Friday, August 17, 2018



Chicago, Illinois (JFK+50) On August 17, 1956, John Fitzgerald Kennedy lost his first and only political contest to Senator Estes Kefauver* of Tennessee in the balloting at the Democratic National Convention here in Chicago to become the party's nominee for Vice-President of the United States.

Kefauver won the nomination on the second ballot after his colleague, Tennessee Senator Albert Gore, Sr. bowed out of the race and threw his support to Mr. Kefauver.

Senator Kennedy gave a gracious concession speech after the balloting in which he asked the convention to make Kefauver's nomination unanimous.  The defeat proved, however, to be advantageous for JFK as the Stevenson-Kefauver ticket went on to be soundly defeated by Eisenhower-Nixon in November.

JFK's stock in the Democratic ranks grew rapidly after the general election and he would win his party's presidential nomination four years later.

*Estes Kefauver (1903-1963) was born in Madisonville, TN & graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1924.  EK graduated from Yale Law School in 1927.  After practicing law in Chattanooga, he was elected to the US House of Representatives where he served from 1939 to 1949.

In 1948, EK was elected to the US Senate where he would serve until his death. In 1950, he headed a Senate committee investigating organized crime.  The hearings of the Kefauver Committee were televised nationally which helped EK to become a national figure.


I had the opportunity to meet Senator Kefauver in his office in the summer of 1962.  It was my first trip to Washington, D.C. and at the age of 14, I did not know about the adversarial relationship between Kefauver & JFK at the 1956 convention.

Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy
Knoxville, Tennessee
Photos by John White (2009)