William E. Jenner, 76, a former Republican senator of Indiana whose chairmanship of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee in the early 1950s gave him a highly publicized platform for expression of his own brand of anticommunism, died of respiratory ailment March 9 at a hospital in Bedford, Ind.
Mr. Jenner served in the Senate from November 1944 to January 1945, and again from 1947 to 1959. He was not a candidate for reelection in 1958. He chaired the Judiciary Committee's Internal Security Subcommittee from 1953 to 1955.
During his years in the Senate, he made headlines for accusing the U.S. Supreme Court of being an ignorant tool of the communist conspiracy, for his votes against the NATO alliance and the Marshall Plan aid program, and for investigations he led on communist infiltration of universities.
During his 1952 campaign, he called General of the Army George C. Marshall, this country's Army chief of staff during World War II and one of the most highly respected soldiers in our history, "a front man for traitors." He went on to accuse Marshall of being a "living lie" and a friend of communists. In a recent interview, the Associated Press quoted him as saying, "I nailed him, [Marshall] but I paid a hell of a price for it. A lot of people never got over what I said, but I would say it again."
In the late 1950s, he proposed a bill to slice away a substantial portion of the Supreme Court's jurisdiction. Part of the evidence Sen. Jenner introduced with his bill attacked the "paralytic effect of its procommunist decisions on state and federal agencies on internal security," and called the court "the most powerful instrument of the communist global conquest by paralysis."
A 1953 investigation he led on communist infiltration of this country's universities drew the wrath of no less a conservative than Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio, long considered the upper house's "Mr. Republican." Taft spoke out in defense of traditional educational freedom and said it was the job of the schools to police their own campuses.
Earlier in his Senate career, Mr. Jenner had opposed the 1948 Marshall Plan, saying it would "please Stalin" to have the United States "spend itself into bankruptcy" and had voted against the NATO alliance in 1947 saying that the arms program involved in the alliance would "bankrupt" the United States.
He was a colleague, friend and admirer of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy and echoed the beliefs of the Wisconsin Republican. Mr. Jenner attacked what he believed was a communist infiltration of the State Department, and in 1951 took to the Senate floor to say, "I charge that this country today is in the hands of a secret inner coterie which is directed by agents of the Soviet Union. Our only choice is to impeach President Truman and find out who is the secret invisible government."
In late 1957, Mr. Jenner announced that he would not be a candidate for reelection in 1958. The Washington Post, in an editorial, said, "At no time has the country listened to him. It is by no means impossible that Mr. Jenner has come to realize that the public is weary of the reactionary drivel he has tried to peddle in the name of patriotism. Probably the chief trouble with Mr. Jenner has been his apparent assumption that hatred of communism was itself a policy. In pursuit of that illusion, he has seemed willing to abandon the essentials of security as well as the essentials of freedom."
William Ezra Jenner was born in Marengo, Ind., on July 21, 1908. He earned undergraduate and law degrees at Indiana University before winning election to the Indiana state Senate in 1934. He became Republican leader of that body in 1937, from which he resigned in 1941 to enter the Army Air Forces.
He served in the European theater during World War II, before becoming the first veteran of that conflict elected to the U.S. Senate in November 1944. He was elected to fill an unexpired term caused by the death of Sen. Frederick Van Nuys.
Mr. Jenner was not a candidate for election to a full term. He served as Republican state chairman of Indiana before running for the Senate again in 1952. After leaving the Senate in 1959, he practiced law in Indianapolis, worked for the Seaway Corp. and land development concern, and owned four cattle and grain farms. He lived in Bedford.
Survivors include his wife of 51 years, the former Janet Cuthill, and a son.