Walter Dee Huddleston

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Walter Dee Huddleston
United States Senator
from Kentucky
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1985
Preceded byJohn Cooper
Succeeded byMitch McConnell
Majority Leader of the Kentucky Senate
In office
January 1970 – December 1972[1]
Preceded byRichard L. Frymire
Succeeded byTom Garrett
Member of the Kentucky Senate
from the 10th district
In office
January 4, 1966 – December 1972
Preceded byPaul Fuqua
Succeeded byJoe Prather
Personal details
Walter Darlington Huddleston

(1926-04-15)April 15, 1926
Burkesville, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedOctober 16, 2018(2018-10-16) (aged 92)
Warsaw, Kentucky, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Jean Pearce
(m. 1947; died 2003)
EducationUniversity of Kentucky (BA)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceSeal of the United States Department of War.png United States Army
Years of service1944–1946
Battles/warsWorld War II

Walter Darlington "Dee" Huddleston (April 15, 1926 – October 16, 2018) was an American politician. He was a Democrat from Kentucky who represented the state in the United States Senate from 1973 until 1985. Huddleston lost his 1984 Senate re-election campaign to Mitch McConnell in an upset by 5269 votes.

Early life[edit]

Huddleston was born in Burkesville, Kentucky.[2] After he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the United States Army and served as a tank gunner in Europe during and after World War II from 1944 to 1946.[3] He then attended the University of Kentucky with support from the G.I. Bill, and he graduated in 1949.[2][4] In 1947, Huddleston married Martha Jean Pearce, who died in 2003.[5]

After graduating from college, Huddleston worked as the sports and program director for WKCT in Bowling Green, Kentucky.[3] In 1952, he became the general manager of WIEL in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.[4] He later became president of the Kentucky Broadcasters Association.[3]


Huddleston entered politics in 1964 when he was elected to the Kentucky State Senate.[6] He was elected as a state senator in 1965, serving until 1972; for a time, he was the body's majority leader.[6]

In 1972, Huddleston ran for the United States Senate seat which was being vacated by retiring Republican John Sherman Cooper.[7] He narrowly defeated Republican Louie B. Nunn, a recent former governor, receiving a 51% to 48% margin.[8] Huddleston was reelected in 1978 with 61 percent of the vote over the former Republican state Representative Louie R. Guenthner Jr., of Louisville.[9]

In 1984, Huddleston's Republican opponent was Jefferson County (Louisville) Judge-Executive Mitch McConnell.[2] McConnell gained political traction with a series of television campaign ads mocking Huddleston's attendance record in the Senate.[10] McConnell accused him of putting "his private speaking engagements ahead of his Senate responsibilities."[11] Despite these ads, the race was very close, with McConnell only defeating Huddleston when the last returns came in (49.9% to 49.5%).[12]

Post-Senate career[edit]

Huddleston was known as a member of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, as was typical of party members from Kentucky.[13]

In the late 1980s, Huddleston served on the National Board of Advisors of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-immigration group advocating for a lower rate of legal immigration.[14]

In 2012, Huddleston announced he was stepping down as chairman of First Financial Service Corporation.[15]


Huddleston died on October 16, 2018, in Warsaw, Kentucky, in his sleep at his son Stephen's house. He was 92 years old.[2] Sen. Mitch McConnell issued a statement on Huddleston's death soon after, in which he honored Huddleston's "tenacity," and stated that both he and his wife, Elaine Chao, were "saddened" when they heard of his passing.[16]


  1. ^ Kentucky General Assembly Membership 1900-2005; Vol. II 1950 - 2005 (PDF). Kentucky Legislative Research Commission. 2005. p. 11. Retrieved February 5, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d "Walter 'Dee' Huddleston, who lost Senate seat to Mitch McConnell, dies". Courier-Journal. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "Former U.S. Sen. Walter 'Dee' Huddleston dies at 92". Kentucky. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Sheroan, Ben (October 16, 2018). "Broadcaster turned legislator, Dee Huddleston impacted area". The News-Enterprise. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  5. ^ "Walter 'Dee' Huddleston, former U.S. Senator, dies at age 92 at son's home in Warsaw". Kentucky Forward. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Former Kentucky U.S. Senator Walter 'Dee' Huddleston has died". WDRB. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  7. ^ "Former US Sen. Walter 'Dee' Huddleston dies at 92". Herald Mail Media. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  8. ^ "Nixon sweeps to landslide victory". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. November 8, 1972. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  9. ^ "KY US Senate". Our Campaigns. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  10. ^ "Walter Huddleston, Kentucky Senator Who Preceded Mitch McConnell, Dead at 92". RollCall. October 16, 2018. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  11. ^ Mayer, Jane (February 15, 2012). "Who Let the Attack-Ad Dogs Out?". New Yorker. Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  12. ^ Mark R. Chellgren (November 7, 1984). "Dee upset by McConnell in close race". Williamson Daily News. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  13. ^ "Former US Sen. Walter 'Dee' Huddleston dies at 92". Finger Lake Times. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  14. ^ "Former Kentucky senator Dee Huddleston dead at 92". The Hill. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  15. ^ "CEO of First Financial in Kentucky Stepping Down for Health Reasons". February 10, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
  16. ^ "Former KY US Sen. Walter "Dee" Huddleston dies". October 16, 2018. Retrieved November 11, 2021.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Kentucky
(Class 2)

1972, 1978, 1984
Succeeded by
Preceded by Response to the State of the Union address
Served alongside: Max Baucus, Joe Biden, David Boren, Barbara Boxer, Robert Byrd, Dante Fascell, William H. Gray, Tom Harkin, Carl Levin, Tip O'Neill, Claiborne Pell
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Kentucky
Served alongside: Marlow Cook, Wendell Ford
Succeeded by