A U.S. Representative, born in Duke, Oklahoma, on June 28, 1914, Preston Elmer Peden moved with his family to Altus at a young age. Educated in the Altus public schools, the future congressman attended the University of Oklahoma, receiving a bachelor's degree in 1936 and the LL.B. in 1939. Although he began his law practice in Altus, he soon became the attorney for Oklahoma's state insurance fund and served until 1942. That year, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private and rose to the rank of captain. Shortly after V-E Day, he was assigned to the allied military government for Germany and served both as a prosecutor and judge.
Although Peden was not discharged until May 1946, he had already planned to seek election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Oklahoma's Seventh District. Friends launched the campaign before the future solon had even returned to the United States. Elected as a Democrat, he served but one term. A member of the Public Lands Committee, he was known as a man who voted his convictions rather than what was politically popular. For example, during his congressional stint he voted for the Taft-Hartley Act, opposed income tax reduction, supported the Marshall Plan, and called for an end to the oleomargarine tax.
Shortly before the 1948 election, constituents in the Seventh District were surprised to learn that their "single" congressman actually had a wife. He had married German nurse Ursula Wendt on December 24, 1945, in Bavaria but had kept the marriage secret because he was unable to bring his bride to the United States. The Pedens had four children.
Following his defeat in 1948, Peden served in a variety of governmental positions including staff member for the Public Lands Committee of the U.S. House, Alaskan regional counsel for the Bureau of Land Management, and counsel to the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee of the House. In the mid 1950s he moved to Illinois where he became the director of governmental affairs of the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry, a lobbying group. He served in this position until 1980. He later moved to Walnut Creek, California, where he was living at the time of his death on June 27, 1985.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1996 (Alexandria, Va.: CQ Staff Directories, 1997). Preston Elmer Peden Papers, Congressional Archives, Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma.
Carolyn G. Hanneman
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