Dee Huddleston: The Man McConnell Had to Beat

Less than a year ago, I wrote about the man Joe Biden had to beat to win his Senate seat, Cale Boggs. Today, I’m writing about the man the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, had to beat to win his Senate seat. This fellow is Walter Darlington “Dee” Huddleston (1926-2018).

By 1970s, Kentucky had gotten more Republican than it used to be, given Richard Nixon had won the state in 1960, 1968, and 1972. The Democrats, however, were still overall in a stronger position on a state level. Although the state had two Republican senators throughout the entirety of the 1960s, these were John Sherman Cooper and Thruston B. Morton, far from the most conservative among them, with Cooper siding more with progressives and Morton siding more with conservatives. In 1972, although Cooper was otherwise healthy and would have undoubtedly won another term should he have given it another go, his hearing had declined. The Republicans selected former Governor Louie B. Nunn, who identified with the conservative wing of the party, to run for the Senate. The Democrats picked Huddleston, who was a state senator from Elizabethtown. Although President Nixon had a blowout reelection, this didn’t translate down ticket in the Senate races, with Huddleston besting Nunn by around three points.

Huddleston’s first term record could best be described as moderately liberal, with the ACU giving him a 27% lifetime score and DW-Nominate holding him at a -0.314. On legislation that involved the creation of new government programs and economic regulation, he was supportive. Huddleston backed the creation of the Legal Services Corporation, supported more funds for food stamps, supported continuing price controls, and the proposed Consumer Protection Agency. He also usually supported organized labor such as in his opposition to denying food stamps to strikers but made an exception in his opposition to common-site picketing legislation. On social issues, he often took conservative stances, such as his opposition to busing as a means of desegregation, supporting restoring the federal death penalty in 1974, supporting restricting abortion funds, and opposing extending the deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment in 1978. Huddleston often avoided the spotlight but was regarded as effective behind-the-scenes, thus he fell into the workhorse rather than showhorse category of politician. This combination of stances worked for Kentucky voters of the time, and in 1978 the popular senator trounced Louie Guenther Jr., a member of the state House of Representatives, by 24 points.

Huddleston was often opposed to the economic agenda of the Reagan Administration, including the 1981 tax reduction and budget cuts, although was a bit more mixed on military policy. Reagan had a blowout reelection, but like with Nixon, this didn’t necessarily translate into coattails. The opponent Huddleston drew that year was the Jefferson County executive (the highest-ranking official in a Kentucky county), Mitch McConnell, who had also been a former legislative aide to Senator Marlow Cook. At first, he was the favorite to win, and McConnell was behind in polling by 17%. In August 1984 the race appeared lost, but one of Roger Ailes’ right-hand men, Larry McCarthy, got an idea for an ad after watching a dog food commercial. One of the major issues McConnell focused on was Huddleston missing major votes to deliver paid speeches, thus Ailes conceived, and McCarthy produced, an ad that became legendary, known as “Hound Dog”, which is from the perspective of bloodhounds looking for Huddleston. This ad is linked in the References section. Within 10 days of the ad, the polling gap was closed. The ad was criticized for accuracy as Huddleston’s attendance record was according to Jane Mayer (2012) of The New Yorker between 1981 and 1984 was 94%. However, Larry McCarthy, the credited originator of the ad, claimed his attendance was not the issue…it was the fact that he had missed major votes to make paid speeches. Additionally, Govtrack’s website on Huddleston shows that he missed 12.8% of votes from January 1973 to October 1984, while the lifetime median of missing votes was 6.9% among the records of senators serving in October 1984. It also shows that he missed 40% of votes from January to March 1984 and 22.2% from April to June, giving the McConnell campaign ammo. His campaign also ran another ad, this one with “Dee Huddleston” running from a man holding his record with a pack of bloodhounds that includes mentions of school prayer and the Panama Canal as reasons for Kentucky voters to vote him out. This ad is also in the References section. Although per ACU scorecard records, Huddleston had voted for a school prayer amendment to the Constitution on March 20, 1984, he had also voted for tabling Senator Jesse Helms’ (R-N.C.) amendment on April 9, 1979 that would have removed federal court jurisdiction over state laws and regulations regarding voluntary prayer and he had voted for the Panama Canal Treaty on April 18, 1978.

On Election Day, McConnell won by 0.4%, the only Republican to topple a Democratic incumbent in the Senate that year. This would be the toughest race he ever faced. Huddleston would in the late 1980s be part of the advisory board of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an organization dedicated to reducing legal immigration, border security, and stopping illegal immigration. He was a senator who worked for his time and place in Kentucky’s history, but the foremost thing he will be noted for historically, fair or not, is being defeated by Mitch McConnell; the New York Times’, the San Francisco Chronicle’s and Courier Journal’s obituary titles mention this fact.


Mayer, J. (2012, February 15). Who Let the Attack-Ad Dogs Out? The New Yorker.

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McConnell – Bloodhounds. YouTube.

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McConnell – Bloodhounds II. YouTube.

Roberts, S. (2018, October 17). Walter Huddleston, Senator Toppled by Mitch McConnell, Dies at 92. The New York Times.

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Schreiner, B. (2018, October 16). Dee Huddleston, ex-Kentucky senator who lost to Mitch McConnell in 1984, dies at 92. The San Francisco Chronicle.

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Sen. Walter ‘Dee’ Huddleston. Govtrack.

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Sen. Walter Huddleston. American Conservative Union.

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Stein, D. (2018, October 19). Sen. Walter Huddleston was a reminder that immigration used to be a bipartisan issue. The Hill.

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Walter ‘Dee’ Huddleston, who lost his Senate seat to Mitch McConnell, dies. (2018, October 16). Courier Journal.

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Paul C. Jones: “Untiring Crusader for Lost Causes”

Missouri’s 10th district, which had the cities of Kennett and Cape Girardeau, was a staunchly Democratic area in 1948, and its representative, Orville Zimmerman, had handily won reelection in years that ate at Democratic numbers in Missouri, such as the 1942 and 1946 midterms. However, he would not get to enjoy the Democratic revival in the state, as he died on April 7th. That upcoming election would return only among the House Republicans Dewey Short of Springfield, a city that remains a Republican stronghold to this day. The beneficiary of this victory in the 10th was Paul C. Jones (1901-1981).

Truman Backer – To A Point

In Jones’ first year in Congress, his record was liberal, backing the Fair Deal proposals of his fellow Missourian, including public housing, but he would prove independent minded by the next year. One subject that he would come to break with Truman on was civil rights. Although he voted for the poll tax ban in 1949, Jones’ district was in an area of Missouri that was culturally Dixie. Therefore, he would oppose Fair Employment Practices legislation and other civil rights measures. Jones would support public housing during the Truman Administration but turn against during the Eisenhower Administration. He was a bit of a maverick but stuck loyally to the traditional Democratic position of lower tariffs and frequently supported increasing foreign aid.

The Lost Causes of Paul C. Jones

Theodore Roosevelt has maintained a great historical popularity, and it was no less so in 1960. However, Jones found it objectionable to establish a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt in the National Capitol, holding that private funds could be used to establish the memorial instead and motioned to recommit the bill on July 1st. He didn’t express any anti-Roosevelt sentiments, simply objecting to public funds being used (Congressional Record). Only 58 other representatives sided with his cause, and President Eisenhower expressed his opposition to Jones’ crusade. Anti-pork legislators H.R. Gross (R-Iowa) and Eugene Siler (R-Ky.) voted to kill this measure as did a number of Southern Democrats. There were also those, notably Leonard Wolf (D-Iowa), who argued against the memorial from a liberal perspective. He questioned spending for this measure when the Eisenhower Administration asserted that the money wasn’t in the budget for additional measures to aid the poor (Congressional Record).

Jones was insistent on maintaining the accountability of elected officials in multiple ways; he proposed to dock pay for members of Congress for missing votes and against the practice of members of Congress bloating the Congressional Record by unlimited insertions. These were really small fries compared to many issues of the day and he voted for measures far more costly than what he railed against, but I suppose someone must push for these things, right?


Jones was on the House Agriculture Committee and there served as a supporter of the intricate system of price supports that makes up American agricultural policy. He was consistently opposed to the Eisenhower Administration’s efforts through Agriculture Secretary Ezra Taft Benson to institute market reforms. Jones was in 1961 the butt of the joke for freshman Congressman Bob Dole. As former Congressman Paul Findley (R-Ill.) (2011) recounted, “One spring day in 1961, Chairman Harold Cooley called on committee members, one after another, to ask questions of the witness, former Governor Orville Freeman of Minnesota, newly appointed as Agriculture Secretary. Cooley asked members to ask only brief questions, nothing more. When Paul [Jones] of Missouri took his turn, he expounded for at least twenty minutes without posing a question. Bob Dole interrupted with these words, “Mr. Chairman, please ask the gentleman to repeat his question.” All laughed except [Jones]” (89)

Opposition to Civil Rights

Among Missourians, Jones stands singularly as the most opposed to civil rights legislation during the civil rights era. He voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1960, all anti-discrimination amendments, against the 24th Amendment banning the poll tax for federal elections and primaries.

Jones also, not surprisingly at all, expressed his opposition to the starting gay rights movement. In response to a letter by Franklin Kameny of August 28, 1962, the head of the gay rights advocacy group the Mattachine Society, in advocacy for a change in approach to exclusion of homosexuals from government, he wrote in red ink, “I am unalterably opposed to your proposal and cannot see how any person in his right mind can condone the practices which you would justify. Please do not contaminate my mail with such filthy trash” (Kameny). Kameny, in truth, probably should have not wasted the effort with Jones, who would two years later vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He also voted against the Voting Rights Act of 1965, being the only Democrat in the House outside the former Confederacy to do so. Jones was similarly opposed to fair housing legislation and a bill that would have protected numerous civil rights activities federally from violence.

Increasing Conservatism – Of Jones and His District

During the Eisenhower Administration, Jones proved willing to support a fair amount of legislation expanding government authority and social programs. He supported food stamps, enacting water pollution legislation over Eisenhower’s veto in 1960 and emergency housing legislation also opposed by Eisenhower. However, Jones was also now opposed to public housing and opposed price controls on oil. Jones would oppose the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964 and in 1965 he voted against Medicare but opposed the Republican substitute as well. Although Jones changed a bit during his career, he was always popular in his district. There were elections in which he ran unopposed and he always held opposition to under 40% of the vote. in 1968, Jones opted not to run for reelection and was succeeded by Bill Burlison, a Democrat far friendlier to the national party as well as civil rights. The district’s support of Burlison was based in old habits of voting Democratic, but it would eventually move more in the direction of the conservatism of Jones, electing Republican Bill Emerson over Burlison in 1980. The area has since elected Republicans to Congress. In Jones’ obituary, the Washington Post (1981) noted that an observer had called him an “untiring crusader for lost causes”. This is most fitting for the man who took up causes many would deem too minimal or obscure to take on.


Findley, P. (2011). Speaking out: a Congressman’s fight against bigotry, famine, and war. Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books.

Former Rep. Paul Jones Dies. (1981, February 12). The Washington Post.

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H.R. 8665. Establish Memorial to Former President T. Roosevelt in the National Capitol. Motion to Recommit. Voteview.

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Kameny, F. (1962, August 28). Letter to the Honorable Paul C. Jones.

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Theodore Roosevelt Memorial. (1960, July 1). Congressional Record, Vol. 106, Part 12, 15498-15505.

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South Carolina’s Last Democratic Senator: Fritz Hollings

South Carolina really outkicked its coverage in influence in the 20th century. They had an epic powerhouse in Jimmy Byrnes, and had a highly influential senatorial duo in Strom Thurmond and Fritz Hollings. I already discussed the first two, so its Hollings’ turn.

Ernest Frederick Hollings (1922-2019), commonly known as “Fritz”, got his start in politics all the way back in the 1948 election, when he ran for the South Carolina House of Representatives and won. In this time, he was, like Governor Thurmond and other politicians of his state, a segregationist. Hollings voted for Thurmond over Truman in that election as well, although he would praise Truman later in life. However, also like Governor Thurmond, Hollings was a reformer. He quickly gained the respect of his colleagues and in 1950 he drafted an anti-lynching law that prescribed the death penalty for the crime.

In 1954, he won the post of lieutenant governor and in 1958, was elected the state’s governor. Although Hollings pledged resistance to Brown v. Board of Education during the election and in 1962 the state legislature and Hollings agreed to place the Confederate battle flag flying below the US and state flag atop the Capitol Dome, he proved a moderating influence. By the end of his term on January 9, 1963, Hollings realized the inevitable and pleaded with the legislature to accept court orders for desegregation and for the first black student to Clemson University, declaring, “The General Assembly must make clear South Carolina’s choice, a government of laws rather than a government of men” (The Hollywood Reporter). The tone set by Hollings was of great help in the state mostly avoiding civil rights era violence. In the previous year, he had challenged Senator Olin Johnston for renomination, but the incumbent won. However, for Hollings, just like with Johnston against “Cotton Ed” Smith, the second time would be the charm. By 1966, Johnston was dead and he was running against interim incumbent Donald Russell. Hollings prevailed in the primary and after facing the toughest challenge of his career in Republican Marshall Parker, he started his long Senate career.

The Record of Fritz Hollings

Hollings’ first two years in the Senate marked him as a conservative, and he voted with other Southern Democrats on matters of race. He voted against the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall in 1967 and against fair housing in 1968. Hollings would also during the Nixon Administration oppose the Philadelphia Plan and vote against extending the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, he would vote for the Equal Employment Opportunity Act in 1972, strengthening the anti-discrimination protections in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and would vote to extend the Voting Rights Act in 1975 and 1982. This was a quicker pace of change than that of his Republican colleague, Strom Thurmond. Hollings remained opposed to busing as a means for desegregation. He had a good working relationship with the man he once supported for president, and Thurmond multiple times tried to recruit him to his side of the aisle. According to him, Thurmond would say, “Hell, just change parties with me. We’ll get you the consultants, we’ll get you the pollsters, we’ll get you the money. You won’t have to do anything” (Carlson).

The Environment

In 1970, Hollings played a major role in the establishment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and would be involved in the passage of major environmental legislation for coastlines and the oceans. However, he had an overall mixed record on environmental legislation. While he supported the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1973, he also opposed permitting drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Hollings on Foreign Policy

Hollings was neither a hawk nor a dove on the Vietnam War; he voted for the Cooper-Church Amendment in 1970 cutting off funds for Cambodia operations, but voted against the McGovern-Hatfield “End the War” Amendment that same year. Interestingly enough, on foreign policy generally he was largely hawkish and on one occasion even out-Reaganed Reagan: he was one of only five senators to vote against the INF Treaty and the only Democrat to do so. This hawkishness could also come out in his rhetoric. In response to Japan’s prime minister negatively commenting on American work habits in 1992, Hollings stated to a group of American workers, “You should draw a mushroom cloud, and put underneath it, ‘Made in America by lazy and illiterate Americans and tested in Japan'” (Anderson and Binstein). Despite this, Hollings was also amenable to cutting military spending at times and he voted to give away the Panama Canal.

Hollings and Welfare and Education

Hollings strongly supported food stamp programs, supporting efforts to increase funding and opposing any efforts to limit the program. He wrote a book in 1970 called The Case Against Hunger, which outlined his views on the role of the government in feeding people. However, he drew the line at providing food stamps for people on strike. Hollings was generally a defender of programs that could be viewed as being part of, or extensions of, the New Deal. He opposed any efforts at altering Social Security that would put it in a market direction. However, Hollings did support overhauling welfare overall and providing block rather than categorical grants for it. Although a strong supporter of public education funding and against private incursions, he voted for requiring schools to allow voluntary prayer.

Presidential Run and Budgetary Efforts

In 1984, Hollings ran a rather unconventional campaign for the Democratic nomination. He blasted candidates Walter Mondale and John Glenn and ran to their right: he campaigned on raising taxes and cutting spending in the name of balancing the budget. In short, he didn’t do well. On the day Hollings dropped out of the campaign he said, “I was selling castor oil” (Carlson). He would make an effort in the next year to reduce the deficit.

In 1985, Hollings sponsored with Senators Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) and Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.) an act placing binding constraints on federal spending. After the mechanism for determining cuts was found an unconstitutional usurpation of executive powers by the Supreme Court in Bowsher v. Synar (1986), Gramm-Rudman-Hollings II was adopted in 1987 with an alternative mechanism. This law proved insufficient at preventing budget deficits, and although there was a balanced budget seen with the Clinton Administration and a Republican Congress, this gave way to more spending after 9/11. Although a fiscal conservative, Hollings was quite good at steering federal money to South Carolina, and this was part of what got him to continue winning reelection in an increasingly Republican state.

Hollings and the Supreme Court

The record of Fritz Hollings on Supreme Court nominations alone would make him a difficult fit in today’s Democratic Party. In addition to the aforementioned vote on Thurgood Marshall, he also voted for controversial Nixon nominees Clement Haynsworth, G. Harrold Carswell, and William Rehnquist. Hollings was even one of only two Democrats to vote for Robert Bork in 1987 and followed up with a vote for Clarence Thomas in 1991. His closest counterpart today on the issue of the Supreme Court would without question be Joe Manchin.

Hollings and Social Issues

Hollings’ record was mixed on abortion, with the pro-choice NARAL giving him a 43%. While supporting banning “partial-birth” abortion multiple times, he rejected a number of other restrictive measures, such as prohibitions on abortions on military bases and a federal law prohibiting the harming of an unborn fetus during the commission of a crime. He was also a supporter of the death penalty, repeatedly voting against restricting it. After all, Hollings had found the threat of the death penalty useful in deterring lynchings in South Carolina.

Economic Populist

Hollings was fiscally and often socially conservative during his career, but on economic policy he was populistic and no fan of trade agreements or deregulation. He also voted against the first round of Reagan tax cuts, known as Kemp-Roth, in 1981. Hollings also routinely voted against Republican proposals for tax reduction and was opposed to decontrolling the price of oil. He voted against President Ford’s unsuccessful attempt to do so as well as President Reagan’s successful effort. In 1993, Hollings voted against NAFTA, but so did his Republican colleague, Strom Thurmond. Indeed, he opposed most trade agreements, voting against free trade between Andean nations, Chile, and Singapore and against normal trade relations with China. Hollings did, however, support normal relations with Vietnam.

Acid Tongue and Gaffes

Senator Hollings was sharp-tongued and sometimes this led to politically incorrect gaffes. He once referred to Senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), who was Jewish, as the “senator from the B’nai B’rith” and referred to supporters of the presidential campaign of Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) as “wetbacks” (Hollywood Reporter). In 1993, he traveled to Switzerland for international trade agreement talks. Afterwards he said, “Everybody likes to go to Geneva. I used to do it for the Law of the Sea conferences and you’d find these potentates from down in Africa, you know, rather than eating each other, they’d just come up and get a good square meal in Geneva” (Los Angeles Times). Hollings also referred to President Clinton as “unpopular as AIDS” in South Carolina. His last opponent, Republican Congressman Bob Inglis, he called “a goddamn skunk” and told him to “kiss my fanny” (Carlson). Lindsey Graham, who served with him for two years, defended him. He said of him that he was an “equal-opportunity basher…My Democratic friends have been scorched by that tart tongue as much as the Republicans” and went on to state, “I think people appreciate his independence. He would say something like that and people say, ‘Well, that’s just Fritz.’ He’s a larger-than-life character” (Carlson). His targets often took his barbs in stride…Bob Inglis, his last defeated foe, even held at the end of the campaign that he personally liked Hollings. Hollings’ attitude could be characterized as “no nonsense” and this was reflected in his oft-repeated campaign motto, “performance is better than promise” (Hartsook).

The Senator From Disney

Senator Hollings was known both for receiving a lot of campaign contributions from the entertainment industry and sponsoring legislation for them, particularly regarding copyright protection, that he became known as “the senator from Disney”.
Hollings survived four tough reelection bids, and his final colleague, Lindsey Graham, stated his view on his survival, “He’s tough as nails, and he would fight back unapologetically. And he always delivered for the state as an appropriator, so even if people disagreed with his stands, they figured he was a value-added product” (Carlson).

The Bush Administration and Retirement

Hollings served in his last four years with the Bush Administration. After 9/11, Hollings was involved in drafting legislation to strengthen airport security. He was mostly opposed to the Bush Administration’s initiatives. In 2001, Hollings opposed his nomination of John Ashcroft, and cited as a reason his belief that his former colleague’s religious beliefs disqualified him from serving as attorney general. He regarded George W. Bush as the worst of the presidents he served with, stating of him, “Well, it’s easy to rate who’s the most inadequate. And that’s the present president. Jesus! He doesn’t want to be president. He just likes the politics. He likes to get elected. He likes Air Force One. He starts out nearly every day with a fundraiser. He appears at some police station or some fortified something with policemen and firemen. You know, you gotta get the right pictures for the 7 o’clock news. Then he comes in and works out and sees a movie and goes to sleep. And he allows Condoleezza and Cheney and Rumsfeld to run things” (Carlson). Although Hollings had voted for the Iraq War, he soon became a critic. In 2004, he stated on the Bush Administration’s approach, “Israel long since would have taken us to the weapons of mass destruction if there were any or if they had been removed. With Iraq no threat, why invade a sovereign country? The answer: President Bush’s policy to secure Israel.
Led by Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Charles Krauthammer, for years there has been a domino school of thought that the way to guarantee Israel’s security is to spread democracy in the area” (Hollings). This commentary was highly controversial.

In 2004, Hollings opted to retire, seeing the direction of the state politically as well as not wanting to become decrepit in office as he had witnessed in his longtime colleague. He stated on the matter, “I’ve seen ’em. I’ve seen Sparkman falling asleep in his seat. I’ve seen others the same way. Poor Strom in his wheelchair. . . . You lose your effectiveness. I’ve been elected seven times, and now it’s time to go home” (Carlson). Hollings also condemned the influence of money on politics on his retirement.

What to Make of Fritz?

Although Hollings started his career conservative and ended it more on the liberal end of things, he was on the whole moderate. On some real bread and butter issues, such as the death penalty, busing, welfare payments, and balanced budgets, he was conservative, but he was also liberal on some key bread and butter issues like opposing income tax cutting if part of it was benefiting the wealthy, opposing any market incursions into public education and Social Security, the environment, and supporting food stamps to the hilt.

Hollings was in truth the sort of Democrat who has become increasingly scarce nowadays. The regions that used to support his sort have become some of the strongest Republican areas and some of his remarks today would be downright cancelable. In 2008, he authored with journalist Kirk Victor Making Government Work, a part memoir, part advocacy book in which he condemns trade agreements and regards campaign financing as at the root of American political problems. He states, “Once spending in campaigns is limited, the big boiler room of party politics in Washington will fade, and congressional politics addressing the country’s needs will take over…. Congressmen and Senators can go to work for the country rather than the campaign. Government will work again” (Daniel).

On his death in 2019, future President Joe Biden stated, “Fritz Hollings was a good man. A patriot who fought for this country in uniform and elected office. A friend who lifted me up when it mattered the most early in my career, and taught, as he’s done for generations of South Carolinians, how to live a life of purpose and service”.


Anderson, J. & Binstein, M. (1992, October 1). Sen. Hollings and His Revisionist Image. The Washington Post.

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Carlson, P. (2004, October 14). The Nitty-Gritty Senator. The Washington Post.

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Daniel, M. (2010, February). Daniel on Hollings and Victor, ‘Making Government Work’. Humanities and Social Sciences Online.

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Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, Former U.S. Senator. (2019, April 6). The Hollywood Reporter.

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Fritz Hollings on the Issues. OnTheIssues.

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Hartsook, H.J. (2016, April 27). Hollings, Ernest Frederick “Fritz”. South Carolina Encyclopedia.

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Hollings, E.F. (2004, May 6). Bush’s failed Mideast policy is creating more terrorism. Charleston Post and Courier.

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Hollings Remark on African Leaders, Cannibals Assailed. (1993, December 16). Los Angeles Times.

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The Vandenberg Republicans

On January 10, 1945, Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, a prominent Republican who had a history of opposition to the New Deal as well as being an outspoken non-interventionist, delivered a speech that became known as “The Speech Heard ‘Round the World”. In this speech, he announced his conversion to internationalism, holding that “Our oceans have ceased to be moats which automatically protect our ramparts. Flesh and blood now compete unequally with winged steel. War has become an all-consuming juggernaut. If World War III ever unhappily arrives, it will open new laboratories of death too horrible to contemplate. I propose to do everything within my power to keep those laboratories closed for keeps. I want maximum American cooperation, consistent with legitimate American self-interest, with constitutional process and with collateral events which warrant it, to make the basic idea of Dumbarton Oaks succeed” (Vandenberg, 603). ith this speech, a post-war internationalist foreign policy became bipartisan. Although there were some partisan divisions on details such as funding levels, the overall orientation of American postwar foreign policy was agreed to.

Following Vandenberg in this transformation in the Senate were Clyde Reed and Arthur Capper of Kansas, Charles Tobey of New Hampshire, George Aiken of Vermont, and Alexander Wiley of Wisconsin. Some of the folks in the House who followed included the whole Republican leadership in Joe Martin of Massachusetts, Charles Halleck of Indiana, and Les Arends of Illinois. Another notable convert was John M. Vorys of Ohio, who had been known as a formidable non-interventionist debater. He was highly influential and could sway many Republican votes. Future Senate party leaders Everett Dirksen of Illinois and Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania were among the Vandenberg Republicans as well. These people, who had previously opposed measures such as eliminating the arms embargo in 1939, Lend-Lease in 1941, and permitting U.S. merchant ships to enter belligerent ports, were now supporting the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. Interestingly, although Robert Taft of Ohio was not as enthusiastic as other former non-interventionists, he nonetheless voted for these two measures but with reluctance.

Below are the votes I have used for the House and the Senate, respectively, to illustrate the change.


Vandenberg, A.H. American Foreign Policy. (1945, January 10). U.S. Senate, 599-605.

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Strom Thurmond Was Better Than You Think

Author’s note: my original plan was to write about American fascism advocate Lawrence Dennis, but I found two goldmines of resources for him and I want to fully capitalize on them for the post I will be writing on him: his book on the subject, The Coming American Fascism, and a 1967 interview. I would be most dismayed to have found such resources and not used them to the full extent I can. On to today’s post.

When people think of Strom Thurmond (1902-2003), if they care to, they think of him as a segregationist who ran for president on the Dixiecrat platform in 1948, engaged in a solo filibuster the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for a record of 24 hours that stands to this day, and his switch to the Republican Party in 1964. All this is true, however, the legacy of him is substantially more nuanced and on the state level reflects a degree of racial moderation and reform that was far from universal among Southern politicians of his time.

Thurmond had his first encounter with politics at the age of six. Since his father, James William, had significant political connections, he got to meet and shake hands with Ben Tillman. Tillman was the foremost politician of the state in his time, and had led a populistic and white supremacist movement in the state which got him to the Senate. After earning a bachelor of science at Clemson, Thurmond’s first foray into public service came in 1929 with his appointment as Edgefield County’s superintendent of education. During this time, he became a lawyer by “reading law”, and in 1930 he was admitted to the state bar, serving as Edgefield’s town and county attorney for eight years. Thurmond’s rise continued with his election in 1938 to be a state circuit judge.

In 1942, Thurmond resigned his judgeship to serve in World War II, and he served with distinction, rising through the ranks to lieutenant colonel. He earned eighteen decorations, medals, and awards for his war heroism. Thurmond’s service brought up his profile to run for governor. He ran a reform campaign, promising to counter the powers that were in the state from Barnwell, led by House Speaker Solomon Blatt. Thurmond prevailed and had promoted a path of reform and modernization for the state. He increased funding for black schools, passed pro-business policies to get more to move to South Carolina, and sought to eliminate geniunely

Thurmond and the Lynching of Willie Earle

In 1947, a 24-year old black man named Willie Earle was accused of robbing and murdering Thomas Watson Brown, a white taxi driver and was arrested. On February 16th, a mob of taxi drivers took Earle from the jail, gave him a brutal beating, and then one of them shot him in the face with a shotgun. Governor Thurmond launched a full-scale investigation and got members of the mob indicted. Although the mob members were acquitted, the New York Times praised Governor Thurmond for his efforts and wrote “There has been a victory for law, even though Willie Earle’s slayers will not be punished for what they did. A precedent has been set. Members of lynching mobs may now know that they do not bask in universal approval, even in their own disgraced communities, and they may begin to fear that someday, on sufficient evidence with sufficient courage, a Southern lynching case jury will convict” (Bass & Poole, 116-117). This was the last racially motivated lynching in South Carolina, and this was reinforced in 1950 after Thurmond signed a law drafted by fellow future Senator Fritz Hollings which prescribed the death penalty for lynching.

Thurmond for President: The Dixiecrat Campaign of 1948

The presidency of Harry S. Truman got Democrats asking questions. Namely, who they were and what direction would they go. The Roosevelt coalition had elements in it that were simply not sustainable in the long term in the same party. It was both the party of Northern blacks and the party of segregationists. This was an untenable arrangement in the long term. On July 26, 1948, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, mandating the desegregation of the U.S. Army. He also endorsed a civil rights platform that included anti-lynching legislation, a poll tax ban, and a permanent Fair Employment Practices Committee. These proposals were anathema to the Southern Democrats of the day, and some Southerners broke from the Democratic Party by endorsing the State’s Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrat). They nominated Strom Thurmond for president and Mississippi Governor Fielding Wright for vice president. No Dixiecrat labored under the delusion that the Thurmond/Wright ticket would win. They thought they could upset the presidency for Dewey or at best, throw the election to the House of Representatives, where they could negotiate a more palatable candidate. They sought to prove that the Democrats could not function without them. The most famous quote of Thurmond’s from the campaign was this:

“I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches” (PotusGeeks).

Writer and wit H.L. Mencken, interestingly enough, had primarily positive things to say about Thurmond. He regarded him as “the best of all the candidates” but lamented that “all the worst morons in the South are for him” (TIME). He would interview him during the campaign, which would be the last he would cover. The Dixiecrat hope was for naught: although Thurmond won four states and 39 electoral votes, President Truman found more danger from dissent from the left in the party than the right; Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party had broken off enough of the Democratic vote for Thomas E. Dewey to win New York, which at the time was worth 47 electoral votes. Given Thurmond’s lack of the commitment to the State’s Rights Democratic Party after the 1948 election, he may have accepted the nomination to raise his profile for a Senate race in 1950, a primary which he lost. That year, he succeeded in winning crucial reforms for how the state voted: there would finally be a secret ballot, it became a crime to intimidate voters, and dispense with asking voters if they wanted a “Democratic” or “Republican” ballot. Thurmond had also pushed for a ban of the poll tax, which the voters approved in 1950 and the legislature ratified the repeal the following year. This limited coercion in voting and opened the door to more independent voting in South Carolina, which historically had produced astronomical majorities for Democrats. The results were dramatic: in 1948, the state had voted 71.97% for Thurmond and 24.14% for Truman, but in 1952, the state voted 50.7% for Democrat Adlai Stevenson and 49.3% for Republican Dwight Eisenhower, with an estimated 20,000 blacks having cast a ballot from the state.

Joining the Senate

In 1954, Senator Burnet R. Maybank died, and the Democrats nominated Edgar A. Brown without having a primary. Strom Thurmond ran a write-in campaign for the Senate in response, and his was the first ever write-in campaign to win a Senate race and one of the few write-in campaigns to succeed in American history. However, he had promised if elected to resign in 1956 to force a primary. Thurmond won this campaign as well.

Like most other Southern senators, and like all politicians from South Carolina he signed the Southern Manifesto, which was a statement of opposition to Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and desegregation. Thurmond had co-written the first draft. His opposition to Brown would motivate his votes against Eisenhower Supreme Court picks John Marshall Harlan II and Potter Stewart, as he correctly believed they would vote for desegregation. Thurmond would likewise vote against Thurgood Marshall in 1967. In 1957, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Tex.) cut a deal with the Southern Democratic bloc not to launch a coordinated filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 in exchange for weakening the bill. Thurmond, however, launched a solo filibuster that lasted for 24 hours and 18 minutes, a record that stands to this day. He likewise proved a staunch opponent of statehood for Alaska and Hawaii. A major motivation for opposition from him and other Southern senators was that both states were expected to (and did) elect two pro-civil rights senators. Never a liberal as a senator, Thurmond grew more and more conservative. During the 87th Congress, he got two zeroes from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action and a 100% from the conservative Americans for Constitutional Action. The only Democrats who achieved the latter feat in the 87th Congress were Senator Willis Robertson (D-Va.), and Representatives Joe Waggonner (D-La.), and John Bell Williams (D-Miss.).

In 1964, not long after Senator Goldwater’s vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Thurmond, who had participated in the group filibuster against the bill, switched to Republican and campaigned for Goldwater. Although he cited multiple reasons for this switch, including the increasing liberalism of the Democratic Party and foreign policy, civil rights without question was a part of the reasoning. Thurmond proved as staunch a foe of the Great Society as he was Kennedy’s New Frontier and was a Vietnam War hawk.

The Great Symbolic Switch: 1964

In 1964, Senator Thurmond participated in the coordinated filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and proposed several amendments to weaken the bill. Not long after Senator and Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater voted against the bill, Thurmond switched to the Republican Party and campaigned for him. He had always been one of the most conservative Democrats and this switch would have likely come regardless at some point in the future, the timing of the switch carried great symbolic meaning for blacks…that the Lincoln mantle of the Republican Party had transferred to the Democratic Party. That year, South Carolina, for the first time since Reconstruction, voted for the Republican candidate for president.

A New Thurmond for a New South

In 1970, Thurmond’s protege, Congressman Albert W. Watson, a former Democrat who had been the only Republican to vote against a bill penalizing racial discrimination in federal jury selection, ran for governor and engaged in racially heated rhetoric. The Democrats nominated moderate John C. West, and he won the election given crossover vote from some suburban Republicans who were uncomfortable with Watson’s rhetoric. A notable incident was on March 3, 1970, when a mob of two hundred whites assaulted three school buses full of black children (no one was injured) nine days after a speech Watson delivered before a pro-segregation rally in Darlington County which he said, “use every means at your disposal to defend” the community against a court order desegregating schools (The New York Times, 1994). The message was quite clear for South Carolina: the days of race baiting as a winning strategy were over. Thurmond in the next year was the first Southern senator to hire a black legislative assistant in Thomas Moss, and he used his office to obtain pork projects that black voters valued. This served to lessen black opposition to him.

By the late 1970s, Thurmond’s change on civil rights was complete. He now supported extensions of the Civil Rights Commission and in 1978 he even backed giving Washington D.C. full representation in Congress. In 1982, Thurmond voted for extending the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for twenty-five years, the first time he had supported extending that law. The following year, he voted for the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. Although he had once been an outlier on civil rights within the Republican Party for his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and especially the Voting Rights Act of 1965, he was now voting in a manner not distinguishable from many conservative Republicans and was no longer the most oppositional. The most oppositional was now North Carolina’s Jesse Helms. While Thurmond sided with Ronald Reagan in his veto of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988 and with George H.W. Bush in his veto of the Civil Rights Act of 1990, he joined most of the Senate in support of strengthening fair housing laws in 1988 as well as in voting for the compromise Civil Rights Act of 1991.

Thurmond and Nixon

The time in which Thurmond could be argued to be at the peak of his power was during the Nixon Administration. He had helped rally Southern support for him in 1968, and the power of his influence was evidenced by the fact that South Carolina was the only Deep South state to vote for Nixon rather than Wallace. Thurmond influenced the Nixon Administration’s pick of South Carolina Judge Clement Haynsworth for the Supreme Court, but his nomination was felled by a coalition of civil rights and labor groups as well as concerns over ethics. He also urged the Nixon Administration to back making the Voting Rights Act of 1965 apply nationwide and wanted to end Section 5, the preclearance section of the law. The Nixon Administration backed such a substitute, but Congress rejected it in favor of a five-year extension that gave eighteen year olds the vote. The latter portion would be struck down as unconstitutional, necessitating a constitutional amendment. However, Nixon didn’t always go with Thurmond. He supported the Philadelphia Plan in 1969 and a busing compromise in 1970, both of which Thurmond opposed. Thurmond was a strong supporter of Nixon Administration policies when Nixon went conservative, such as on the prosecution of the Vietnam War, on general opposition to busing, and on opposition to raising the minimum wage.

Thurmond in the 1980 Election

In 1979, Senator Thurmond endorsed former Secretary of the Treasury and Texas Governor John B. Connally for president. Connally, like Thurmond, had switched from Democrat to Republican. Despite raising the most money, he was unable to overcome the enthusiasm for Ronald Reagan, and after he lost the South Carolina primary by 25 points, he dropped out. With the election of Ronald Reagan and a Republican Senate in 1980, Thurmond became chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, serving from 1981 to 1987. In this position, he staunchly endorsed Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Thurmond also presided over the vetting and considerations of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia. He would also vote for Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991.

Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee

With the victory of the Republicans in the 1994 midterms, Thurmond became chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In this position, he backed increases in the defense budget, praising President Clinton’s proposal to raise defense funds by $25 billion (UPI Archives). Although he could have theoretically continued as chairman, by 1997 he decided he would turn over the chairmanship to his fellow Southern Republican in the next Congress, John Warner of Virginia.

Death and Revelation

Thurmond retired in 2003 at the age of 100, dying six months after leaving office. After his passing, Essie Mae Washington-Williams (1925-2013) revealed that she was his daughter, being the child produced from a tryst with the Thurmond family’s black maid. Thurmond had supported her financially, including her college education, and the two would meet and talk on the phone from time to time.


Albert Watson, 72, Lawmaker; Opposed Integration of Schools. The New York Times.

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Bass, J. & Poole, W.S. (2012). The Palmetto State: the making of modern South Carolina. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.

Martin, M. (2019, August 21). Strom Thurmond, the “Dixiecrats,” and Southern Identity. Abbeville Institute Press.

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Political Notes: The Pot Boils, Oct. 4, 1948. TIME.

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The Also Rans: Strom Thurmond. (2013). PotusGeeks.

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Thurmond Image Seen As Changing. (1971, October 17). The New York Times.

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Thurmond praises, criticizes Clinton. (1994, December 1). UPI Archives.

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The American Trials at Nuremberg

On October 1, 1946, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, a joint trial conducted by Britain, France, the US, and the USSR concluded. Of the twenty-four men who were indicted, nineteen were convicted. Twelve men, including Reich Marshal Hermann Goering, were sentenced to death. Ten were ultimately hanged, with Goering committing suicide the night before execution. Reich Labor Leader Robert Ley had also committed suicide after indictment. One, Nazi Party Secretary Martin Bormann, was sentenced to death in absentia as he was believed alive at the time. His body would be exhumed in Berlin in 1973, thus the official conclusion was he committed suicide to avoid capture by the Soviets on May 2, 1945. However, compelling evidence suggests that he in fact died in Asuncion, Paraguay, on February 15, 1959, of stomach cancer and his body was moved in secret to Berlin and buried. I strongly recommend you check out historian Mark Felton’s video series on Martin Bormann for more details, the link I will provide in references. This was the only international trial in Germany, with the other nations conducting their own trials. The United States conducted numerous trials, including twelve at Nuremberg. These trials dealt primarily with high-ranking Nazis in the military, judiciary, medical, business, and governmental fields.

The trial of the major Nazis was the one international court trial of them, with cases of lesser functionaries being tried by the respective allied powers. Since Nuremberg was located in the American zone of occupation, subsequent trials of Nazis occurred in the city. There were twelve major trials held and I will deliver, largely from memory as I researched Nazi Germany a lot as well as the trials of the major figures as a younger man, general summaries of what happened in them.

The Doctors Trial (The United States of America v. Karl Brandt, et al.)

The lead defendant among the twenty-three defendants was Karl Brandt, Reich Commissioner for Health and Sanitation and a personal physician to Hitler. These men were tried for their roles in human experimentation and the euthanasia program. Prosecutor Telford Taylor introduced the case thusly, “The defendants in this case are charged with murders, tortures, and other atrocities committed in the name of medical science. The victims of these crimes are numbered in the hundreds of thousands. A handful only are still alive; a few of the survivors will appear in this courtroom. But most of these miserable victims were slaughtered outright or died in the course of the tortures to which they were subjected. For the most part they are nameless dead. To their murderers, these wretched people were not individuals at all. They came in wholesale lots and were treated worse than animals” (USHMM). Of the twenty-three defendants, seventeen were convicted and seven of them received death sentences (including Brandt), all of which were carried out on June 2, 1948. The most controversial acquittal was that of Kurt Blome, the Deputy Reich Health Leader, who had admitted to ordering typhus experiments on concentration camp inmates and could have otherwise faced the noose. The U.S. government had intervened in this case and he became a subject of Operation Paperclip for his research into chemical warfare. Convicted Luftwaffe Doctor Hermann Becker-Freyseng would also contribute work to the United States as part of Operation Paperclip from his cell.

Milch Trial (The United States of America v. Erhard Milch)

Field Marshal Erhard Milch was Hermann Goering’s right-hand man as State Secretary in the Reich Ministry of Aviation. After refusing to be a witness for the prosecution at the international tribunal he was tried for his involvement in the procurement and use of slave labor and his involvement in fatal medical experiments on people without their consent, most notably high altitude and freezing experiments. He was acquitted of direct participation in medical experiments but was convicted of responsibility over them as well as extensive involvement in slave labor, being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1947. However, he was granted clemency in 1954.

The Judges’ Trial (The United States of America v. Josef Altstoetter et al.)

The lead defendant, Altstoetter, was not the worst of the sixteen defendants. Of them, ten were convicted and four received life sentences. Of the remaining two, one had committed suicide and the other was let off on account of illness. The film Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) is based on this case, with the more sympathetic defendant representing legal scholar Franz Schlegelberger while the ardent Nazi represented Oswald Rothaug, both who were among the four to receive life sentences. Rothaug was noted as the worst among them for perverting the law to get a Jewish man a death sentence for an offense that under German law was normally penalized by imprisonment. The former was released in 1950 on health grounds while Rothaug was released in 1956.

Pohl Trial (The United States of America v. Oswald Pohl, et al.)

The Pohl Trial surrounded the administration of concentration and death camps, with the head of the SS office for this function, the SS Main Economic and Administrative Office, being SS General Oswald Pohl. Pohl was regarded among the defendants as most responsible for the wretched conditions of the camps as head administrator and played a major role in the Holocaust. Although the trial resulted in four death sentences, only Pohl’s was carried out on June 7, 1951.

Flick Trial (The United States of America vs. Friedrich Flick et al.)

This trial was one of the first real misses, as out of the six defendants only Flick, his deputy Otto Steinbrinck, and functionary Bernhard Weiss were convicted, with Steinbrinck only being convicted for his membership in the SS. Weiss received a mere 2 1/2 year sentence for involvement in slave labor. Friedrich Flick only got a seven-year sentence over slave labor and “Aryanization” (theft) of Jewish property, being released in 1950. An estimated 80% of slave laborers under Flick firms died from the brutal working conditions. Upon his release he also had all his wealth restored to him and never paid a cent in reparations to survivors. Flick’s firm would only after his death pay reparations to survivors and their families.

IG Farben Trial (The United States of America vs. Carl Krauch, et al.)

IG Farben was involved in the German war machine as well as had partial ownership in a firm that held the trademark for Zyklon-B, the gas used to exterminate Jews and others in the Holocaust. These defendants were being tried, however, for their role in slave labor and expropriation. The British had their own trial for the officers of the firm that had manufactured Zyklon-B, two of whom were executed as it was proven that they sold it knowing exactly what it was being used for. No death sentences were handed out in this case, and the highest sentence was eight years, with Walter Duerrfield and Otto Ambros receiving these sentences. Both men were implicated in slave labor at Auschwitz, with the latter being chief of production at I.G. Farben’s facility at Auschwitz and Buna. Ambros would remain a significant figure in the German business world, be part of Operation Paperclip, and would be a consultant for the American firms Dow Chemical and W.R. Grace as well as the U.S. Army Chemical Corps.

Hostages Trial (The United States of America vs. Wilhelm List, et al.)

The German army made a practice of taking hostages and executing them in reprisal for partisan attacks. Hitler’s order was that for every one German soldier killed, ten hostages were to be executed. The defendants convicted in this case engaged in these reprisals. Interestingly enough, the worst of them, Franz Boehme, who had upped the ante to one to one hundred, committed suicide after learning he was going be extradited to Yugoslavia, where he would have probably been hanged. The lead defendant, Field Marshal List, was sentenced to life imprisonment but was released in 1952 due to poor health. However, he lived far longer than one would expect, dying in 1971.

RuSHA Trial (United States of America v. Ulrich Greifelt, et al.)

This trial prosecuted fourteen officials involved in the program to resettle Germans into Polish lands and displace Poles and Jews. This included programs that “Aryanized” children by abducting them from their parents and giving them to German parents and programs to encourage or compel abortions for non-Aryan mothers. The most notable defendants were Werner Lorenz, Otto Hofmann, and Ulrich Greifelt, SS officers deeply implicated in displacements of non-Germans and the kidnapping of children. Hofmann was a participant in the Wannsee Conference in 1942. All three men were convicted. Although no death sentences were handed out in this trial, Richard Hildebrandt, who was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, was subsequently extradited to Poland for another trial and executed in 1952.

Einsatzgruppen Trial (The United States of America v. Otto Ohlendorf, et al.)

This trial was against the officers of SS battalions used to mass murder Jews, Slavs, and others the Nazis deemed undesirables in the Baltic states, Russia, and Ukraine, called Einsatzgruppen. They killed 2 million people, 1.3 million being Jews. the most notable defendants at trial were Ohlendorf, the head of Einsatzgruppe D, Einsatzgruppe C head Otto Rasch, and Paul Blobel, who commanded the unit that perpetrated one of the deadliest massacres of World War II, the Babi Yar, in which 33,771 Jews were murdered over two days. Of the 24 defendants all save Otto Rasch (who was released due to health reasons and died less than a year later) were convicted and 14 were sentenced to death. Of these, only the four worst defendants, which included Ohlendorf and Blobel, were executed after High Commissioner John J. McCloy reviewed and commuted numerous sentences. Defendant Eduard Strauch, another one of the worst of them suffered an epileptic attack and faked mental illness to try to get out of trial. Although he was sentenced to death, he was extradited to trial for Belgium where he was again sentenced to death for his crimes as SD commander, but he died in prison in 1955.

Krupp Trial (The United States of America v. Alfried Krupp, et al.)

The Krupp trial covered the use of slave labor by the Krupp firm and other firms under Krupp.
This was one of the most controversial trials as despite the use of slave labor the lead defendant, Alfried Krupp, the head of the Krupp firm, got the highest sentence of only 12 years imprisonment with him forfeiting property. All but one of the other defendants were convicted and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. Krupp was not only released on January 31, 1951, he also had all his wealth, previously confiscated, restored to him, even that made with slave labor. The Krupp firm would after Krupp’s death in 1967 pay reparations to survivors and their families.

Ministries Trial (The United States of America vs. Ernst von Weizäcker, et al.)

This was a trial of functionaries just below major Nazis, lasted the longest, and concluded last. Ernst von Weizsäcker, one of Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop’s deputies, was the lead defendant. Of the 21 defendants, two were acquitted of all charges. Weizsäcker was convicted of crimes against humanity but sentenced to only 7 years’ imprisonment based on mitigating evidence that he was connected with anti-Nazi forces and on claims that he had no knowledge that his involvement in deporting French Jews would lead them to extermination at Auschwitz. His conviction was considered a “deadly error” by Winston Churchill, and after a commutation to 5 years imprisonment, he would be released in October 1950. Secretary of State in the Interior Ministry Wilhelm Stuckart received the spectacularly low 3 1/2 years imprisonment with time served, so he was released promptly despite his attendance at the Wannsee Conference in 1942. Among the worst convicted were in the cases of SS General Gottlob Berger and Plenipotentiary to Hungary Edmund Veesenmayer, both men who were sentenced to 25 and 20 years imprisonment respectively for the direct roles they played in the Holocaust.

High Command Trial (The United States of America vs. Wilhelm von Leeb, et al.)

This trial, having fourteen defendants, was the last to start and covered the actions of members of the German High Command and their involvement in war crimes, which included the transmission and execution of orders illegal by international law. Although the lead defendant was General Wilhelm von Leeb, he was only sentenced to three years for transmitting the Barbarossa Decree with time served, so he was released immediately. The defendants who stood out most were General Walter Warlimont, who was responsible for the Barbarossa Decree that allowed the murdering of civilians to counter partisan activity and General Hermann Reinecke, as he was uniquely responsible for the policy and implementation of as head of the General Office of the Armed Forces in the OKW that resulted in 3.3 million deaths of Soviet prisoners of war. This included deliberate starvation of Soviet POWs and the turning over of any ideologically or racially unacceptable POWs to the SS for execution. Both men were sentenced to life imprisonment. However, Reinecke and Warlimont were released in 1954 with the last of the convicted defendants in this trial. Luftwaffe General Hugo Sperrle, who had directed the Blitz over London, was one of two defendants acquitted as the Allies had done no different with their aerial bombing. One defendant, General Johannes Blaskowitz, committed suicide during the trial, which was a strange incident as he was widely expected to be acquitted.

The Aftermath

In 1950, the Peck Panel was assembled to review the sentences of convicted Nazis. Of 99 cases reviewed, in 77 cases sentence reduction was recommended. High Commander for West Germany John J. McCloy reviewed these recommendations and for some he was more lenient and for others less so. However, many sentences were reduced in January 1951 with some, including Alfried Krupp, being released. All of the defendants in the Ministries Trial, even those deeply implicated in the Holocaust, were released by December 1951. Of the convicted who were not executed or died in prison, the last were released in 1958.
Of the trials, those of industrialists were the least successful at the administration of justice as building up West Germany as a Cold War bulwark was prioritized, followed by the Ministries Trial in which everyone was released by the end of 1951. The cases that did the emphasis had not yet turned to building up West Germany as an anti-communist bulwark and justice seemed most proportionate here despite the case of Kurt Blome.

Whatever the United States’ shortfalls in the administration of justice in their trials, they paled in comparison to how they addressed Japanese war criminals. However, that is a post for another day.


Callahan, M. (2014, February 1). Behind the Secret Plan to Smuggle Nazi Scientists to America. The New York Post.

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The Doctors Trial: The Medical Case of the Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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Felton, M. (2022, September 5). The Hunt for Martin Bormann – Episode 1: Hitler’s Gatekeeper. Mark Felton Productions.

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Switching Parties as a Survival Strategy – It Can Work!

The latest Senate news, aside from Raphael Warnock winning reelection, is that Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona switched from Democrat to Independent. I see the rationales for this move as threefold: 1. Sinema doesn’t have to face a difficult Democratic primary; 2. She gains more leverage in the Senate; and 3. Sinema can shift her record moderately to the right or at minimum not shift her record left. She is betting that Arizona likes her more than the Democratic Party, and her judgment may turn out to be sound. Some past examples of switching parties to save your career, even if temporarily, include:

Harry F. Byrd Jr.

Harry F. Byrd Jr. was elected to the Senate in 1965 to succeed his father, who was terminally ill with brain cancer. However, in 1966, the Byrd Machine collapsed with the elder Byrd’s death and the defeats of some significant figures in the Democratic primaries like Senator Willis Robertson and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Howard W. Smith, the latter being defeated by Delegate George Rawlings. Although Rawlings had failed to win Smith’s seat in the general election, he set his sights on Byrd Jr. in 1970.

Byrd read the writing on the wall and also didn’t want to have to endorse whoever the Democrats chose to run in 1972 (a smart move in retrospect given that it would be George McGovern) and thus declined to run for the Democratic nomination, instead having decided to run for reelection as an Independent. It turned out that Byrd was more popular than the Democratic Party in Virginia at the time and won reelection with over 53% of the vote. Rawlings only got about 31% while poor Republican Ray Garland only got about 15%, despite having the backing of Governor A. Linwood Holton. Many Republicans decided to cast their votes for Byrd, and be ensured that a conservative would be senator. He would win reelection once more in 1976 against the Democratic nominee, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, by almost 20 points. In 1982, Byrd chose not to run again and lived for 31 more years, dying at the age of 98.

Joe Lieberman

I recently covered Joe Lieberman and his career, but he succeeded after being defeated in the Democratic primary by future Governor Ned Lamont, for reasons mainly surrounding his stance on the Iraq War. He ran for reelection anyway and won as an Independent Democrat, although he continued to caucus with Democrats for his final term.

Arlen Specter

One of the failed examples of a party switch to save a career was Senator Arlen Specter. Specter switched parties twice in his career. First, in 1965, he switched from Democrat to Republican to run for DA of Philadelphia after he had lost the Democratic nomination for the post and Senator Hugh Scott (R-Penn.) made sure he had no competition in the primary. This launches his long and successful career, with him being elected to the Senate in 1980. However, he has a reputation as a moderate-to-liberal Republican by his record. This plus his staunchly pro-choice stances (he originated the labeling of Roe v. Wade as a “super precedent”) led to conservative Republicans seeking his defeat by the second Bush Administration. In 2004, Bush endorsed him for renomination, and this plus his colleague Rick Santorum’s (R-Penn.) support narrowly averted a primary defeat by Representative Pat Toomey.

By 2009, Specter was again facing yet another strong challenge from Toomey and he no longer had Bush in the White House or Santorum in the Senate to provide powerful endorsements. Thus, he switched to the Democratic Party. However, many rank-and-file Democrats in Pennsylvania didn’t want him either and Congressman Joe Sestak ran for the nomination. Despite the endorsements of President Obama and Governor Ed Rendell, Sestak beat Specter by over seven points and narrowly lost the election to Pat Toomey.

In truth, Sinema’s switch is a bit difficult to compare with others, as in the cases of Byrd Jr. and Lieberman, they were after primary defeat, and both continued to caucus with the Democrats with Lieberman in truth remaining a Democrat. Curiously, although Sinema has been strongly noted for certain key dissents as a Democrat, she has voted far more with Democrats than she gets credit for and if ADA scores are on the nose, votes more with them as a senator than as a representative. Sinema’s Senate scores per ADA have been, without taking absences into account, 63%, 85%, and 80%. By contrast, her House scores were: 53%, 40%, 37%, 60%, 65%, and 35%.