Tydings was born in Asheville, North Carolina. Tydings moved to Maryland after he was adopted by Millard Tydings, U.S. Senator from Maryland. After serving in the military, he got his law degree at the University of Maryland and entered into practice.
Tydings won election to the Senate in 1964. However, his controversial stances on gun control and crime in the District of Columbia cost him re-election in 1970. He made another attempt at his old seat in 1976, but was defeated in the Democratic primary election by Paul Sarbanes.