Clark, Champ, 1850-1921

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James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark was a prominent Democratic politician from Missouri. Clark served in the U.S. House of Representatives for twenty-six years. He was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1911 to 1919. In 1912 Clark unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for President, losing to Woodrow Wilson.

James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark was born on March 7, 1850, near Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. He was the third child and only son of John H. and Aletha Beauchamp Clark. Champ’s father unsuccessfully engaged in a number of different professions, including wagon making, dentistry, and teaching.

In 1867, when he was seventeen, Champ enrolled at Kentucky University (now Transylvania University) in Lexington. Although his family tried to help Clark financially, it was not enough, so he taught school during the summer months to earn money. In a short period of time, Clark was ranked first in his university class.

Clark’s time at the university came to a premature end after he fired his pistol at one of his roommates in self-defense during a quarrel. He was expelled and returned home. After two years, Clark was invited to return to Kentucky University, but he instead chose to attend Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia. He graduated first in his class in 1873.

Shortly after graduation, Clark was elected president of Marshall College. At age twenty-three, he was the youngest college president in the history of the United States. Clark used the money from his $1300 yearly salary to enroll at the Cincinnati School of Law. It was during this time that he shortened his name to “Champ” because, according to Clark, there was “one J.B. Clark at every post-office in America.” He graduated at the top of his law class in 1875 and headed to Kansas to seek his fortune.

Despite glowing reports of economic opportunity in Kansas, Clark was unable to find employment. He traveled to Missouri and accepted a job as the Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Louisiana, Missouri. Clark resigned after one year and began practicing law. In 1877 he was elected Louisiana city attorney. Clark ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature in 1878, but remained active in Democratic politics.

In 1880 Clark was elected city attorney of Bowling Green, Missouri, but soon resigned to serve as Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Pike County. His skill as a lawyer helped secure his election as the Prosecuting Attorney of Pike County, Missouri. After years of struggling to build a career, Clark was finally gaining ground.

In 1888 Clark successfully ran for the Missouri state legislature. Emboldened by his success, he sought the Democratic nomination to the U.S. House of Representatives for Missouri’s Ninth District in 1890, but failed. Champ Clark was not one to give up easily.Two years later Clark was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, only to be defeated in the election of 1894. He was reelected in 1896 and served the next twelve terms—twenty-four years—until 1921.

During his tenure, Clark served twice as minority leader. In 1911 he was elected Speaker of the House due to his reputation as a skillful orator and party loyalist. Although Clark championed the causes of his constituents and the Democratic party, he failed to sponsor any significant legislation during his time in office.As a politician, he supported agrarian interests over corporate interests, women’s suffrage, the establishment of an income tax, and the direct election of U.S. Senators.

When the 1912 Democratic National Convention convened in Baltimore, Clark was nominated for the presidency. In the early rounds of voting, he received a large number of votes, but not the required two-thirds majority needed to secure the nomination. After forty-six rounds of voting, Clark lost the nomination to New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson, who was elected the twenty-eighth President of the United States. It was a terrible blow to Clark, but he remained loyal to the Democratic party. Clark helped ensure the passage of Wilson’s progressive “New Freedom” legislative agenda which remains one of the most ambitious legislative programs in American political history.

After the end of World War I in 1918, voters were disillusioned with Woodrow Wilson and the Democratic Party. During the 1920 presidential election, Republican candidate Warren G. Harding promised a return to “normalcy”. Harding proved extremely popular with the American public. He easily defeated Democratic candidate James M. Cox for the presidency.

Harding’s victory was part of a Republican landslide that swept Democrats at all levels out of office, including Champ Clark. Clark was defeated in his bid for reelection by Republican newcomer Theodore W. Hukriede.

Champ Clark died on March 2, 1921, just five days before his seventy-first birthday. His funeral was held in the hall of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. He is buried in the Bowling Green City Cemetery in Bowling Green, Missouri.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Natchez Trace Collection Photographs 2011-369., ca. 1855-1920. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
referencedIn Lansdowne family. Lansdowne family papers, 1830-1920. University of Kentucky Libraries
referencedIn James, Ollie M. (Ollie Murray), 1871-1918. Ollie Murray James papers, 1909-1918. University of Kentucky Libraries
creatorOf Champ Clark letters, 1911-1915 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Clark, Champ, 1850-1921. Letter : Washington, D.C., to Mrs. B[enjamin] M. [Alice McElroy] Griffith, Sp[ringfie]ld, Ill., 1911 Jan. 24. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
creatorOf Clark, Champ. Nevada woman suffrage miscellany, 1914-1918. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Worden, Wilbertine Teters, 1867-1949. Papers, 1859-1949. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn See, T. J. J. (Thomas Jefferson Jackson), b. 1866. Papers of T.J.J. See, 1887-1960 (bulk 1897-1930). Library of Congress
referencedIn A.F.R. Lawrence collection of historical spoken word [sound recording], 1900-1970 The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.
creatorOf Ellyson, J. Taylor (James Taylor), 1847-1919. Papers of James Taylor Ellyson 1865, 1896-1910. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Spicer, George W. (George Washington), b. 1897. Oral history interview of George Washington Spicer [manuscript], 1976, 2000. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Wilbertine Teters Worden Papers, 1859-1949. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn Century Company records, 1870-1924 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Douglas, Lloyd C. (Lloyd Cassel), 1877-1951. Lloyd Cassel Douglas papers, 1900-1954. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Lloyd C. Douglas Papers, 1900-1954 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Letters sent to Walter Hines Page from various correspondents, English period, 1876-1937. Houghton Library
referencedIn Charles J. Bonaparte papers, 1760-1921 (bulk 1874-1921) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Hackett, James Gordon, b. 1864. Papers, 1788-1952. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf Clark, Champ, 1850-1921. Letter to S.S. McClure, 1895 February 4. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Jouett Shouse papers, 1911-1967, 1915-1967 (bulk dates) University of Kentucky Libraries
referencedIn Nelson, John Mandt, 1870-1955. John Mandt Nelson papers, 1897-1977. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn T. J. J. See Papers, 1887-1960, (bulk 1897-1930) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Graves, John Temple, 1856-1925. John Temple Graves papers, 1840-1925. University of South Carolina, University Libraries
creatorOf Larson, Louis E. Louis E. Larson and family papers, 1857-1916. Minnesota Historical Society, Division of Archives and Manuscripts
creatorOf Lawrence, A. F. R. Collection of historical spoken word [sound recording], 1900-1970. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Bible Society of Virginia. Records, 1814-1939. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Murphy, Frank, 1890-1949. Papers, 1908-1949 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Reid, Harvey, 1842-1910. Papers, 1857-1910. Wisconsin Historical Society Archives
referencedIn Bonaparte, Charles J. (Charles Joseph), 1851-1921. Charles J. Bonaparte papers, 1760-1921 (bulk 1874-1921). Library of Congress
referencedIn The Bowling Green Times Champ Clark Memorial Number, 1921 Mar. 5. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Duff, Elbridge Hudson, d. 1904. Elbridge H. Duff letters, 1902-1903. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Bethany College (Bethany, W. Va.) corporateBody
associatedWith Bible Society of Virginia. corporateBody
correspondedWith Bonaparte, Charles J. (Charles Joseph), 1851-1921. person
correspondedWith Century Company corporateBody
correspondedWith Dellenbaugh, Frederick Samuel, 1853-1935 person
associatedWith Douglas, Lloyd C. (Lloyd Cassel), 1877-1951. person
associatedWith Duff, Elbridge Hudson, d. 1904. person
associatedWith Ellyson, J. Taylor (James Taylor), 1847-1919. person
associatedWith Graves, John Temple, 1856-1925. person
associatedWith Griffith, Alice McElroy, person
associatedWith Griffith, Benjamin Mordecai, 1831-1898. person
associatedWith Hackett, James Gordon, b. 1864. person
associatedWith James, Ollie M. (Ollie Murray), 1871-1918. person
associatedWith Lansdowne family. family
associatedWith Larson, Louis E. person
associatedWith Lawrence, A. F. R person
associatedWith Lawrence, A. F. R. person
leaderOf Marshall University corporateBody
associatedWith McClure, S. S. (Samuel Sidney), 1857-1949, person
associatedWith Murphy, Frank, 1890-1949 person
associatedWith Nelson, John Mandt, 1870-1955. person
associatedWith Page, Walter Hines, 1855-1918 person
associatedWith Reid, Harvey, 1842-1910. person
associatedWith See, T. J. J. (Thomas Jefferson Jackson), b. 1866. person
associatedWith Shouse, Jouett, 1879-1968. person
associatedWith Spicer, George W. (George Washington), b. 1897. person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf University of Cincinnati. College of Law corporateBody
associatedWith Worden, Wilbertine Teters, 1867-1949. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Bowling Green MO US
District of Columbia DC US
Huntington WV US
Lawrenceburg KY US
Subject
Legislators
Occupation
Lawyers
Representatives, U.S. Congress--Missouri
Speakers of the House, U.S. Congress
State Representative
Function

Person

Birth 1850-03-07

Death 1921-03-02

Male

Americans

English

Information

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Ark ID: w6tv5f8r

SNAC ID: 84282880