The U.S. Senate’s Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, chaired by Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver, did groundbreaking work in the investigation of the American mob. At a time when the FBI denied the existence of a nationwide criminal conspiracy, the Kefauver Committee uncovered the Syndicate’s tentacles in every region of the country.
Carey Estes Kefauver, born July 26, 1903, in Tennessee, was a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Yale University law department. Following the death of Congressman Sam Reynolds in 1939, Kefauver (a Democrat) was elected to complete Reynolds’ term. He was reelected four times. In 1948, he was elected to the Senate. Early in his first term, Kefauver drafted a resolution calling for a five-member special committee to investigate organized crime. The resolution succeeded in the spring of 1950 only due to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Alben Barkley.
The resolution specified that the committee would be terminated on March 31, 1951. The hearings of the Special Committee on Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce were broadcast on television and became a public sensation. Gambling networks and corrupt officials were revealed, as were narcotics trafficking organizations and underworld infiltration of legitimate enterprises. The Senate extended the committee’s life until Sept. 1, 1951. The text of the committee hearings filled numerous volumes, and the committee published three interim reports (August 1950, February 1951, May 1951) and a final report (August 1951) before it dissolved. Kefauver was an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. President in 1952 and 1956. He was nominated by the Democratic Party as Adlai Stevenson’s runningmate in 1956. Kefauver continued to serve in the Senate until his death on Aug. 0, 1963.
- First Interim Report – Aug. 18, 1950
- Second Interim Report – Feb. 28, 1951
- Third Interim Report – May 1, 1951
- Final Report – Aug. 31, 1951
- Virgil Peterson Testimony – July 6-7, 1950
- Kefauver Biography, U.S. Congress Directory
- The Kefauver Committee, Senate.gov
- Text of Kefauver Hearings, Archive.org