(first appeared in the November 2018 issue of The Equiery)
U.S. Senator Joseph Davies Tydings, a Harford County Democrat, died on October 8 at the age of 90. Tydings was known for many progressive policies and authored the landmark Federal legislation known as the American Horse Protection Act. As the news of his death circulated, many Equiery readers provided us with their own unique, personal thoughts on Tydings.
From Jay Young
Joseph D. Tydings, an early “Kennedy man” who became Maryland’s U.S. Attorney, its United States Senator and a longtime Regent at the University of Maryland, died October 8 at the age of 90 after a courageous battle with cancer.
An unrepentant progressive throughout his life, Tydings was an early and relentless advocate for gun safety laws, but incurred the wrath of the National Rifle Association, which made an example out of him by helping defeat him for re-election in 1970.
In later years, Tydings would be credited with establishing the non-partisan reputation of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Maryland as well as giving birth to the reform wing of Maryland’s Democratic Party. He was so politically independent that his party’s bosses and elected leaders fought him at every step of his career – yet usually lost.
The party establishment fought his efforts in the Maryland General Assembly to require regulation of state savings and loan associations after the state’s first major S&L scandal. They unsuccessfully tried to stop President Kennedy from appointing him the chief federal prosecutor in Maryland. They opposed his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 1964. And when his political career was finally on the ropes after six years in the Senate, the party machine wouldn’t lift a finger to help him.
Even after his career in elective office was over, Tydings kept his hand in Maryland politics, supporting various reform candidates and pushing for legislation to protect his beloved Chesapeake Bay. He went on to serve as a member and as Chairman of the Board of Regents of his alma mater, the University of Maryland. Tydings was appointed to three separate terms on the Regents by three different governors in three different decades.
His quick rise through Maryland politics was helped by having a last name that was already well-known in the state. He was the adopted son of Millard Tydings, a World War I hero and four-term U.S. Senator from Harford County. The elder Tydings finally lost his Senate seat in 1950, due, in part, to the dirty tricks by the communist witch hunter Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. Two decades later, young Joe Tydings would lose his Senate seat, in part, because of the dirty tricks of the Nixon administration.
Tydings’ illustrious family included his namesake grandfather, Joseph Davies, an early advisor to Woodrow Wilson who later was appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt as America’s second ambassador to Joseph Stalin’s Russia. While Joe Tydings was still a boy, his grandfather married Marjorie Merriweather Post, perhaps the richest woman in America. Part of young Joe’s upbringing involved visits to Post’s various homes on Long Island, in the Adirondacks, in New York City, and at the fabulous winter residence she built in Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago, now the famous Trump resort. He even sailed home from Europe aboard the Sea Cloud, Post’s luxurious 322-foot, four-masted barque.
But young Joe Tydings’ political rise was also due in large part to another famous name–Kennedy. In 1960, Tydings directed John F. Kennedy’s campaign in Maryland and then helped the Massachusetts senator in other primaries, at the party convention in Los Angeles, and throughout the fall election. After Kennedy won, Tydings was offered a post in the new administration, and he asked to be appointed U.S. Attorney for Maryland.
But the Maryland Democratic Party establishment told the new President that he could name Tydings to any other post he wanted, domestic or foreign, but that he was “personally unacceptable” to be the federal prosecutor in Maryland. Every Democratic congressman in the state but one opposed his appointment. President Kennedy questioned his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, about the opposition, saying “how can I appoint him with all these people opposed to him.” Robert Kennedy famously replied, “that’s exactly why you are going to appoint him.”
Tydings went on to build a modern federal prosecution force that has effectively targeted political corruption in Maryland up to the present day. Tydings’ successful prosecutions of Congressman Thomas Johnson of Maryland, Frank Boykin of Alabama, and Maryland House Speaker A. Gordon Boone rocked the political establishment.
As U.S. Attorney, Tydings assembled a staff of neophyte trial attorneys that included a future Attorney General of the United States, Benjamin R. Civiletti, and a future Attorney General of Maryland, Stephen H. Sachs, and other lawyers who would become judges and successful attorneys with prominent law firms.
In 1963, President Kennedy visited Oakington, the 550-acre Tydings’ estate along the Chesapeake Bay in Harford County, to urge the young prosecutor to run for the Senate. But on the November day that Tydings held his farewell luncheon with colleagues to prepare for his Senate run, word came that Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas.
The Maryland Democratic Party put up the popular state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein to oppose Tydings in the 1964 party primary and most pundits thought Goldstein would easily win. But Tydings, whose campaign slogan was “Working for Maryland, Not the Machine,” energized reformers within the state party, attracted a statewide army of volunteers, and won decisively. It was Goldstein’s only loss during six decades in public office. That fall, in a race that contrasted an older generation with the youthful, more active generation of the Kennedys, Tydings easily beat incumbent Republican Senator J. Glenn Beall, Sr.
In later years, he would admit that as a Senator, he often had more courage than good political sense. Whereas his adoptive father was a Southern conservative, Tydings always said the influence of his Wisconsin-born mother,
Eleanor, turned him into a progressive. He backed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and he supported the controversial Supreme Court decisions of the Warren Court: the one-man, one-vote requirement for apportionment of state legislatures; the prohibition of prayer in public schools; and the guarantee of the rights of defendants to remain silent and to be represented by counsel. Both before and after the shooting of Bobby Kennedy in June of 1968, Tydings was a proponent of federal gun regulation.
Although 100th in seniority when he arrived in the Senate, Tydings wrangled the chairmanship of an obscure Judiciary subcommittee and used it to make long overdue improvements to the federal court system – many of which are still in place today. He helped create the system of federal magistrates to lighten the workload of federal judges; improved jury selection so that federal juries more fairly represented the make-up of their communities; and he worked to keep unfit, unqualified, or mentally or physically incapacitated judges off the bench. He became an enemy of Richard Nixon by helping defeat two of the president’s Supreme Court nominees, Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr., and G. Harrold Carswell.
He was an early advocate for family planning and worried all his life about the detrimental health and environmental effects of worldwide overpopulation. He often did this work in concert with Republican colleagues, such as then-Congressman George H.W. Bush. He regularly decried the lack of bipartisanship in the Congress today.
Like many of his congressional peers, Tydings came to office supporting American involvement in Vietnam. But as the war escalated, deaths mounted and protests spread throughout the country, Tydings finally broke with Lyndon Johnson and came out against the war. The issue, however, was so divisive that part of the electorate considered his opposition unpatriotic, while others thought he had done too little to end the war.
By the time he stood for re-election in 1970, Tydings later admitted, he had probably supported one liberal position too many. The country had changed. Nixon had replaced Johnson as president, and Tydings’ progressive outlook had been supplanted by the backlash to new civil rights laws, fear over race riots in American cities, and division over Vietnam.
Three months before the election, Life magazine published an expose on Tydings that slandered his good name, but which was later – after the election was over – shown to be untrue. It was also disclosed that the story had been planted by Nixon henchman Charles Colson. On a rainy November election day, Tydings narrowly lost re-election to J. Glenn Beall, Jr., the son of the man he had beaten six years earlier.
Tydings made a belated bid for his old seat in 1976, but lost badly in the Democratic primary to his friend Paul Sarbanes. He never again sought or held elective office. Instead, he built a national and international career in law and performed public service in many other ways, including as a board member for the University of Maryland Medical System and by offering his legal services pro bono in cases challenging the death penalty. One of the many causes to which he dedicated his energies was the protection of Tennessee Walking horses from the inhumane practice of “soring.” He sought vigorous implementation of the Horse Protection Act of 1970 that he had authored while still in the Senate.
Tydings was born as Joseph Davies Cheesborough in Asheville, NC, on May 4, 1928 to Eleanor Davies of Watertown, WI, and Tom Cheesborough of Asheville. Tydings’ sister, Eleanor Cheesborough, was born in 1932.
In 1935, Eleanor divorced Cheesborough and married Millard Tydings, who was then serving his second term in the U.S. Senate. Several years later, Millard Tydings formally adopted young Joe and his sister, Eleanor.
Tydings attended public schools in Aberdeen, MD, before entering the McDonough School in Baltimore County as a military cadet in 1938. Rather than going to college after graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1946 and served in one of the army’s last horse platoons as part of the post-war occupation of Germany. When he returned to the States, he entered the University of Maryland, where he played lacrosse and football, and then earned his law degree at the University of Maryland Law School in 1953.
While attending a steeplechase race at Fair Hill, MD, in 1954, Tydings met Virginia Reynolds Campbell of Lewes, DE, and a year later they were married. After the birth of their four children and his service in the U.S. Senate, they divorced in 1974. In 1975, he married Terry Lynn Huntingdon of Mt. Shasta, CA, the mother of his fifth child. This marriage and two subsequent marriages ended in divorce.
Tydings practiced law until he was 90. Just this past spring, his autobiography My Life in Progressive Politics: Against the Grain was published.
Tydings is survived by his sister, Eleanor Tydings Russell of Monkton, MD, by the four children of his first marriage: Mary Tydings Smith of Easton, MD, Millard Tydings of Skillman, NJ, Emlen Tydings Gaudino of Palm Beach, Australia, and Eleanor Tydings Gollob of McLean, VA. In addition, he is survived by Alexandra Tydings Luzzatto of Washington, DC, the daughter of his second marriage. He is also survived by nine grandchildren: Benjamin Tydings Smith, Jill Campbell Gollob, Sam Tydings Gollob, Margaret Campbell Tydings; Jay Davies Gollob, William Davies Tydings, Ruby Anne Luzzatto, Emerson Almeida Luzzatto, and Maeve Chaim Luzzatto.
From Joe Davies
Uncle Joe loved his foxhunting, and I remember him telling me on a Thanksgiving hunt several years ago that galloping into a fence on his favorite foxhunter, Highlander, was the only time when he completely let go of every worry or care that had been cluttering his mind – save getting over the looming obstacle in front of us. In all his years foxhunting, protected mostly by a bowler hat, the worst thing that he ever sustained were a few briar scratches.
Joe also was a great timber racing enthusiast, owning several nice horses, including 2013 Maryland Novice Timber Champion and 2014 Grand National winner Spencer Road.
He was a wonderful father figure and supporter of mine, and even joined the Motorcade trip to Cheltenham!
From Emily Ehrhorn, Humane Society of the U.S
U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings was a giant in the halls of Congress and in the hearts of horse lovers everywhere. We mourn his passing while acknowledging the rich legacy he leaves on preventing cruelty to horses. Senator Tydings, the father of the federal Horse Protection Act, represented Maryland from 1965 to 1971. He also lobbied pro bono with us in recent years to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act. I fondly recall his stories of the U.S. Senate and his experiences there. He was a larger than life individual to the very end, and we’ll remember him with the deepest gratitude.
A lifelong horseman, “Joe,” as he preferred to be called, strongly appreciated the contribution of horses to our society. He served in the last horse cavalry unit of the U.S. Army during World War II.
Tydings was appalled when he learned of the vile cruelty known as “soring,” in which trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds. Working with the HSUS and other groups, he led the charge on legislation he thought would end the practice once and for all—a bill that took three Congresses to pass, in 1970.
In recent years, upon hearing that the law he had worked so hard to enact had failed to accomplish its goal… he joined the battle again.
Tydings signed annual letters to key senators and representatives urging increased funding so that USDA could better enforce the law. He wrote to officials at all levels of USDA, urging tougher regulations and enforcement. He was known to walk the halls of Congress to make his case, too.
The senator will be remembered as a staunch advocate for the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R.1847/S.2957—a bill to strengthen the Horse Protection Act . . . He teamed up with former Senator John Warner of Virginia, also an ardent horseman, to advocate for the PAST Act in a bipartisan op-ed published in The Hill, “Stop torturing horses now.”
He was a presenter and frequent attendee at the Sound Horse Conference events organized by Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH).
Tydings was also a co-petitioner with the HSUS and partner organizations in a petition to USDA seeking regulatory reforms, and he enthusiastically supported the agency’s rule (currently on hold under the new administration) to strengthen Horse Protection Act regulations.
For all of his extraordinary efforts, the HSUS honored Tydings with its Humane Horseman of the Year award in 2016.
Joe Tydings was a passionate advocate for horses and a true friend to the HSLF and the animal protection community. We must never let the contributions of this valiant warrior for fairness and humaneness be forgotten.