CHAMP CLARK, THE "LEATHER-BOUND
BY HOLLIS L. WHITE*
When officials of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition
of 1915 asked Governor Elliott W. Major of Missouri to name
Missouri's most famous living man, he unhesitatingly named Champ
Clark, Speaker of the House of
Representatives. Clark earned
his reputation by serving as the
faithful representative of Missouri's Ninth District and by
rising to the position of Speaker
and Democratic minority leader.
In 1912 he was the leading
candidate for the Democratic
presidential nomination. Moreover, for 20 years he was a
Chautauqua lecturer and debater of national prominence.
Although other aspects of
Clark's career as orator-
politician are interesting, this
article is concerned with only
one aspect of his rhetorical skill,
his style. His use of language
revealed much about his personality and his unique way of
adapting to speaking situations.
As a man and as a speaker he
represented that "true" Missourian usually described as friendly,
soft-speaking, humorous, often easy-going, sometimes not cultured,
but often magnificently erudite and lettered. He was invariably a
pleasant companion as long as he was received with an open hand
and friendly spirit, yet he was capable of being terrible as a fighter
and an antagonist.1 Contemporary newspaper reporters described
him variously as "the scholarly orator," "the partisan politician,"
*Hollis L. White, Ph.D., is assistant professor of speech at Queens College, Flushing, New
JPaul I. Wellman, "Missouri as The Missionary of The American Idea," Missouri Historical
Review, XLIX (April, 1955), 217.
Clark, My Quarter Century
of American Politics