Three former members of the United States senate will go “on trial” in Lander, Wyoming for their alleged roles in the 1954 suicide of Lander citizen, U.S. Senator Lester Hunt. Senators Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin), Styles Bridges (R-New Hampshire) and Herman Welker (R-Idaho), all deceased, are “charged” with blackmailing the Wyoming senator. Hunt died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on June 19, 1954.
The trial opens at 7 PM on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at the Lander Middle School Commons.
The trial coincides with the release of the first book-length biography of Senator Hunt. Dying for the Sins of Joe McCarthy-The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt, was written by Rodger McDaniel and published by WordsWorth Publishing Co. of Cody.
Retired Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Michael Golden will preside. Riverton attorney, John Vincent will prosecute. Among the other players will be Landerites Bill Sniffin and Bruce Palmer, as well as County10.com’s Ernie Over. A jury of local citizens will hear the case and render a historic verdict.
Lester Hunt, a Democrat, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1948. He was twice elected governor and twice elected Secretary of State and served in the Wyoming legislature. Hunt came to Wyoming in 1911 to pitch for Lander’s professional baseball team. Following service in World War I, he married Emily Nathelle Higby of Lander, completed dental school and practiced dentistry in Lander.
As Secretary of State, Hunt designed the bucking horse license plate. As Governor he oversaw the Heart Mountain Interment Camp and dozens of programs assisting World War II efforts including the Selective Service. Hunt served in the United States Senate from 1948 until his death in 1954.
Former Senator Alan Simpson wrote the foreword for McDaniel’s book, saying, “When Lester Hunt arrived in Washington in 1949, he witnessed the rising tide of McCarthyism. His was one of the few early voices to call it for what it was.” Speaking of the events leading to Senator Hunt’s suicide Simpson wrote, “What was done to Lester Hunt passed all boundaries of decency and exposed an evil side of politics most would always seek to avoid.”
Simpson added, “Rodger brings to this book the fine skills he learned in all of the paths of his own journey. Beyond the rare ability to research, investigate and write a gripping story, Rodger also brings a level of empathy to Lester Hunt’s life story that he richly deserves. The result is this book that finally offers Lester Hunt’s remaining family some form of justice – though belated.”
The trial is sponsored by the Fremont County Democratic Party and the event is free and open to the public. A reception and book signing by Rodger McDaniel will follow the trial.
See author, Rodger McDaniel being interviewed about Lester Hunt on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” here.