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  McKellar, Kenneth D.
NameKenneth D. McKellar
Memphis, Tennessee , United States
Born January 29, 1869
DiedOctober 25, 1957 (88 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedRBH
Jan 05, 2015 05:03pm
InfoKenneth Douglas McKellar (January 29, 1869–October 25, 1957) was an American politician from Tennessee who served as a United States Representative from 1911 until 1917 and as a United States Senator from 1917 until 1953. A Democrat, he served longer in both houses of Congress than anyone else in Tennessee history, and only a few others in American history have served longer in both houses.

McKellar was a native of Dallas County, Alabama and was graduated from the University of Alabama in 1891 and its law school in 1892. He moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and was admitted to the bar the same year. McKellar was first elected to the House in a special election in November 1911 to succeed George W. Gordon in the 10th Congressional District, which included Memphis. He won the seat in his own right in 1912 and was reelected in 1914 before successfully running for the Senate in 1916 and defeating incumbent Senator Luke Lea. He was reelected to the Senate in 1922, 1928, 1934, 1940, and 1946.

McKellar was a close ally of Memphis political boss E. H. Crump. He is the only Tennessee senator to have completed more than three full terms; except for him, Tennessee has generally not fully joined into the Southern tradition of reelecting Senators for protracted periods of service. (Before the era of popular election of U.S. Senators, Senator William B. Bate was elected to a fourth term by the Tennessee General Assembly, but died only five days into it. Senator Isham G. Harris had also died early in his fourth term. Senator Joseph Anderson was elected by the General Assembly to three full terms after completing the term of William Blount, who was expelled from the Senate.) McKellar twice served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate, commencing in 1945, being the first to hold the position under the system that has prevailed since of reserving it for the most senior member of the majority party.

In 1952 McKellar stood for a seventh term, despite being by then quite elderly (age 83). He was opposed for renomination by Middle Tennessee Congressman Albert Gore. McKellar's reelection slogan was "Thinking Feller? Vote McKellar.", which Gore countered with "Think Some More – Vote for Gore." Gore defeated McKellar for the Democratic nomination in August in what was widely regarded as something of an upset. At this point in Tennessee history, the Democratic nomination for statewide office was still "tantamount to election", as the Republican Party's activities were still largely limited to East Tennessee, as they had been since the Civil War. Gore went on to serve three terms in the Senate.

McKellar's 1952 defeat was part of a statewide trend. 1952 also saw the defeat for renomination of incumbent governor of Tennessee Gordon Browning by Frank G. Clement. Browning, who had served a total of three terms as governor, the last two successive, had also at one point been a close ally of Crump's but had since broken ranks with him. As Clement and Gore were both considerably younger and regarded as more progressive than their predecessors, some historians cite the 1952 elections as an indication that Tennessee was earlier to enter into the "New South" era of Southern politics than most of the other Southern states. This election also marked the end of Crump having any real influence in Tennessee beyond Memphis.

McKellar wrote a book about his Tennessee predecessors in the Senate called Tennessee Senators as Seen by One of Their Successors (1942). In recent years it has been updated by one of his successors, current Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist.

Lake McKellar in the industrial area of Memphis near the Mississippi River and McKellar Airport in Jackson, Tennessee ("MKL") are both named in his honor.


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  08/07/1952 TN US Senate - D Primary Lost 41.36% (-15.18%)
  01/03/1951 President Pro Tempore Won 51.04% (+2.08%)
  01/03/1949 President Pro Tempore Won 56.25% (+12.50%)
  01/03/1947 President Pro Tempore Lost 46.88% (-6.25%)
  11/05/1946 TN US Senate Won 66.60% (+40.43%)
  08/01/1946 TN US Senate - D Primary Won 61.95% (+26.72%)
  01/03/1945 President Pro Tempore Won 60.00% (+20.00%)
  11/05/1940 TN US Senate Won 70.80% (+41.62%)
  08/01/1940 TN US Senate - D Primary Won 91.54% (+85.74%)
  11/06/1934 TN US Senate Won 63.39% (+27.58%)
  08/02/1934 TN US Senate - D Primary Won 83.99% (+67.97%)
  11/06/1928 TN US Senate Won 59.32% (+18.65%)
  08/02/1928 TN US Senate - D Primary Won 63.25% (+29.35%)
  11/07/1922 TN US Senate Won 68.03% (+36.06%)
  11/07/1916 TN US Senate Won 54.42% (+9.67%)
  11/03/1914 TN - District 10 Won 92.98% (+85.96%)
  11/05/1912 TN - District 10 Won 94.32% (+88.65%)
  11/07/1911 TN - District 10 Special Election Won 85.01% (+70.03%)
TN US Senate - Special D Primary - Aug 04, 1938 D A. Tom Stewart
TN Governor - D Primary - Aug 04, 1938 D Prentice Cooper
TN Governor - D Primary - Aug 06, 1936 D Burgin E. Dossett
Supreme Court - Associate Justice - May 07, 1930 NPA Reject