- Hardcover: 360 pages
- Publisher: University Press of Kentucky (October 7, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 081312073X
- ISBN-13: 978-0813120737
- Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,305,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Short of the Glory: The Fall and Redemption of Edward F. Prichard Jr.
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Edward F. Prichard Jr. was a powerful figure in both the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, but in 1948 his political career was shattered by an indictment for election fraud. FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover's personal dislike of Prichard had ensured that, once his name came up, the FBI pursued the case with full vigor; after the conviction, Prichard was unable to appeal to the Supreme Court because too many of the justices had to recuse themselves from hearing a case involving their friend. (He did, however, receive a pardon from President Truman.) Tracy Campbell's richly detailed biography shows how after decades of political exile Prichard was able to redeem himself as an advisor and later as a champion for education reform in his native Kentucky. A compelling morality tale with a quintessentially American setting, Short of the Glory explores an under-recognized facet of mid-20th-century politics and the men who carried it out.
From Kirkus Reviews
The fascinating story of self-destruction by a child prodigy who became a leading savant of FDR's New Deal ``brain trust.'' Campbell (History/Mare Hill Coll.; The Politics of Despair:Power and Resistance in the Tobacco Wars, not reviewed) writes of a precocious youngster born in Paris, Ky., in 1915, who learned his politics and legal debating skills in the ``old boy''-powered political world of bluegrass Bourbon County, where stuffing ballots was a routine means of controlling elections. Young Prichard headed for the county courthouse after school let out rather than for a playground or the usual boyish watering hole. Campbell follows his brilliant academic career who entered Princeton at 16 and starred at Harvard Law School as a wunderkind who went on to clerk for FDR's Supreme Court appointee Felix Frankfurter. Prichard's spellbinding personality, great learning, and witty storytelling brought him many highly placed friends; he was called the brightest of the young men whom FDR attracted to Washington. He was a sought-after aide and advisor extraordinaire to James F. Byrnes and Thomas G. Corcoran in New Deal and wartime efforts. But Campbell also found that Prichard showed some flaws of immaturity: a tendency to show off and shock people, an intolerance of his intellectual inferiors, and an ``end justifies the means'' philosophy. One telling symptom of these: He was convicted of stuffing ballots back in Bourbon County in 1948. For years he suffered the existence of a convicted felon - loss of income and family, relentless pursuit by the IRS, etc. And his redemption? Prichard made an unlikely and laborious return to respectability via a new career as a leader in civil rights and political and educational reform, until his death in 1984. A well-written and well-researched biography about a gifted man who needed a moral code and common sense. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Top Customer Reviews
To this question, it is possible to give an uncharitable reply. Kentucky, one might say, is a place with more past than future. To dwell on a footnote may be read as saying: we almost amounted to something, we could have been a contender.
And yet, and yet. And yet we have the testimony of the best and the brightest that Prich himself was the best and the brightest; if not as an actor, perhaps as a thinker and certainly as a talker.. Indeed, I had the privilege to observe Prich in what might be called his rehabilitation phase: the early 60s when his friends were trying to ease him back from obloquy and exile onto the political stage. I will add my testimony to those of legions who swore that Prichard in full spate was simply the greatest three-ring oratorical circus of which a simple country boy might dream, his whooshes of insight keeping easy company with his flashes of savage wit. No wonder he won the affection of Felix Frankfurter, of Phil Graham, of-good heavens, is this true?-of Sir Isaiah Berlin.
Indeed: Berlin was once his roommate and like so many was stunned and horrified when Prich was convicted by a Kentucky jury The details are there Tracy Campbell's account, along with a great deal else one may have remembered or forgotten about the politics of Kentucky in the last Century. Campbell tells it all earnestly and unflinchingly, and a strangely compelling story it remains.
Is there a larger context for Prich's story? Probably not a great one, but by a stretch, you could fit it into more general story of the history of the New Deal. It was here, after all, that Prich occupied center stage: as the brilliant young scamp who enchanted Felix Frankfurter, and who put himself at the elbow of Robert Jackson, of Fred Vinson, of Jimmie Byrnes (although both Jackson and Byrnes stayed aloof, and even Vinson saw Prich's limits). One can, at least with caution, take Prich as a kind of symbol for what was right and wrong with those years: the brilliance, the optimism, the energy, together with an overlarge dose of self-admiration, bordering on downright narcissism. Prich was, after all, as dazzling as they say he was. But he was an appalling abuser of friendship, a serial shirker of duties, and at best no more than a mediocre husband and father. Even after he started taking fees from the strip miners, he never really paid his taxes. Indeed, one of the remarkable parts of the Prich story is the way so many people were taken in by him-not merely by his skills at rhetoric and dialectic (which were indisputable) but by the notion that these virtues somehow translated into political gravitas.
Campbell does a conscientious job of surveying the evidence surrounding Prichard's pivotal bout with ballot-stuffing in 1948. Laudably, he hesitates to draw any grand conclusions. I will indulge myself a bit more. Prich came back to Kentucky touted as the next governor, senator, president-offices to which (says Campbell), absent his "lapse" he "would certainly" have risen. But by Campell's own testimony, this is nonsense. Campbell himself says that Prich "had not the ambition or the personality for such posts." Quite right: probably nobody knew this better than Prich himself. His friends saw him as the next Roosevelt; he knew he was closer to Peter Pan. By sticking his hand in a ballot box, he relieved himself of all these impositions: he may have left his friends bewildered and disappointed, but he gave himself the freedom to remain forever young.
Then came 1948. In Texas, Lyndon Johnson won a Senatorial election, as the saying goes, by the votes of 49 dead Mexicans. That same year, Prichard helped stuff ballot boxes in his home county, Bourbon County, Kentucky, for a forgettable Senate candidate who had the election locked up anyway. But, hounded by J. Edgar Hoover for his "socialist" views (such as championing civil rights for blacks and an eight hour work day, with a decent minimum wage), Prichard, not Johnson, went to prison and was disbarred.
This short, but imminently well researched book is his story, recounting all his sparkling brilliance, the arrogance that helped bring him down, and his ultimate redemption as the father of the education reform movement in Kentucky. This is an elegantly written and masterfully documented history from a first rate young historian. The biggest revelation is the story of J. Edgar Hoover's targeting of Prichard, which was gleaned from declassified documents, and never previously reported.
If this book teaches us that we are all flawed, it also teaches that we are all capable of redemption. This is one of the finest biographies I have ever read.