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Gun control, voting rights, family planning, and environmental protection—these are all hot-button issues today, but they were also the same difficult and intractable issues that Senator Joseph D. Tydings of Maryland faced during his tenure in the Senate in the 1960s.
In this timely memoir, Tydings looks back on a life of public service, from the Maryland General Assembly to chief federal prosecutor in Maryland and ultimately to the United States Senate. As an early “Kennedy Man,” Tydings’s political stock soared, but it just as quickly crashed because of his willingness to go “against the grain” on perhaps one progressive issue too many.
As the adopted son of a US senator, grandson of an adviser to three US presidents, and step-grandson of perhaps the wealthiest woman of her age, Tydings nevertheless made his own way, rising from horse platoon corporal in war-ravaged Germany to legislative reformer. He prosecuted fellow Democrats for fraud, stood up to presidents over Supreme Court nominees and the war in Vietnam, and faced down segregationists over voting rights. His family planning initiatives are still in effect. He battled the National Rifle Association over gun control—and suffered the consequences.
After a decade of political assassinations, from the Kennedy brothers to Martin Luther King Jr., and a turn to the right with the election of Richard Nixon, America’s political climate soured for progressive politics, and Tydings narrowly lost reelection.
My Life in Progressive Politics provides an important, insider account of a landmark era in American politics.
About the Author
JOSEPH D. TYDINGS served as United States senator from Maryland from 1965 to 1971. He earlier served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1955 to 1961 and as United States Attorney from 1961 to 1963. He resides in Harford County, Maryland. JOHN W. FRECE is a former journalist and author of Sprawl and Politics: The Inside Story of Smart Growth in Maryland and coauthor of My Unexpected Journey: The Autobiography of Governor Harry Roe Hughes. He resides in Annapolis, Maryland.
"The strength of Sen. Joe Tydings’s convictions and the personal example of his courageous leadership continue to leave a beautiful, proud legacy. This important book provides invaluable insights into his life in a much-admired Maryland family, his public service, and his unwavering dedication to progressive leadership even in the face of great adversity.”—Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader of the US House of Representatives
“In all chapters of his life, Joe Tydings has seen the law as a powerful tool used not to punish but to protect those he served. Any aspiring public servant can draw lifelong lessons from the pages of this book.”—US Representative Joe Kennedy III, Massachusetts’s 4th district
“A book about a man of his time but also ahead of his time who ran on the politics of merit, not the politics of money and machines, inspiring this generation to public service and public action.”—Barbara A. Mikulski, former US Senator from Maryland
“This fascinating book chronicles the career of one of Maryland’s iconic public servants. It poignantly reminds us of a time when our political processes actually worked in a bipartisan manner to advance our nation . . . and could again if we had more principled leaders like Joe Tydings.”—William E. Kirwan, Chancellor Emeritus, University System of Maryland
“Sen. Joe Tydings offers a must-read, first-hand account of Maryland and American politics during the uncertainties and turbulence of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s as well as an inspiring call to those who today are interested in pursuing the honorable profession of elected or appointed public service. From his early days in the Maryland House of Delegates to his youthful years as a Kennedy-appointed United States Attorney, this one-term, maverick-like US Senator has always been his own man…. History has and will continue to show that Joe was on the right side of so many issues….You don’t need to be a Marylander to enjoy Senator Tydings’ personal story.”—Congressman Anthony Brown, Maryland’s 4th district
“Joe Tydings dedicated his entire life to public service. Joe is a true mentor and inspiration to legislators everywhere.” — Michael E. Busch, Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates