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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
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
Seal 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 about 5100 votes.

Early life

Huddleston was born in Burkesville, Kentucky.[1] 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.[2] He then attended the University of Kentucky with support from the G.I. Bill, and he graduated in 1949.[1][3] In 1947, Huddleston married Martha Jean Pearce, who died in 2003.[4]

After graduating from college, Huddleston worked as the sports and program director for WKCT in Bowling Green, Kentucky.[2] In 1952, he became the general manager of WIEL in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.[3] He later became president of the Kentucky Broadcasters Association.[2]


Huddleston entered politics in 1964 when he was elected to the Kentucky State Senate.[5] He was elected as a state senator in 1965, serving until 1972; for a time, he was the body's majority leader.[5]

In 1972, Huddleston ran for the United States Senate seat which was being vacated by retiring Republican John Sherman Cooper.[6] He narrowly defeated Republican Louie B. Nunn, a recent former governor, receiving a 51% to 48% margin.[7] Huddleston was reelected in 1978 with 61 percent of the vote over the former Republican state Representative Louie R. Guenthner Jr., of Louisville.[8]

In 1984, Huddleston's Republican opponent was Jefferson County (Louisville) Judge-Executive Mitch McConnell.[1] McConnell gained political traction with a series of television campaign ads mocking Huddleston's attendance record in the Senate.[9] McConnell accused him of putting "his private speaking engagements ahead of his Senate responsibilities."[10] Despite these ads, the race was very close, with McConnell only defeating Huddleston when the last returns came in (49.9% to 49.5%).[11]

Post-Senate career

Huddleston was known as a member of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, as was typical of party members from Kentucky.[12]

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.[13]

In 2012, Huddleston announced he was stepping down as chairman of First Financial Service Corporation.[14]


Huddleston died on October 16, 2018, in Warsaw, Kentucky, in his sleep at his son Stephen's house. He was 92 years old.[1] 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.[15]


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