepper sought and won election to the United States House of Representatives from a newly-created liberal district around Miami and Miami Beach.  He stayed in Congress for another 26 years, rising to the chair of the powerful House Rules Committee.  In his later life he became staunchly anti-Communist.  In 1977, he became chairman of the House Select Committee on Aging and became known as the nationʼs foremost spokesman for the rights of the elderly.

Pepper has signed this letter with a large 3¼" black fountain pen signature.  The letter has one normal mailing fold, which passes through the "P" in Pepper's last name.  The letter is lightly toned on the front, including through part of the signature, and more darkly toned on the integral leaf from storage in the envelope, but the frontal toning is not obtrusive.  The accompanying original envelope is also toned.  Both pieces are in fine condition.


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