Wednesday, August 17, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 2042


Chicago, Illinois (JFK+50) Sixty years ago today, August 17, 1956, John Fitzgerald Kennedy lost his first and only political contest, a bid to win the Democratic Party's nomination for Vice-President.

In an unprecedented move, Presidential nominee Adlai E. Stevenson decided to turn the selection of his running-mate over to the delegates of the convention. Although JFK's father counseled him otherwise, Senator Kennedy put his name into contention.

Having come close to victory in the balloting, Senator Estes Kefauver* of Tennessee narrowly defeated Senator to become the party's nominee for Vice-President of the United States.

At one point JFK had a lead of 648 to 551.5, but the Tennessee delegation asked the chair for recognition.  Senator Albert Gore, Sr. announced he was dropping out of the race in deference to his colleague Senator Kefauver.  From that point on, Kefauver soon overtook JFK's lead.

Jack Kennedy gave a gracious concession speech after the balloting in which he asked the convention to make Kefauver's nomination unanimous.

The main concern Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. had with his son's presence on the ticket was the likely prospect that President Dwight D. Eisenhower would win election in a landslide and Stevenson-Kennedy would be considered a loser.

As it turned out, the defeat proved to be advantageous for Senator Kennedy as the Election of 1956 turned out just as Joe Kennedy had predicted.  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.

After his death of a heart attack, President Kennedy appointed Nancy Kefauver to head the Art Embassies Program.  It was JFK's last appointment.


My father, uncle & myself visited with Senator Kefauver during our trip to Washington, D.C. in July 1962.  My dad & uncle did most of the talking....I was only 14 years old....but I did manage to say that I would very much like to meet President Kennedy.  I don't remember if Senator Kefauver responded to my statement, but I sure to remember his expression which was not one of great joy.  I didn't know then that JFK & Kefauver, although members of the same political party, had been adversaries.

JFK nominates Adlai Stevenson
1956 Democratic National Convention
Chicago, Illinois
August 16, 1956
UPI Photo

Senator Estes Kefauver
Tennessee (D)