Sen. Hunt blackmail ‘mock trial’ coming

Entertainment and enlightenment – call it a cultural history lesson – comes to a local stage next week.

A mock trial regarding whether Sen. Joe McCarthy had compelled the suicide of Wyoming Sen. Lester Hunt in 1954 will be argued. McCarthy, whose last name spawned a term for a political or cultural smear, “McCarthyism,” will be charged with aggravated blackmail. “Witnesses” during the trial will be interviewed and a jury will decide.

The trial begins at 7 p.m. in the Edward A. Whitney Academic Center on the campus of Sheridan College. The event is free and the public is encouraged. Donations will be asked for at the door; the donations will benefit the Sheridan County Museum.

The attorneys will be Kim Cannon and Hardy Tate. Witness include: Kim Love, owner of Sheridan Media, county commissioner Tom Ringley, Kevin Knapp of the Fulmer Library and Jacob Clayton, from Sheridan College’s theater program

Jury members will include Dr. Paul Young, president of Sheridan College; Grace Cannon, Tyson Emborg, Sheridan High School teacher, and the AP government students from SHS.

 

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Many know the story of Sen. Hunt. After serving his county in uniform for the U.S. Dental Corps in WWI, Hunt set up a dental practice in Lander and became one of the most respected dentists in the state, serving on and leading dental review boards. He was elected to the state legislature, then elected for two terms as Wyoming’s Secretary of State. He served two terms as Wyoming’s governor, 1943-1949. While governor, he was able to guide into law a pension plan for Wyoming’s teachers.

After he was elected to the U.S. Senate, he became a bitter enemy of Wisconsin’s junior senator, Joe McCarthy. Critical of McCarthy’s smear tactics against virtually anyone who disagreed with him, he was targeted by the McCarthy camp in his re-election in 1954. Meanwhile, Hunt’s namesake son in June, 1953, was arrested in Washington, D.C. on a vice charge, his first offense. McCarthy seized the opportunity by forcing Hunt to retire from the Senate, or face exposure of his son’s arrest. In a poll taken in 1954 prior to the election, Hunt’s popularity among candidates was almost 55 percent, his nearest opponent not quite at 20 percent. Yet, the threats continued and on June 19, Hunt shot himself inside his Senate office, dying shortly after at a local hospital. He was 61.

His son and namesake later worked on the staff of Catholic Charities in Chicago and became an author. Novelist Allen Drury used Hunt’s blackmail and suicide a source of his 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, ‘Advise and Consent’ which was made into a film starring Henry Fonda in 1962 and was on Broadway for a time as a play. The younger Hunt died in 1995 at 62.

Rodger McDaniel of Cheyenne has written a book on the events, ‘Dying for Joe McCarthy’s Sin: The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt.” McDaniel will attend the mock trial next Thursday and will be present to sign books afterwards.

Sponsors of the event include: The Sheridan Press, Sheridan County Museum, Frackelton’s, Sheridan Media, Sheridan College.

 

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I would like to thank Easter Seals Wyoming for naming The Sheridan Press the 2013 Business of the Year. There was a recent luncheon honoring those in the community with other similar awards. The Press was cited for its employment practices, mentoring and community engagement.

 

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Shop Sheridan, this weekend!

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