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Short of the Glory

Short of the Glory: The Fall and Redemption of Edward F. Prichard Jr.

Tracy Campbell
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Short of the Glory
    Book Description:

    Arthur Schlesinger Jr. thought that he might one day become president. He was a protege of Felix Frankfurter and Fred Vinson--a political prodigy who held a series of important posts in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. Whatever became of Edward F. Prichard, Jr., so young and brilliant and seemingly destined for glory?

    Prichard was a complex man, and his story is tragically ironic. The boy from Bourbon County, Kentucky, graduated at the top of his Princeton class and cut a wide swath at Harvard Law School. He went on to clerk in the U.S. Supreme Court and become an important figure in Roosevelt's Brain Trust. Yet Prichard--known for his dazzling wit and photographic memory--fell victim to the hubris that had helped to make him great.

    In 1948, he was indicted for stuffing 254 votes in a U.S. Senate race. J. Edgar Hoover, never a fan of the young genius, made sure he was prosecuted, and so many of the members of the Supreme Court were Prichard's friends that not enough justices were left to hear his appeal. So the man Roosevelt's advisors had called the boy wonder of the New Deal went to jail.

    Prichard's meteoric rise and fall is essentially a Greek tragedy set on the stage of American politics. Pardoned by President Truman, Prichard spent the next twenty-five years working his way out of political exile. Gradually he became a trusted advisor to governors and legislators, though without recognition or compensation. Finally, in the 1970s and 1980s, Prichard emerged as his home state's most persuasive and eloquent voice for education reform, finally regaining the respect he had thrown away in his arrogant youth.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2819-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: A Christmas Funeral
    (pp. 1-4)

    THE holiday season of 1984 was a painful one for the friends and family of Ed Prichard. Since Thanksgiving, he had been in a Lexington, Kentucky, hospital and had twice undergone major surgery. His doctors were increasingly pessimistic of his chances for survival. The end finally came on December 23. Then, two days after Christmas, they gathered at Christ Church Episcopal in Lexington to pay their final respects. Some of those present were relieved that the physical suffering Prichard had endured for years was now over. Others came to acknowledge a legacy of considerable achievement. Still others simply wanted to...

  5. Part I. Star Rising

    • 1 The Political Education of “Sonny” Prichard
      (pp. 7-23)

      ON a typical sultry summer afternoon in the early 1920s, the pulse of activity at the county courthouse in Paris, Kentucky, decreased as surely as the heat and humidity escalated. By the late afternoon, the men often gathered in the first-floor office of Pearce Paton, the popular county clerk of Bourbon County. In such a milieu, one of the most treasured folk rituals of American politics was practiced—stories were endlessly exchanged of past elections, rumors were originated and circulated about every prominent person in the county, and predictions were offered on upcoming political contests. Amid the roar of the...

    • 2 Banishment to Paradise
      (pp. 24-43)

      WHILE the Great Depression exacted a terrible price from American institutions of higher education in the early 1930s, the schools of the Ivy League were relatively untouched. Princeton, in fact, rose in prominence during these years, staying afloat financially and thriving academically. Located in a tranquil village northeast of Trenton, Princeton’s gothic campus retained its small-town charm and peaceful, scholarly atmosphere in the 1930s while other Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Penn were surrounded by growing urban sprawls. The university and its surrounding environs of tree-lined streets and picturesque homes made it an idyllic refuge from a world...

    • 3 Harvard Law School
      (pp. 44-58)

      AT Princeton, Ed Prichard had been more than just a student, even an extremely bright one. Because of his casual ability to perform brilliantly in virtually any intellectual activity—his course work, the debate team, the “Left Turn,” his senior thesis—and his reputation as a campus politician, Prichard became something of a Princeton celebrity. When he arrived in Cambridge in the fall of 1935, it would seem the twenty-year-old Kentuckian might realize that now was the time to devote himself fully to his studies and delay his other interests until after graduation. To no one’s surprise, however, Prichard’s years...

    • 4 An Extended Campus
      (pp. 59-78)

      WHEN Ed Prichard arrived in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1939, the city was still very much a quaint, leisurely paced southern town that also happened to be the capital of the United States. When he left six years later, Washington had been transformed into a bureaucratic colossus that had emerged as the center of the noncommunist world. The war effort spawned a building boom and the migration of thousands of government and military personnel into the overcrowded city. During these years, Washington lost much of its old charm and, in the words of journalist Malcolm Cowley, became a...

    • 5 The Wunderkind
      (pp. 79-100)

      WHEN Franklin Roosevelt asked James F. Byrnes to leave his seat on the Supreme Court and assume the directorship of the new Office of Economic Stabilization (OES), he did so with the certain knowledge that he would be handing over to Byrnes some of the most sweeping economic power ever given to an appointed individual in American history. The OES’s stated mission was to maintain wartime production while “holding the line” on inflation. Unlike many of his other appointments, FDR did not create hierarchic tension or shared power in the OES. Instead, the president placed his full confidence in Byrnes...

    • 6 “Corrective Steps”
      (pp. 101-112)

      EARLY on May 8,1945, President Harry S Truman announced that Germany had unconditionally surrendered and that the war in Europe was over. V-E Day was finally at hand. The largest radio audience ever recorded to that time huddled in their living rooms and kitchens to hear the president say:

      This is a solemn but a glorious hour. I only wish that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day. General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly over all Europe.

      For this victory, we join in offering...

    • 7 A Lukewarm Reception
      (pp. 113-134)

      ALTHOUGH Prichard had passed the Kentucky state bar exam in 1939, in the seven years since he had graduated from Harvard Law School the young attorney had never practiced a single case by the time he arrived home from Washington on October 1, 1945. As some of his critics had earlier suggested, the Paris pol had “never carried a precinct” despite his political experience. On both accounts—practicing law and pursuing his political ambitions—Ed Prichard wished to quickly rectifY his perceived weaknesses.

      He wasted no time in getting straight to work at the newly minted firm of Prichard and...

  6. Part II. Star Falling

    • 8 “Press Vigorously and Thoroughly”
      (pp. 137-152)

      ON May 4, 1949, sealed indictments in the Bourbon County vote fraud investigation were opened in U.S. Federal Court in Lexington, Kentucky. The indictments implicated only two individuals—Edward F. Prichard Jr. and his law partner, AI Funk Jr. They were charged with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Bourbon County voters by purposely defrauding them of a fair election. Friends and colleagues of the former New Deal “wonder boy” were shocked—some expressed profound regret, others thought, or at least hoped, he was innocent. Yet the most prevailing reaction seemed one of anger and dismay, and certain questions...

    • Photos
      (pp. None)
    • 9 Playing for Keeps
      (pp. 153-170)

      FOR Ed Prichard, who had walked the corridors of Harvard Law School and the Supreme Court and had affiliated with some of the most prominent lawyers in Washington, the selection of the attorneys to defend him against the indictment was a difficult issue. At first Prichard sought help from Washington. Prichard and Billy Baldwin, in fact, traveled to Washington shortly after the election and spoke with Frankfurter’s first clerk and Prichard’s close friend, Joseph Rauh Jr. When asked about the dynamics of the case, Rauh advised Prichard “to keep your goddamned mouth shut, will you?” not knowing that Prichard would...

    • 10 Ashland
      (pp. 171-183)

      In the fall of 1949, Ed Prichard lived on borrowed time. His attorneys continued to piece together his appeal, while his personal and financial affairs came unglued. Prichard lived under the cloud of knowing that if his appeal failed, a two-year prison sentence loomed. Additionally, his hefty legal fees mounted, and in time financial pressures consumed him as intensely as his fears of a long jail stay.

      Prichard’s conviction on July 14 placed his entire legal career in jeopardy. Many clients took their business elsewhere, while others looked for ways out of retainers they had signed with Prichard. A week...

    • 11 New Trials
      (pp. 184-200)

      PRICHARD’S early release from prison temporarily buoyed his spirits over the holiday season of 1950. But as winter set in the cumulative impact of all that had happened in the preceding two years weighed heavily on his shaken spirit. Considering all his looming professional, financial, and personal difficulties, the world Ed Prichard faced in early 1951 seemed empty and, at times, hopeless.

      Shortly after the new year, Prichard was invited to a dinner in Washington for Justice Frankfurter’s former clerks. He was in no mood for such a public gathering just yet, particularly if he had to confront his old...

    • 12 “Wandering in the Wilderness”
      (pp. 201-218)

      THE last years of the 1950s were some of the darkest of Ed Prichard’s life. Unable to build a profitable law practice, his personal financial prospects dimmed. Additionally, the IRS continued its lengthy investigation into whether Prichard and his father owed back taxes. These financial troubles were not the only ones Prichard endured. Emotionally, his fragile self-confidence had been destroyed by the stigma of the ballot-box episode. All of these tensions subsequently took a terrible toll on his personal life. With no political outlets to channel his intellect, nothing, it seemed, could pull Prichard out of his depression.

      “My problem...

  7. Part III. Star Reborn

    • 13 Back in the Arena
      (pp. 221-238)

      IN the summer of 1963, between the Democratic primary and the November general election, the Breathitt campaign geared for the fall race against Republican Louie Nunn, who had headed Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign in Kentucky three years earlier. The Combs administration, in its last months in power, was expected to do the usual things sitting governors can do to help their anointed candidates win—award road contracts in key counties, extend patronage to loyal campaigners, and refrain from any controversial measures that might cost votes. But during the summer of Birmingham and the March on Washington, the issue of civil...

    • 14 “Picking up the Pieces”
      (pp. 239-251)

      NED Breathitt’s final months as governor in 1967 marked yet another crucial point in Ed Prichard’s redemptive odyssey. For eight years, he had been a close confidant of two successive Democratic governors who, in turn, had provided him entrée back into the political world of Kentucky. But the gubernatorial election of 1967 would drastically change Prichard’s personal, political, and financial prospects. If a Republican won the governor’s office, he would have to concentrate on earning a living and have to face his daunting IRS debt without any governmental distractions. Throughout it all, Prichard lived with the certain memory that he...

    • 15 Twilight Renaissance
      (pp. 252-265)

      BY the early 1970s Ed Prichard’s once-battered reputation had taken on a new luster. The trial and imprisonment were a distant memory to a new generation of lawyers, politicians, and journalists, many of whom were now eager to bask in Prichard’s reflected brilliance. Despite yet another round of challenging personal tragedies and dilemmas, Ed Prichard’s resilience provided ample testimony that his personal renaissance in his declining years would continue.

      Part of the new image of Ed Prichard had been created through a heightened interest in his life by reporters and journalists. In October 1973, Prichard’s comeback was the subject of...

    • 16 The Final Struggle
      (pp. 266-281)

      BY 1979, as the lavish dinner in Louisville gave evidence, Ed Prichard’s personal and political reputation had enjoyed a remarkable recovery from the nadir of the 1950s. Despite his many infirmities, he had built a successful law practice on his own and had been transformed into one of the most respected political voices in Kentucky. Prichard had suddenly become a model of personal courage. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of his later life is that he remained passionately committed to reforming his beloved home state, and that his singular achievement in this regard was still ahead of him.

      For anyone...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 282-284)

    Kentuckians today have only a vague memory of one of the Commonwealth’s most remarkable sons. The memory that endures is not of one of his high-level positions in Washington or even of ballot boxes; rather, Prichard is associated with the educational reform committee that still bears his name, and his legend continues to grow.¹ Prichard left many friends who subsequently contributed to that legend. In their view, he was one of the most brilliant men of his time, destined for greatness if not for a temporary lapse in judgment. Had it not been for a harmless “prank” or Judge Ardery’s...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 285-314)
  10. Sources
    (pp. 315-324)
  11. Index
    (pp. 325-335)