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Kastan Rutherford “Kast” Talmadge (October 4, 1927 - July 13, 2001) was a United States Senator from North Carolina and a member of the Republican Party. Serving from 1968-2000, Talmadge was noted for his fiery rhetoric, unabashed conservatism and homespun appeal. Political observers recall a persona that could “weep for the fallen and talk their widows into enlisting”. It was said that Talmadge’s close ties to the Southern Baptist Convention allowed him access to the nation’s most influential clergymen while rumors of his personal life threatened his Senate seat. His public record shows staunch opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment and regulation of the tobacco industry. The ERA, upon passage, would have outlawed employment discrimination based on gender, allowing both civil and criminal complaints like the ones reported to concern industrial giants throughout the South in the 1970’s and early 80’s.
As a member of one of the oldest families in North Carolina, Talmadge’s influence was said to be formidable. Described as boyishly handsome, Talmadge was linked with a long list of starlets and socialites before settling down with Dorothea May Eckleston, 1960 Olympic dressage team hopeful and daughter of North Carolina tobacco titan Bain Eckleston. In remembrance, Mrs. Talmadge was quoted as saying, “My Kast was a mama’s boy, a bully, a brother, and your best friend. He poured the best scotch in Raleigh for friend and foe alike, and he had lots of both”.