Vance Hartke

Rupert Vance Hartke (May 31, 1919 – July 27, 2003) was an American politician who served as a Democratic United States Senator from Indiana from 1959 until 1977. Hartke won election to the Senate after serving as the mayor of Evansville, Indiana. In the Senate, he supported the Great Society and became a prominent opponent of the Vietnam War. Hartke ran for president in the 1972 Democratic primaries but withdrew after the first set of primaries. He left the Senate after being defeated in his 1976 re-election campaign by Richard Lugar.

Vance Hartke
Vance Hartke.jpg
United States Senator
from Indiana
In office
January 3, 1959 – January 3, 1977
Preceded byWilliam E. Jenner
Succeeded byRichard Lugar
Chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
In office
January 3, 1971 – January 3, 1977
Preceded byNone
Succeeded byAlan Cranston
Mayor of Evansville, Indiana
In office
Preceded byHenry O. Roberts
Succeeded byJ. William Davidson
Personal details
Rupert Vance Hartke

(1919-05-31)May 31, 1919
Stendal, Pike County, Indiana, U.S.
DiedJuly 27, 2003(2003-07-27) (aged 84)
Falls Church, Virginia, U.S.
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery Arlington, Virginia
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Martha Hartke
ChildrenSandra Hartke
Jan Hartke
Wayne Hartke
Keith Hartke
Paul Hartke
Anita Hartke
Nadine Hartke
Alma materEvansville University
Indiana University School of Law - Bloomington
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Navy
United States Coast Guard
Years of service1942–1946
Battles/warsWorld War II

Early life, education, military serviceEdit

Hartke was born on May 31, 1919, in Stendal, Pike County, Indiana, the son of Ida Mary (Egbert), an organist, and Hugo Leonard Hartke, a teacher.[1] His paternal grandparents were German, as were all of his maternal great-grandparents.[2] He attended public schools in Stendal. He graduated from Evansville College (now the University of Evansville) in 1940, and from 1942 until 1946 Hartke served in the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard, rising from seaman to lieutenant. Hartke graduated from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in 1948.

Legal and political careerEdit

After joining the Indiana State Bar in 1948, Hartke began practicing law in Evansville. He also worked as deputy prosecuting attorney of Vanderburgh County (1950–1951) and Mayor of Evansville (1956–1958) and integrated the city swimming pools before being elected to the United States Senate in 1958 and reelected in 1964 and 1970 (1959–1977).

Senate service and later lifeEdit

Hartke (right) with Senator Mark Hatfield (left) and George Barasch (center) in 1968

In the Senate, Hartke was best known for his opposition to the Vietnam War and his chairmanship of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Hartke had a fallout with President Lyndon Johnson when he became one of the first opponents of the Vietnam War.

Hartke was elected to the Senate in 1958 at age 39, defeating Republican Governor Harold Handley. He became known as a hard-working, liberal Democrat with a strong relationship with Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson. In his first term, Hartke was a member of the Finance and Commerce committees. During his first term, Hartke lobbied for programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Hartke was re-elected over state Senator Russell Bontrager in 1964, becoming only the third Indiana Democrat, after Benjamin Franklin Shively in 1914 and Frederick Van Nuys in 1938, to be popularly elected to a second term in the Senate. He helped create student loan programs and new veterans benefits during his second term. He helped to establish Amtrak as chairman of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation.

After his sister, Ruth E. Hartke, was killed in a head-on crash in Ohio (2 Sep 1964) while working his campaign, Hartke used his chairmanship of Commerce Transportation Subcommittee to make automakers equip cars with seat belts and other safety equipment. He also was instrumental in creating the International Executive Service Corps, an organization, modeled after the Peace Corps that sent retired U.S. businessmen to poor countries to help turn small businesses into larger ones.

Hartke was credited with important roles in the passage of measures that created or supported student loan programs, veterans' benefits and the Head Start Program. He also developed an organization modeled on the Peace Corps that helped small overseas businesses. Senator Hartke introduced a bill to create the George Washington Peace Academy and a Department of Peace. The concept became known as the first cornerstone for the campaign that led to the creation of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Hartke was praised for winning passage of a measure making kidney dialysis more widely available. A statement entered into the Congressional Record in honor of his 80th birthday credited the measure with saving 500,000 lives.

His opposition to the Vietnam War was not popular in Indiana. In 1970, after a very bitter and tight race against Republican Congressman Richard L. Roudebush and a ballot recount, Hartke won a third term by 4,200 votes. In 1972, Hartke was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination against fellow Senators Edmund Muskie and George McGovern. Four years later, after narrowly surviving a primary challenge by freshman Eighth District Congressman Philip Hayes, Hartke was defeated for reelection by Indianapolis Mayor Richard Lugar in a landslide. Until the election of Joe Donnelly in 2012, Hartke was the most recent Indiana Democrat, aside from a member of the Bayh family, to have won and served in the Senate.

In 1994, Hartke pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor election fraud charge in southeastern Indiana's Dearborn County.[3] At the previous November's general election, a Kentucky-based casino firm had employed him as a consultant to support them during a casino-legalization referendum.[4]

Hartke wrote three books — The American Crisis in Vietnam, You and Your Senator and Inside the New Frontier , the last co-authored with John M. Redding.

Hartke died in Falls Church, Virginia on July 27, 2003, at age 84, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Hartke left behind his wife, Martha, and his seven children: Sandra, Jan, Wayne, Keith, Paul, Anita, and Nadine as well as fourteen grandchildren: Angela, Vanessa, Vance, Jason, Jessica, Travis, Melody, Chelsea, Hanna, Ryan, Tyler, Dean, Zachary, and Wyatt, and two great grand children: Colby and Jackson.

Hartke's daughter, Anita Hartke, was the 2008 Democratic candidate for the United States House of Representatives from the 7th congressional district of Virginia. She lost to the Republican incumbent, Eric Cantor.

Posthumous awardEdit

In 2009 the JFK Club of Vanderburgh County awarded the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Posthumous Award to Senator Vance Hartke. To carry forward the legacy and principles of President John F. Kennedy by supporting legislation and government officials or candidates that promote social justice and equality, in order to build a better community and society for all.

Electoral historyEdit

1955 Evansville, Indiana mayoral election[5]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic R. Vance Hartke 25,862 54.12%
Republican Curtis E. Huber 21,699 45.40%
Prohibition William C. Christmas 230 0.48%
Majority 4,163 8.71%
Total votes 47,791
Democratic gain from Republican
1958 United States Senate election in Indiana[6]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Vance Hartke 973,636 56.47%
Republican Harold W. Handley 731,635 42.43%
Prohibition John Stelle 19,040 1.10%
Majority 242,001 14.04%
Turnout 1,724,311
Democratic hold
1964 United States Senate election in Indiana[7]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Vance Hartke (incumbent) 1,128,505 54.33%
Republican D. Russell Bontrager 941,519 45.33%
Prohibition J. Ralston Miller 5,708 0.27%
Socialist Labor Casimer Kanczuzewski 1,231 0.06%
Majority 187,986 9.00%
Turnout 2,076,963
Democratic hold
1970 United States Senate election in Indiana[8]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Vance Hartke (incumbent) 870,990 50.12%
Republican Richard L. Roudebush 866,707 49.88%
Majority 4,283 0.24%
Turnout 1,737,697
Democratic hold
Cumulative results of the 1972 Democratic Party presidential primaries
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Hubert Humphrey 4,121,372 25.34
Democratic George McGovern 4,053,451 25.34
Democratic George Wallace 3,755,424 23.48
Democratic Edmund Muskie 1,840,217 11.51
Democratic Eugene McCarthy 553,990 3.46
Democratic Henry M. Jackson 505,198 3.16
Democratic Shirley Chisholm 430,703 2.69
Democratic Terry Sanford 331,415 2.07
Democratic John Lindsay 196,406 1.23
Democratic Sam Yorty 79,446 0.50
Democratic Wilbur Mills 37,401 0.23
Democratic Vance Hartke 11,798 0.07
Democratic Patsy Mink 8,286 0.05
1972 Democratic National Convention delegate count
(1,509 delegates needed to secure nomination)
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic George McGovern 1,864.95
Democratic Henry M. Jackson 525
Democratic George Wallace 381.7
Democratic Shirley Chisholm 151.95
Democratic Terry Sanford 77.5
Democratic Hubert Humphrey 66.7
Democratic Wilbur Mills 33.8
Democratic Edmund Muskie 24.3
Democratic Edward M. Kennedy 12.7
Democratic Sam Yorty 10
Democratic Wayne Hays 5
Democratic John Lindsay 5
Democratic Fred Harris 2
Democratic Eugene McCarthy 2
Democratic Walter Mondale 2
Democratic Ramsey Clark 1
Democratic Walter Fauntroy 1
Democratic Vance Hartke 1
Democratic Harold Hughes 1
Democratic Patsy Mink 1
1976 United States Senate election in Indiana[9]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Richard Lugar 1,275,833 59.03%
Democratic Vance Hartke (incumbent) 868,522 40.19%
Independent politician Don L. Lee 14,321 0.66%
U.S. Labor David Lee Hoagland 2,511 0.12%
Majority 407,311 18.85%
Turnout 2,161,187
Republican gain from Democratic


  1. ^ "Hartke, Rupert Vance |".
  2. ^
  3. ^ Deaths Elsewhere, Baltimore Sun, July 29, 2003. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  4. ^ Ex-Senator Indicted in Polling Place Incidents, New York Times, September 9, 1994. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  5. ^ "1505148253_11313.pdf" (PDF). Evansville, Indiana. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  6. ^ "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 4, 1958" (PDF). Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  7. ^ "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 3, 1964" (PDF). Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  8. ^ "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 3, 1970" (PDF). Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. p. 7. Retrieved March 13, 2015.
  9. ^

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Indiana
(Class 1)

1958, 1964, 1970, 1976
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 1) from Indiana
Served alongside: Homer E. Capehart, Birch Bayh
Succeeded by
Political offices
New title
Committee Created
Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
Succeeded by