Former Sen. Homer E. Capehart, a conservative and sometimes outspoken Republican who represented Indiana in the United States Senate from 1945 to 1962, died Monday night at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. He was 82.
He was hospitalized July 27 after he broke a hip at his home in Indianapolis. An Associated Press dispatch said the cause of death was not disclosed by hospital officials.
Sen. Capehart, the son of a tenant farmer, was a successful businessman and farmer before becoming a major figure in Indiana Republican circles in the late 1930s.
Elected to the Senate in 1944, he quickly established himself as an advocate of a strong defense posture and staunch opposition to communism abroad and a friend of farming and business interests at home.
From 1953 to 1955, when Republicans controlled Congress following the landslide victory of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential campaign, Sen. Capehart was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
A self-made businessman himself, he favored programs for businessmen both large and small. He was one of the leading figures in the establishment of the Small Business Administration. He also was a central figure in rooting out scandals in the Federal Housing Administration in the early 1950s. He favored farm subsidies and was himself a beneficiary of them as the owner of a 1,600-acre farm in Daviess County, Ind.
In foreign affairs, Sen. Capehart favored channeling foreign aid through corporations as much as possible. He supported increased trade between the United States and Latin America.
He was a supporter of the late Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R.-Wis.), who led an anticommunist "witch hunt" in the government in the early 1950s.
The Senator was known among his colleagues as a man who was quick to issue challenges on public issues. He once challenged President Harry S. Truman to a debate just before the 1950 congressional elections, in which Mr. Capehart was elected to his second term in the Senate. President Truman declined to respond.
Sen. Capehart easily won reelection in 1950 and again in 1956. In 1962, he was defeated by Birch Bayh, a Democrat, by a narrow margin.
The chief issue in that campaign were long-standing calls by Sen. Capehart for President Kennedy to invade Cuba. Bayh urged moderation toward the Castro government. When Kennedy ordered the embargo of Cuba during the missile crisis of 1962, it cut the ground out from under Capehart, although the president's action was in line with what he had been suggesting.
Homer Earl Capehart was born in the small farming community of Algiers in Pike County, Ind., on June 6, 1897. His father was a tenant farmer and the boy grew up on the land. He eventually got through high school, served in the Army in World War I, and then began a business career.
He sold farm machinery and then founded a company that manufactured "juke boxes." The business foundered during the Great Depression of the 1930s and the future Senator started another firm, the Packard Manufacturing Co., which made phonographs. He also became a sales executive for the Rudolph Wurlitzer Corp. and was credited with helping sell $12 million worth of "juke box" equipment over the next several years.
He became prominent in Indiana GOP circles late in the 1930s when he held a "cornfield convention" at his farm, which was attended by 20,000 people. It was said to be one of the major efforts to generate grassroots support for the Republican Party in the Democrat-dominated 1930s. He began to make a national name for himself as the man who arranged the occasion at which his fellow Hoosier, Wendell L. Wilkie, accepted the Republican presidential nomination for the 1940 presidential campaign.
Sen. Capehart was a business consultant after leaving the Senate.
Survivors include his wife, the former Irma Mueller, whom he married in 1921, a son, H. Earl, and a daughter, Patricia Pearson, both of Indianapolis, and 12 grandchildren. Another son, Thomas C., was killed in an airplane crash in 1960.