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JFK and the Donkey-Riding Senator-Part 2

Posted September 29, 2017

By Jonathan A. Karon

Readers of this blog, of whom there are apparently at least a few, may remember my personal favorite blog post “JFK and the Donkey-Riding Senator” in which I related the story of how President Kennedy was a defendant in a personal injury case filed against him in 1962. The plaintiffs were four Mississippi delegates to the 1960 Democratic National Convention. JFK loaned them his car and driver to get to a party thrown by a famous Washington hostess. The car got into an accident and the plaintiffs sued JFK for their injuries. The post discussed the legal strategies employed and the President’s unsuccessful argument that lawsuits against a sitting President should be stayed while the President is in office.

One of the plaintiffs was a Mississippi State Senator, Hugh Lee Bailey, whose nickname was “the Donkey-Riding Senator” and who alleged that his injuries prevented him from riding donkeys. At the end of my post, I noted that “Sadly, Hugh Lee Bailey, the Donkey-Riding Senator, seems to have been otherwise lost to history. I have been unable to uncover the details of how he acquired his nickname, his political career or most importantly, if he was ever able to ride a donkey again.”

I was both delighted and surprised when I received an e-mail from a gentleman who had come across my blog post while doing historical research on the Cold War. He found and was kind enough to provide me with a link to a Life Magazine article that explained how Senator Bailey got his nickname. According to the January 18, 1960 issue, “At an all day “speakin’” in Bethlehem, Miss. last summer Hugh (“Ole Hootie”) Bailey, an ex-cop, made a campaign pledge. If the people elected him as the state senator, he would ride a donkey the whole 90 miles from his home in Winona to the capitol at Jackson-if that was what the people wanted.” When he was elected, he kept his promise and rode all 90 miles on his “evil tempered” donkey Jennie Belle.

So, there’s one mystery solved. I still don’t know what, if anything Sen. Bailey accomplished in his political career or whether he was ever able to ride a donkey again. If you have any information on this, please feel free to let me know. In the meantime, if you click on the link to the Life Magazine article you can not only see photos of “the Donkey-Riding Senator” actually riding a donkey to the state capitol, but you can also read about his friend, Buster Montague, who promised to ride along side him on a bull named “Ole Bull”.

Next week I promise a more useful, though likely less entertaining, post.

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