Honorable, respected, conservative. These are just a few words that describe former United States Congressman, Clarence Cannon. Cannon went from being a small town boy from Elsberry, Missouri to being one of the most powerful men in United States politics who drew in thousands of people, a former president, and a sitting president to his funeral.
Clarence Andrew Cannon was born April 11, 1879 on a farm which later became known as the town of Elsberry (Lilley). After settling in the small, rural town, Clarence’s father, Randolph Clarence started a general store. Clarence’s father soon became socially involved in the community, which later lead him to become a founder and deacon of the First Baptist Church in town. To Cannon, the town of Elsberry was a town where neighbors knew each other and relationships were formed from daily association (Cannon 53). Involved in the local politics, Randolph soon became the second mayor of Elsberry (Lilley). Randolph’s dedication to the community had a major impact on his son, Clarence. Like his father, Clarence felt the need for community involvement.
Cannon attended LaGrange Junior College (known as Hannibal-Lagrange College today), where he played college football and graduated in 1901 (Bowling Green Times). Within a few years, he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri (New York Times). After attending William Jewell College, he worked as a History Professor at Stephen’s College until 1908. While teaching at Stephen’s college, Cannon continued studying law at the University of Missouri where he earned his Bachelors of Law degree. On August 30th 1906, he married Ida Dawson Wigginton. The two moved to Troy, Missouri and had two daughters, Ida Elizabeth and Ruby Melinda (Clarence Cannon Papers).
Following his failure to get a seat in the Missouri General Assembly, he was offered a job as a clerk for newly elected speaker of the house, Champ Clark. Clarence accepted the position. Later in 1922, Cannon was elected into Congress. From that moment on Cannon was successful in his reelection every two years (The Marthasville Record). He served as a United States Congressman from 1923 until his death in 1964. During those years, Cannon made a major impact on U.S politics.
Clarence was known for his “fiercely independent spirit” and his “pugnacity”, according to The New York Times. Though he was only 140 pounds, Cannon was remembered by his high pitched, nasal voice and his sharp tongue (Dulles). He used his sharp tongue to his advantage in most legislative battles, however, in one instance Clarence Cannon used more than his mouth and punched New York representative, John Taber (Dulles). His stubbornness and determination were just a few characteristics that helped to rise to level of success that he achieved.
On Sunday, May 11th Mr. Cannon was overcome by nausea and later checked into the Washington Hospital Center (The Elsberry Democrat). He was then diagnosed with a heart disease (The Marthasville). On Tuesday, May 12th, around 4pm the honorable, Clarence Cannon passed away. The funeral was held on Thursday in Elsberry, Cannon’s hometown, at the First Baptist church that young Cannon grew up in (Washington Citizen). Pictures from that day show thousands of people lined along the streets of Elsberry to watch the motorcade. Many brought lawn chairs, ladders, and packed lunches for the funeral service. Not only did the entire town of Elsberry attend the funeral, but sitting President Johnson, former President Truman, and two Missouri Senators were present as well (The Elsberry Democrat). President Johnson flew in an Air Force Jet Plane to St. Louis. From there, he took a helicopter to a field on the outskirts of Elsberry to join the motorcade before the funeral. Approximately 4,000 people gathered in Elsberry for the funeral that day (Wicker). Clarence Cannon was buried in Elsberry’s city cemetery (The Elsberry Democrat).
Clarence Cannon impacted many people throughout his lifetime. He left his mark on his hometown in numerous ways. Some of these ways include Elsberry’s Clarence Cannon Elementary building, Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge, and the Clarence Cannon Dam. Not only did he impact his hometown, but his contributions to American politics were great and will forever be remembered by the nation he served.
“Bowling Green DAR Hears Clarence Cannon Presentation.” Bowling Green Times, Lakeway Publishers Inc., 8 Apr. 2014, www.bowlinggreentimes.com/bowling-green-dar-hears-clarence-cannon-presentation/.
Cannon, Clarence. History of Elsberry. 1955. Pg 53.
“Clarence Cannon Papers (1879-196).”
“Clarence Cannon 9th Dist. Representative Dies Tuesday.”
The Marthasville Record, 15 May 1964, p. 1, basic.newspapers.com/image/90119896/?terms=congressman+clarence+cannon+died.
“Cong. Cannon Laid To Rest In Family Plot With Military Honors.” The Elsberry Democrat, 22 May 1964, pp. 1–1.
“Congressman Clarence Cannon Dean of Missouri Delegation Dies Tuesday In Washington, D.C.” The Elsberry Democrat, 15 May 1964, p. 1.
Dulles, Allen. “Letter to the Honorable Clarence Cannon Chairman .” Received by Clarence Cannon, 27 July 1955.
Images, Historic. “1964 Press Photo President Lyndon Johnson Representative Clarence Cannon Funeral.” Historic Images, 1964, outlet.historicimages.com/products/rsl63437
Lilley, Stephen. “Missouri Historical Review, Volume 75 Issue 1, October 1980.” Missouri Historical Review, The State Historical Society of Missouri, Oct. 1980, digital.shsmo.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/mhr/id/39395/rec/1.
“REP. CANNON DIES.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 May 1964, www.nytimes.com/1964/05/13/rep-cannon-dies.html.
“President Attends Cannon's Funeral.” Washington Citizen, 18 May 1964, p. 1, basic.newspapers.com/image/127023063/?terms=clarence+cannon+funeral.
Sochurek, Howard. “Rep. Clarence Cannon at the 1960 Democratic National Convention. News Photo.” Getty Images, Getty Images, www.gettyimages.com/photos/clarence-cannon?phrase=clarence%2Bcannon&sort=mostpopular#license.
Wicker, Tom. “JOHNSON ATTENDS RITES FOR CANNON.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 May 1964, www.nytimes.com/1964/05/15/johnson-attends-rites-for-cannon.html.