The year was 1950. Pepper, locked in a bitter race to retain his U.S Senate seat, faced a worthy opponent in then-Congressman George Smathers.
"Are you aware," Smathers is said to have bellowed in his stumpings through the North Florida pinelands, "that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert?"
"Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thesbian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, practiced celibacy."
"And are you aware that Claude Pepper vacillated one night on the Senate floor?"
Pepper lost the race, but went on a few years later to distinguished service in the House. Smathers retired from the Senate in 1971, vigorously denying the story till the end--but nonetheless acknowledging in Florida House Clerk Allen Morris' book `Reconsiderations,' (1982) that the tale has by now "gone into the history books."