David Pryor

David Pryor
David Hampton Pryor
United States Senator
from Arkansas
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1997
Preceded by Kaneaster Hodges, Jr.
Succeeded by Tim Hutchinson
39th Governor of Arkansas
In office
January 14, 1975 – January 3, 1979
Lieutenant Joe Purcell
Preceded by Bob C. Riley (acting)
Succeeded by Joe Purcell (acting)
Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging
In office
January 3, 1989 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by John Melcher
Succeeded by William Cohen
Democratic Conference Secretary of the United States Senate
In office
January 3, 1989 – January 3, 1995
Leader George J. Mitchell
Preceded by Daniel Inouye
Succeeded by Barbara Mikulski
Chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party
In office
September 2008 – February 2009
Preceded by Bill Gwatney
Succeeded by Todd Turner
Personal details
Born August 29, 1934 (1934-08-29) (age 77)
Camden, Arkansas
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Barbara Jean Lunsford
Alma mater Henderson State Teacher's College
University of Arkansas
Profession Attorney
Religion Presbyterian

David Hampton Pryor (born August 29, 1934) is a former Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives and United States Senator from the State of Arkansas. Pryor also served as 39th Governor of Arkansas from 1975 to 1979 and was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1960 to 1966. He served as the interim chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party, following Bill Gwatney's assassination.



Pryor was born in Camden, the seat of Ouachita County in southern Arkansas, to William Edgar Pryor and the former Susan Newton.[1] He attended public schools in Camden, attended Henderson State Teacher's College in Arkadelphia, and graduated from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 1957. Pryor was founder and publisher of the Ouachita Citizen from 1957 to 1960. He graduated from law school at the University of Arkansas in 1964 and was admitted to the bar that same year.

Political career

His state House service preceded his tenure in the U.S. House.

He was elected to Congress in a special election to fill the unexpired term in the 89th Congress of fellow Democrat Oren Harris, whom U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed to a federal judgeship. At the same time, Pryor was elected to the 90th Congress for a full term. In the primary, Pryor defeated the Texarkana lawyer Richard S. Arnold, whom he later described as "a very, very close friend." Pryor thereafter defeated the Republican candidate, A. Lynn Lowe of Texarkana, by a comfortable margin. Lowe would subsequently become chairman of the fledgling Arkansas GOP. Pryor was reelected to the House twice and served from November 8, 1966 to January 3, 1973.

He was not a candidate for reelection in 1972. Instead he failed in a hard-fought campaign to wrest the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination from the popular conservative John L. McClellan, from Sheridan, Arkansas.

The race for Governor

Pryor's next success came in the 1974 gubernatorial race. He was elected to succeed Dale Bumpers, who won the Senate seat long held by J. William Fulbright in the same year. Pryor first defeated former Governor Orval Faubus in the primary and then crushed the Republican nominee, Ken Coon, who would also later chair the Arkansas GOP. He was reelected in 1976 by a huge margin over the Republican Leon Griffith, a plumber from Pine Bluff, the seat of Jefferson County, who relocated to North Little Rock during the campaign. Before they could face Pryor, Coon and Griffith first had to defeat Joseph H. Weston of Cave City, editor of the controversial Sharp Citizen newspaper, whose work led to a change in Arkansas libel law.[2]

Pryor's gubernatorial tenure extended from 1975 to January 3, 1979.

Lieutenant Governor Joe Purcell was an interim successor for six days as governor until the beginning of the term of the next governor-elect and future President Bill Clinton, who had served as Arkansas attorney general during Pryor's second two-year term.


Pryor finally won McClellan's Senate seat in 1978. McClellan died in 1977, and Governor Pryor appointed a caretaker successor Kaneaster Hodges, Jr., who was prohibited by the Arkansas Constitution from running himself. Pryor won the Democratic senatorial nomination over then U.S. Representatives Jim Guy Tucker and Ray Thornton and then secured a lopsided general election victory in the fall over the liberal Republican James Kelly. He served three Senate terms. His closest contest was his 1984 reelection against the Republican U.S. Representative Edwin Bethune. Despite the presence of Ronald W. Reagan on the Republican ticket, Pryor still defeated Bethune, 502,3431 (57.3 percent) to 373,615 (42.7 percent). Pryor was unopposed in 1990, and he did not seek a fourth term in 1996. The seat instead went Republican for one term with the election of U.S. Representative Tim Hutchinson. Pryor hence retired from elected office in 1997.

Pryor served as chairman of the Committee on Aging. Pryor was known for his advocacy for the aged and for promoting taxpayer rights. During his tenure, he was secretary of the Democratic Conference, third in the Senate Democratic Leadership.

In 2000 Pryor became Director of the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He currently serves as dean of the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock. In June 2006, President George W. Bush nominated Pryor to the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and in September of that year he was confirmed by the Senate for a six-year term. As he has done infrequently in the past, Pryor taught a political science course at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville during the Fall 2008 term.

Post-Senate career

His son is current United States Senator Mark Pryor, a Democrat who holds the same seat that his father vacated in 1997.

Pryor had quadruple bypass surgery performed by Dr. Tamim Antakli at UAMS on October 11, 2006. He had suffered a heart attack the previous day. His recovery was satisfactory and he was released from the hospital on October 17, 2006. [1]

Pryor briefly returned to politics, when he served as an interim chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party following the murder of Bill Gwatney, and plays an important role in Arkansas Democratic politics.[3]


External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Bob C. Riley (acting)
Governor of Arkansas
Succeeded by
Joe Purcell (acting)
Preceded by
John Melcher
Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee
Succeeded by
William Cohen
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Oren Harris
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
Ray Thornton
United States Senate
Preceded by
Kaneaster Hodges, Jr.
United States Senator (Class 2) from Arkansas
Served alongside: Dale Bumpers
Succeeded by
Tim Hutchinson
Party political offices
Preceded by
Dale Bumpers
Democratic Party nominee for Governor of Arkansas
1974, 1976
Succeeded by
Bill Clinton
Preceded by
John L. McClellan
Democratic Party nominee for United States Senator from Arkansas (Class 2)
1978, 1984, 1990
Succeeded by
Winston Bryant
Preceded by
Daniel Inouye
Secretary of the Senate Democratic Conference
Succeeded by
Barbara Mikulski
Preceded by
Bill Gwatney
Chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party
2008 -
Succeeded by

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