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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.
"Campbell tells a wonderful story of a rising star, a New Deal 'wonder boy' from Kentucky, who fell from grace and into jail because he forged 254 ballots during the 1948 elections.... The story of Prichard is also the story of the New Deal and corrupt politics in the South." -- Choice
"A book of considerable merit.... Gives us real insight into Prichard's character." -- Faith & Mission
"Will doubtless be the definitive study of Prichard for many years to come." -- Filson Club History Quarterly
"A noteworthy and fascinating biography." -- H-Net Reviews
"Fascinating and well-researched.... does justice to the complexities of Prichard's life and illuminates the history of the New Deal and the convoluted world of modern Kentucky politics." -- Journal of American History
"An intriguing, meticulous, and evenhanded political biography of Edward F. Prichard Jr. (1915-1984), a legendary, complex, and ultimately tragic figure in Kentucky politics." -- Journal of Appalachian Studies
"A compelling story, well told." -- Journal of Southern History
"Campbell has used declassified FBI files, collections of papers, and extensive oral histories to write an intelligent biography; he is critical yet fairminded, and offers vivid anecdotes that lend his text considerable panache." -- Princeton Alumni Weekly