Image from the Kentucky Historical Society
From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Edward Fretwell Prichard, Jr., attorney and noted political adviser, was born on January 21, 1915, in Paris, Kentucky, the son of Edward and Allene (Power) Prichard. Prichard attended public schools and entered Princeton University at the age of fifteen. Graduating from college at the top of his class, he entered Harvard law school and, upon graduation, became research assistant to professor Felix Frankfurter. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Frankfurter to the U.S. Supreme court, Prichard joined him in Washington, D.C., as his law clerk. After a year Prichard moved to the Immigration Service in the Justice Department and then served as assistant to the U.S. attorney general and on the War Production Board. In 1942, at the age of twenty-seven, he became legal counsel and adviser to President Roosevelt. In Washington he impressed political observers such as Katherine Graham, later publisher of the Washington Post.
In 1945 Prichard returned to Kentucky to practice law. Raised in a highly political Bourbon County family and touted in the press as a "boy wonder," Prichard at thirty made it clear that his eye was on the governorship of Kentucky, and he was considered a prime choice to succeed Earle Clements . It was shocking, therefore, when Prichard was convicted of vote fraud conspiracy in the 1948 Bourbon County election and sentenced to two years in federal prison. He had served five months when President Harry S. Truman pardoned him in 1950.
Prichard returned to his law practice, and by the late 1950s had begun his slow and difficult political rebirth as a campaign strategist for Bert Combs. In the ensuing years, he advised Govs. Clements, Wetherby , Combs, and Breathitt and, to a lesser degree, Carroll and Brown. Nicknamed "the Philosopher" by Combs, Prichard came to be considered by many to be Kentucky's greatest intellect and sharpest legal mind. His voracious appetite for all forms of intellectual stimulation was legendary, as were his gifts of wit and repartee. The stigma of his conviction remained, however, and he never sought political office himself.
Prichard emerged as Kentucky's most visible political sage through the late 1960s and 1970s. In political philosophy he was a strong advocate of civil rights, strip mine regulation, constitutional reform, improved health care, and public education. In 1966 Gov. Edward Breathitt (1963-67) appointed Prichard to the Council on Higher Education , beginning the period of his full return to public life. Serving often as the council's vice chairman, he became a powerful advocate for Kentucky's universities. In 1980, the council appointed a citizens' committee to recommend improvements in Kentucky's universities, and Prichard led the committee in preparing its 1981 report on higher education, In Pursuit of Excellence. The committee afterward became an independent organization, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence .
In 1947 Prichard married Lucy Elliott of Woodford County . He died on December 23, 1984, and was buried in the Paris Cemetery.
ROBERT F. SEXTON, Entry Author
Selected Sources from UK Libraries:
Campbell, T. (1998). Short of the glory : The fall and redemption of Edward F. Prichard, Jr. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
E748.P88 C36 1998, Young Library - 4th Floor
Hellard, V., Birdwhistell, T., Klotter, J., Campbell, T., & Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. (1982). Edward F. Prichard, Jr. Oral History Project.
Special Collections Research Center - Oral History Collection
Prichard, E. (1935). Popular political movements in Kentucky, 1875-1900.
B-723, Young Library - Periodicals Desk Microfilm