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Speaker of the House James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark of Missouri

March 07, 1850
Speaker of the House James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark of Missouri Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Speaker Champ Clark of Missouri served 13 non-consecutive terms in the House of Representatives, including four as Speaker.
James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark of Missouri, the 36th Speaker of the House (1911–1919), was born in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Even though Clark lacked a first-rate education growing up, he became president of Marshall College in West Virginia, later earned a law degree, settled in Missouri, and was elected to the state legislature. In 1892, he was first elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House and, with the exception of the 54th Congress (1895–1897), was re-elected until his death in 1921. He eventually served as Democratic Leader, helping to foment the 1910 revolt against autocratic Republican Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois, by masterfully manipulating internal divisions among the fractious Republicans. When Democrats won control of the chamber in 1911, they elected Clark Speaker. A contemporary described him as “a man of commanding presence, a ready, forceful and often witty speaker.” He aspired to higher office, however, and at the 1912 Democratic National Convention he led the presidential contenders through 14 ballots before William Jennings Bryan threw his support behind Woodrow Wilson, who won the nomination 32 ballots later. Remaining in the House, Clark championed Wilson’s progressive New Freedom legislation. He split with the President to oppose American intervention into World War I.

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