Charles H. Percy
|Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee|
January 3, 1981 –January 3, 1985
|Preceded by||Frank Church|
|Succeeded by||Richard Lugar|
| United States Senator |
January 3, 1967 –January 3, 1985
|Preceded by||Paul Douglas|
|Succeeded by||Paul Simon|
Charles Harting Percy
September 27, 1919
Pensacola, Florida, U.S.
|Died||September 17, 2011 91) (aged|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Resting place||Oak Hill Cemetery|
|Children||5 (including Sharon)|
|Education||University of Chicago (BA)|
|Years of service||1943–1945|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Charles Harting "Chuck" Percy (September 27, 1919 – September 17, 2011)was an American businessman and politician. He was president of the Bell & Howell Corporation from 1949 to 1964. In 1966, he was elected to the United States Senate from Illinois as a Republican; he served for three terms (18 years) until 1985, when he was defeated by Paul Simon. He was mentioned as a GOP presidential hopeful from 1968 through 1988. During his Senate career, Percy concentrated on business and foreign relations.
Charles Harting Percy was born in Pensacola, the seat of Escambia County in far northwestern Florida, the son of Edward H. Percy and the former Elizabeth Harting.His father, an Alabama native descended from illustrious colonial-era Mississippians and Virginians, was at various times an automobile salesman and bank cashier. His Illinois-born mother was a concert violinist. Edward was a son of Charles Brown Percy and Helen Leila Herndon of the powerful Herndon family of Virginia. Elizabeth Harting was a daughter of Phineas Fredrick Harting and Belle Aschenbach.
The family moved to Chicago when Percy was an infant. As a child, he had entrepreneurial energy and held jobs while attending school. In the mid-1930s, his pluck brought him to the attention of his Sunday school teacher, Joseph McNabb, the president of Bell & Howell, then a small camera company.
Percy completed high school at New Trier High School. He entered the University of Chicago on a half tuition scholarship, and worked his way through college with several part-time jobs. He completed his degree in Economics in 1941.
Percy started at Bell & Howell in 1938 as an apprentice and sales trainee while he was still in college. In 1939 he worked at Crowell Collier.
He returned to Bell & Howell in 1941 to work full-time after graduating from the University of Chicago. Astute at business, within a year he was appointed a director of the company. Percy served three years in the United States Navy during World War II and returned to the company in 1945.
In 1949, the Jaycees named Percy one of the "Outstanding Young Men in America", along with Gerald R. Ford Jr., of Michigan, future U.S. President, and John Ben Shepperd, future Texas Attorney General.
After Joseph McNabb died in 1949, Percy was made the president of Bell & Howell. He was instrumental in leading the company during a period of financial success and growth.During his leadership, Percy expanded Bell & Howell, raising revenues 32-fold and the number of employees 12-fold, and listing the company on the New York Stock Exchange. While continuing to manufacture movie cameras and movie and sound projectors for military, commercial, and home use, in the late 1940s the company diversified into the production of microfilm. It later entered the rapidly expanding markets of information services as well.
In the late 1950s, Percy decided to enter politics. With the encouragement of then U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Percy helped to write Decisions for a Better America, which proposed a set of long-range goals for the Republican Party. He belonged to the moderate and liberal wing of the Republican party, led by Eisenhower during his presidency and later closely identified with New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller. Percy hoped to broaden the base of the party.
Percy first entered electoral politics with a run for governor of Illinois in 1964, which he narrowly lost to Democratic incumbent Otto Kerner.During his gubernatorial campaign, Percy reluctantly endorsed conservative Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, his future Senate colleague. Goldwater fared poorly in Illinois and throughout the country.
In 1966, Percy ran for senator from Illinois. His 21-year-old daughter Valerie was murdered at the family home in September, late in the campaign. Her death was thought to have been caused by an intruder, but the crime was never solved despite a lengthy investigation.
Percy and his opponent both suspended campaigning for a couple of weeks following Valerie's death.He upset Democratic Senator Paul Douglas (a former professor of Percy's at the University of Chicago) with 56 percent of the vote.
After Percy appeared on the Television show Face The Nation on Sunday 15 January 1967 with the other newly elected Republican Senators, the then President Lyndon Johnson noted privately that he thought Percy would make a fine President if the opportunity should ever arise.
On 12 December 1967 Senator Percy met with South Vietnamese President Thieu and assured him that "no responsible people in either the Democratic or the Republican Party favored US withdrawal from South Vietnam".
In 1967, Senator Percy introduced a bill to establish a program to stimulate production of low-cost housing. Percy's proposal was the first of its kind to provide home ownership to low-income families, and it received strong support from Republicans in both the House and the Senate, although it ultimately did not pass.When asked why he selected housing for his first major legislative proposal, Percy said: "Of all the problems I ran across during three years of campaigning, first for the governorship and then for the Senate, the most appalling in their consequences for the future seemed to be the problems of the declining areas of the city and countryside, the inadequacy of housing." Percy voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court.
When in the Senate less than two years, Percy was mentioned as a Republican hopeful for the 1968 Presidential nomination. The New York Times columnist James B. Reston referred to him as "the hottest political article in the Republican Party".In 1970, Percy spoke about his enjoyment of The Autobiography of Malcolm X , saying "Every white person should read it."
In 1972, Percy sought a second term to the Senate. In the general election, he defeated Congressman Roman Pucinski by a landslide. He gave up his seat on the important Senate Appropriations Committee for one on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Percy in 1974 introduced legislation making the 55 mph National Maximum Speed Limit permanent, which became law in January 1975, remaining in effect until it was amended in 1987 to allow 65 mph on rural Interstate highways and finally repealed in 1995.
In 1978, as Percy was completing his second term, he appeared invincible.Percy was considered so strong that the Democratic Party was unable to persuade any serious candidates to challenge him. Alex Seith, a dark horse candidate, was his Democratic challenger. Seith had never before sought elected office but had served as an appointee on the Cook County Zoning Board of Appeals for twelve years, nine as chairman.
At that time, Percy's reputation as a moderate Rockefeller Republican, contrasted with Seith's ostensible hard-line foreign policy positions, combined to make Percy suddenly vulnerable in the weeks before the election. Percy had earlier worked to broaden the base of the Republican Party and was an outlier to more conservative elements.Sensing his probable loss, Percy went on television days before the polling and, with tear-filled eyes, pleaded with Illinois voters to give him another chance. He said, "I got your message and you're right... I'm sure that I've made my share of mistakes, but your priorities are mine." He won re-election 53% to Seith's 46%.
After the Republicans won control of the Senate in 1980, Percy became chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. That year he gave a luncheon in honor of the 16th Karmapa of Tibet at the United States Capitol with other Tibetan Buddhists and Congressmen. He served in the Senate until the end of his third term in January 1985, after narrowly losing to Congressman Paul Simon in 1984. Critics had accused Percy of paying more attention to foreign affairs than to the domestic issues of his constituents.After Percy's defeat, no Republican would win a senatorial race in Illinois until Peter Fitzgerald in 1998.
In 2006, writing about the influence of political lobbies on the U.S. relationship with Israel, political theorists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote that they believed Percy's loss was the result of a campaign waged against him by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).Earlier that year, Percy and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dante Fascell, expressed sympathy for the cause of Karl Linnas, a former concentration camp commander who was to be deported from Pennsylvania to Estonia, having lied in the papers he used to enter the United States. Linnas was found to have ordered, and participated in, the murders of Jews and other prisoners. Percy's view, shared by Fascell, Representative Donald L. Ritter of Pennsylvania, and the Helsinki Commission, was that Linnas should be deported, but not to the Soviet Union.
While in the Senate, Percy was active in business and international affairs. Although he explored the possibility of running for President in both 1968 and 1976, he did not run either time. During the early 1970s, he clashed with President Nixon and criticized the U.S. conduct of the Vietnam War.
In 1977, Percy and Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey—responding to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo and high energy prices in general—created the Alliance to Save Energyto encourage a national commitment to energy efficiency. Percy was the founding chairman of the organization.
Percy was mentioned again for the presidency in 1980 and 1988, but his candidacies did not progress beyond the exploratory stage.
Perhaps Percy's most important act, and his longest-lasting legacy, was ending the practice of nominating federal judges from a pool of candidates generated by the Chicago political machine. He implemented a system of consultation with, and advice from, groups of legal experts, including the professional bar association, a practice considered novel at the time.One of his nominees, John Paul Stevens, was selected by President Gerald Ford as a justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Percy was a Christian Scientist.During World War II, he married Jeanne Valerie Dickerson. They had twin daughters, Valerie and Sharon (born 1944) and a son Roger (born 1946). After Jeanne Percy's death in 1947, Percy married Loraine Diane Guyer in 1950. They also had two children: Gail (born 1953) and Mark (born 1955).
One of his twin daughters, Valerie Percy, was murdered at age 21 in her bedroom in the family home in Kenilworth, Illinois, near Chicago, during his senatorial campaign in September 1966.She had been beaten and stabbed to death in her bed while the family was in residence. Although her stepmother had a brief glimpse of the killer and considerable resources were devoted to solving the crime, the identity of the murderer remains unknown. The wife of a first responder physician to the scene stated in 2016 that her late husband, Dr. Robert Hohf, felt that "the crime scene had been cleaned up" by the time he arrived to the Percy home early on the morning of Sept. 18, 1966.
In 1967 her twin sister Sharon Percy married John D. Rockefeller IV.He became a politician and was later as elected Democratic Governor of West Virginia (1977–1985). He served as a United States Senator for West Virginia from 1985 until 2015.
Percy remained active after leaving political office but suffered from Alzheimer's disease in later years.He died on September 17, 2011, at the Washington Home and Community Hospice in Washington, D.C.. It was the day before the 45th anniversary of his daughter Valerie's death. </ref> The wife of a first responder physician to the scene stated in 2016 that her late husband, Dr. Robert Hohf, felt that "the crime scene had been cleaned up" by the time he arrived to the Percy home early on the morning of Sept. 18, 1966.
Paul Howard Douglas was an American politician and Georgist economist. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a U.S. Senator from Illinois for eighteen years, from 1949 to 1967. During his Senate career, he was a prominent member of the liberal coalition.
John Davison "Jay" Rockefeller IV is an American politician who served as a United States Senator from West Virginia (1985–2015). He was first elected to the Senate in 1984, while in office as Governor of West Virginia (1977–85). Rockefeller moved to Emmons, West Virginia, to serve as a VISTA worker in 1964 and was first elected to public office as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates (1966). Rockefeller was later elected West Virginia Secretary of State (1968) and was president of West Virginia Wesleyan College (1973–75). He became the state's senior U.S. Senator when the long-serving Sen. Robert Byrd died in June 2010.
The Rockefeller Republicans, also called Moderate or Liberal Republicans, were members of the Republican Party (GOP) in the 1930s–1970s who held moderate to liberal views on domestic issues, similar to those of Nelson Rockefeller, Governor of New York (1959–1973) and Vice President of the United States (1974–1977). Rockefeller Republicans were most common in the Northeast and the West Coast with their larger liberal constituencies while they were rare in the South and Midwest. They often saw themselves as champions of "good government", contrasting themselves to the often corrupt machine politics of the Democratic Party, particularly in large cities.
Mark Steven Kirk is an American politician who was the junior United States Senator from Illinois from 2010 to 2017. A Republican, Kirk was previously a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Illinois's 10th congressional district. Kirk is a social liberal and fiscal conservative.
The 1978 United States Senate elections in the middle of Democratic President Jimmy Carter's term. Thirteen seats changed hands between parties. The Democrats at first lost a net of two seats to the Republicans, and then one more in a special election. Democrats nevertheless retained a 58-41 majority.
The 1972 United States Senate elections coincided with the landslide re-election of Republican President Richard Nixon. Despite Nixon's victory, Democrats increased their majority by two seats. After the elections, Democrats held 56 seats and Republicans held 42 seats, with 1 Conservative and 1 independent Senator. These were the first elections in which all citizens at least 18 years of age could vote due to the 1971 passage of the 26th Amendment.
Charles Ellsworth Goodell Jr. was an American United States House of Representative and a United States Senator from New York. In both cases he came into office following the deaths of his predecessors, first in a special election and second as a temporary appointee.
Roland Wallace Burris is an American politician and attorney who is a former United States Senator from the state of Illinois and a member of the Democratic Party.
Ladda Tammy Duckworth is an American politician and former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who has served as the junior United States Senator for Illinois since 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, she represented Illinois's 8th district in the United States House of Representatives from 2013 to 2017. Before election to office, she served as Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (2009–11) and Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (2006–09). Duckworth was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, defeating Republican incumbent Mark Kirk.
The 1960 National Convention of the Republican Party of the United States was held in Chicago, Illinois, from July 25 to July 28, 1960, at the International Amphitheatre. It was the 14th and most recent time overall that Chicago hosted the Republican National Convention, more times than any other city.
The 1916 Republican National Convention was held in Chicago from June 7 to June 10. A major goal of the party's bosses at the convention was to heal the bitter split within the party that had occurred in the 1912 presidential campaign. In that year, Theodore Roosevelt bolted the GOP and formed his own political party, the Progressive Party, which contained most of the GOP's liberals. William Howard Taft, the incumbent president, won the nomination of the regular Republican Party. This split in the GOP ranks divided the Republican vote and led to the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Although several candidates were openly competing for the 1916 nomination—most prominently conservative Senator Elihu Root of New York, Senator John W. Weeks of Massachusetts, and liberal Senator Albert Cummins of Iowa—the party's bosses wanted a moderate who would be acceptable to all factions of the party. They turned to Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who had served on the court since 1910 and thus had the advantage of not having publicly spoken about political issues in six years. Although he had not sought the nomination, Hughes made it known that he would not turn it down; he won the presidential nomination on the third ballot. Former Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks was nominated as his running mate. Hughes is the only Supreme Court Justice to be nominated for president by a major political party. Fairbanks is the last former vice president, to be nominated for vice president.
Alex Robert Seith was the 1978 Democratic nominee for the United States Senate from Illinois. A complete newcomer to electoral politics, he nearly pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Senate history when he narrowly lost to nationally renowned incumbent Republican Charles Percy by eight percentage points. According to Statistics of Congressional Election of November 7, 1978, the margin of defeat was 250,000 votes. Seith went to Yale University and Harvard Law School.
Thomas Joseph Corcoran is an American former politician. He served four terms in Congress as a U.S. Representative from Illinois (1977–84). He is a Republican.
NOTE: John D. Rockefeller IV and Winthrop Paul Rockefeller are also former third cousins by marriage of U.S. Senator William Proxmire.
The 1968 Republican presidential primaries were the selection process by which voters of the Republican Party chose its nominee for President of the United States in the 1968 U.S. presidential election. Former Vice President Richard Nixon was selected as the nominee through a series of primary elections and caucuses culminating in the 1968 Republican National Convention held from August 5 to August 8, 1968, in Miami Beach, Florida.
The 1984 United States Senate election in Illinois took place on November 6, 1984. Incumbent Republican Senator Charles H. Percy ran for re-election to a fourth term in the United States Senate. Senator Percy was opposed by Democratic nominee Paul Simon, who was a United States Congressman from Illinois's 22nd congressional district. The campaign between Percy and Simon was brutal and toughly-fought, and ended up with Simon ousting Percy by fewer than 90,000 votes, which was, at the time, considered an upset.
The 1978 United States Senate election in Illinois took place on November 7, 1978. Incumbent Republican United States Senator Charles H. Percy ran for re-election to a third term in the United States Senate. Percy was opposed by Democratic nominee Alex Seith, an attorney who had been appointed to several local government positions. Though Percy had been expected to coast to re-election over Seith, a first-time candidate, the election quickly became competitive. In the last few days of the campaign, a desperate Percy ran a television advertisement that featured him apologizing and acknowledging that, "I got your message and you're right." Percy's last-ditch effort appeared to have paid off, as he was able to edge out Seith to win what would end up being his third and final term in the Senate. As of 2019, this is the last time the Republicans won the Class 2 Senate seat in Illinois.
Sharon Lee Percy Rockefeller is the wife of former West Virginia Senator John Davison "Jay" Rockefeller IV and served as that state's First Lady from 1977 to 1985. On November 21st, 2019, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Donald Trump.
Thom Serafin is a public affairs consultant specializing in politics and media. He is the founder and CEO of Serafin & Associates, Inc., a Chicago-based firm specializing in crisis communication. Crain's Chicago Business has included him in their list of Illinois' 20 most powerful political insiders.
The 1968 United States presidential election in Illinois was held on November 5, 1968 as part of the 1968 United States presidential election. State voters chose twenty-six electors to represent the state in the Electoral College, which chose the president and vice president.
Thomas A. Dine, the president of AIPAC, said, "All Jews from coast to coast gathered to oust Percy. And the American politicians – those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire – got the message."
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for Governor of Illinois |
Richard B. Ogilvie
Samuel W. Witwer
| Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Illinois |
1966, 1972, 1978, 1984
Lynn Morley Martin
| U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Illinois |
Served alongside: Everett Dirksen, Ralph Tyler Smith, Adlai Stevenson III, Alan J. Dixon
| Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee |