Photo #1 - Aidan Brady of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum during his Cold War history presentation at the Green River High School
Photo #2 - Wyoming Secretary of State Lester Hunt in 1936, the year Wyoming’s bucking horse license plates were introduced (Wyoming State Archives photo. Used with thanks.)
(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - February 17, 2023) The Cold War was the subject for Ruth Ann Foerster’s U.S. History class at the Green River High School on Thursday.
Aidan Brady, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum’s Public Engagement Coordinator, was the special presenter for the event. He spoke on a wide range of subjects relating to the Cold War, which historians generally agree extended from 1947 to about 1991. Brady’s subjects included popular culture of the era, the Minute Man Missile system, the fact that Laramie County and Warren Air Force Base were considered prime targets in the event of a Soviet missile attack, Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare, and the tragic story of Wyoming U.S. Senator Lester Hunt.
A dentist from Lander, Hunt was elected to the Wyoming House of Representatives in 1932. He went on to serve as Wyoming Secretary of State from 1935 to 1943 and as Governor from 1943 to 1949, when he was elected to the Senate. (As Secretary of State, Hunt was responsible for the adoption of Wyoming’s iconic bucking horse license plate design.)
In the Senate, Hunt quickly clashed with Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, notorious for his “demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents.” Hunt publicly branded McCarthy “an opportunist,” “a liar,” and a “drunk,” and the Wisconsin senator privately vowed revenge.
As described on the United States Senate website at
“On June 8, 1954, Lester Hunt surprised supporters by announcing that he would not seek a second Senate term. Behind his decision was one of the foulest attempts at blackmail in modern political history. His son, long recovered from his broken leg, had been convicted a year earlier for soliciting an undercover policeman in Lafayette Square. Two of Joe McCarthy's Senate Republican confederates informed Hunt that if he did not leave the Senate when his term ended that year, the conviction would become a major campaign issue. Hunt feared a vicious contest that would add to his son's torments and jeopardize Senate Democrats' chances of picking up the two seats necessary to regain majority control in 1955. Days later, he entered the Russell Building on a quiet Saturday morning, with a .22 caliber Winchester rifle partially obscured under his coat. In a seemingly buoyant mood, he exchanged pleasantries with an unquestioning Capitol Police officer and went to his third-floor office. Minutes later, alone, Hunt pulled the trigger.”
McCarthy’s influence and health went into decline around this time, and in that same year he was officially censured by the Senate. Public opinion turned against him, and he died in 1957.