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Kenneth Douglas McKellar (January 29, 1869 – October 25, 1957) was an Americanmarker politician from Tennesseemarker 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.

Early life and career

McKellar was a native of Dallas County, Alabamamarker and was graduated from the University of Alabamamarker in 1891 and its law school in 1892. He moved to Memphis, Tennesseemarker, 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 serving until his election to the United States Senate.

United States Senate

McKellar ran for the Senate in 1916, defeating incumbent Senator Luke Lea in the Democratic primary and winning the general election against former Republican Governor Ben W. Hooper. He was reelected to the Senate in 1922 (defeating former Senator Newell Sanders), 1928, 1934, 1940 (against Howard Baker, Sr., father of future Senator Howard Baker), and 1946.

McKellar was considered something of a progressive in his early days in the Senate, supporting many of President Woodrow Wilson's reform initiatives as well as ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. He also staunchly supported the New Deal, especially the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority. He was also a close ally of Memphis political boss E. H. Crump.

Despite his early support for Franklin Roosevelt's policies, McKellar grew more conservative in his political stances and began opposing the Roosevelt administration's appointments. The most noted of these would be a prolonged feud with FDR's appointee to head the TVA, David Lillienthal.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. He also served as chairman of the Civil Service Committee], Post Office and Road Committee, and, most notably, the powerful Appropriations Committee from 1945–1947 and again from 1949–1953.


He is the only Tennessee senator to have completed more than three full terms; except for McKellar, 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.)

1952 election

In 1952 McKellar stood for a seventh term (the first Senator to do so), 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, former Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist.

Some have speculated that Senator McKellar was the inspiration for the character of South Carolinamarker Senator Seabright Cooley in Allen Drury's Advise and Consent.[87534]

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

McKeller is interred at Elmwood Cemetery, located in Memphis, Tennesseemarker. He was portrayed by the actor Ed Bruce in the film Public Enemies (2009).

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