Books: Short of the Glory: The Fall and Redemption of Edward F. Prichard Jr

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Short of the Glory:
The Fall and Redemption of Edward F. Prichard Jr.
by Tracy Campbell
(University Press of Kentucky)

Only time will tell what will happen to President Clinton and how he’ll be remembered in the annals of American history. But should he be impeached, it will certainly not be the first time that a person seemingly destined for leadership suddenly falls from grace, inexplicably destroyed by his own hand. Kentucky’s own Ed Prichard was a wunderkind whose political career was sadly ended before it ever really began.

In Short of the Glory , Tracy Campbell explores the life of this remarkable man and his rise and fall and rise again in the public eye. This biography-which often resembles an ancient Greek tragedy-draws on a variety of sources to piece together the complex history of a man whose political aspirations began as a child listening in on conversations at the Bourbon County courthouse.

Edward “Sonny” Prichard grew up demonstrating an uncanny interest in every aspect of politics, from the dynamics of effective campaigning and leadership to the gossip and scandals that were typically taken with a grain of salt in 1920s Bourbon County.

A young man of great intellect and a flair for the dramatic, Prichard moved on from his Kentucky home to attend Princeton, where he graduated at the top of his class, and then Harvard Law School, where he formed an important relationship with Felix Frankfurter, who would later become a Supreme Court justice.

As Campbell explains, this was the first of many friendships that the young Prichard would form with important government officials and many luminaries of the 20th century such as Katharine Graham, Isaiah Berlin, and Arthur Schlesinger Jr. However, these connections would not be enough to save Prichard from what was to come.

After graduation, Prichard immersed himself in the New Deal era of Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. While in Washington, Prichard quickly gained a name for himself in certain circles because of his intellect, sense of humor, and remarkable oratory skills. In other circles, though, his loquacious nature spelled trouble. An investigation into Prichard by the FBI tried to paint him as a communist.

But Prichard endured and eventually came back home to Kentucky to form his own law firm. During the 1948 elections, he was brought in to work on the Democratic National Convention, but he also served on the local level as a precinct officer in the Bourbon County elections.

And this is where Prichard’s rising star suddenly came crashing to the ground. Prichard was accused of stuffing ballot boxes, and before long the promising career of Edward Prichard had vanished.

Yet Prichard’s story really just begins here. Campbell takes the reader through an objective, yet painful, journey, describing in detail the tragedy that befell this political prodigy. Both in spirit and body, Prichard was a beaten and battered man. But he persevered. And in one of the last acts of Prichard’s career and life, he played a key role in advocating the education reform that eventually led to the Kentucky Education Reform Act.

-Todd Piccirilli



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