(Caption: Former Gov. David Freudenthal and author Roger McDaniel share a laugh during the mock trial of Sens. Joseph McCarthy, Styles Bridges and Herman Welker at St. Marks Episcopal Church in Cheyenne on Sunday. Photo by Alan Rogers.)
Almost 60 years have passed since Wyoming Senator Lester C. Hunt shot himself in his Capitol Hill office. He is one of six U.S. Senators to commit suicide in office. And yet little has ever been written about the circumstances surrounding his death.
Rodger McDaniel contends in his new book, “Dying for Joe McCarthy’s Sins: the suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt,” that McCarthy, along with Senators Styles Bridges and Herman Welker, badgered Hunt with blackmail threats until he killed himself.
On Sunday, a star-studded lineup of Wyoming politicos prosecuted the three senators to coincide with the book’s release.The mock trial was held at St. Marks Episcopal Church in Cheyenne, the church where Hunt was laid to rest in 1954.
Former Gov.David Freudenthal, a former U.S. Attorney, served as prosecutor. Diane Lozano, director for the State’s Public Defender’s Office, was defense counsel. Former State Supreme Court Justice Michael Golden oversaw the proceedings. Some 400 people packed the church pews.
Hunt’s death is a story full of political intrigue and personal tragedy. Control of the Senate was at stake and Washington was an even more toxic place than it is now, evidenced by the arrest of Hunt’s son, Buddy. His crime: hitting on an undercover male police officer in a D.C. park.
Just as amazing, in my mind, is the fact that Hunt’s story went untold for so long. We’ll try and explain why in next Sunday’s paper.