Joseph Davies Tydings was born on May 4, 1928, in Asheville, North Carolina, to Thomas Cheeseborough and Eleanor Davies Cheeseborough. At the age of six, his mother divorced Cheeseborough; she later married Millard Tydings of Havre de Grace, Maryland, who adopted her son and gave him the Tydings name. Joseph Tydings attended public schools in Aberdeen, Maryland, and the McDonough School in Baltimore County, Maryland. After his graduation from McDonough, in 1946, he joined the army. He served in the European Theater of Operations for eighteen months, from 1946 to 1948, in the Sixth Cavalry Group of the Third Army. Upon his return, he entered the University of Maryland and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1951. While at the university, he became involved in student government and was elected president of the student body. Heavily influenced by his grandfather, a former ambassador, and his stepfather, a U.S. Senator, politics came as second nature to Joseph Tydings. Following in his stepfather's footsteps, Tydings went to the University of Maryland Law School in Baltimore, and he received his law degree in 1953. Upon graduation from law school, he became president of the Young Democrats of Maryland, a position he held from 1953 to 1955.
Tydings was admitted to the bar in 1952. He would eventually become a member of seven local and national bar associations, and he served as president of the Baltimore Junior Bar Association in 1960. He started his career as an associate with the Baltimore firm of Tydings, Sauerwein, Benson, and Boyd and stayed with them until 1957. Tydings then formed the firm of Tydings and Rosenberg in Baltimore in 1958 and remained a partner until 1961.
In 1954, Tydings was elected one of Harford County's representatives to the Maryland House of Delegates where he served from 1955 to 1961. A major figure on the Maryland scene, Tydings gained national attention as John F. Kennedy's campaign manager for the Delaware and Florida primaries of 1960. Kennedy thought highly of his efforts and subsequently appointed him United States Attorney for the District of Maryland in 1961. Tydings resigned from this position in 1964 when he was elected as one of Maryland's U.S. Senators. He served one six-year term during which he was outspoken on such issues as gun control, population control, anti-crime legislation, the environment, and public services. Tydings served on committees concerned with the judiciary, commerce, the District of Columbia, public works, and aeronautical and space sciences. He rose quickly during his stay in the Senate, and was made U. S. delegate delegate to several important international gatherings, N. A. T. O. among them. Also during his senatorial term, William Morrow and Company of New York published Born to Starve by Tydings; this book was a compilation of research and Tydings' thoughts on population control. Tydings also received several awards for his humanitarian activities. One of these was the Margaret Sanger Award given to him by Planned Parenthood of Maryland for his activities related to population and birth control.
Tydings' political career ended rather abruptly when he did not win reelection to the U. S. Senate in 1970. A number of forces contributed to his loss. The gun lobby posed a major stumbling block by setting up an extensive campaign to keep him out of office. Life magazine tarnished his image when they published an article in 1970 that questioned his business connections. Liberals were disturbed by his law-and-order views, and conservatives thought he was too liberal.
Upon leaving the Senate, Tydings joined the law firm of Danzansky, Dickey, Tydings, Quint, and Gordon in Washington, D. C. In 1981 he joined the firm of Finley, Humble, Wagner, Heine, and Untenberg. Tydings was also a member of the Washington firm of Anderson, Baker, Kill, and Olick.
In 1974, Tydings was appointed to the Board of Regents of the University of Maryland. He served as chairman of the Fiscal Committee from 1975 to 1980. The Board of Regents elected him vice chairman in 1979, a position he held until 1982. He then served as chairman of the board until his retirement in 1984. Tydings continued to be an active advocate for the University of Maryland.
Tydings married for the first time in August of 1955. He and his wife, Vicky Campbell Tydings, had four children: Mary Campbell; Millard E., II; Emlen; and Eleanor Davies. After a divorce in the early 1970s, Tydings remarried in April of 1975 to Terry Lynn Huntingdon. This second marriage added two children to his family: Paige Crowly, the first child of his second wife, and one child of their own, Alexandra.
Tydings was an active community member wherever he lived or worked. While practicing law in Baltimore, he joined Doric Lodge #124 of the Ancient and Free and Accepted Masons and the Civitan Club. In Havre de Grace, where he lived with his first wife at Oakington, he served as Senior Warden of St. John's Episcopal Church. He later resided for the most part in Washington, D. C.
Joseph Tydings died on October 8, 2018.