From the Court House to the White House: Earle C. Clements

As a project between the National Archives and the University of Kentucky's M.I. King Special Collections Library and Archive, "From the Court House to the White House" is a presentation of the life and career of Earle C. Clements. A life long public servant, Clements' life and career took place during a vibrant time in American history, and his work demonstrates the progress of both Kentucky and the United States.

1896-10-22 05:03:27

Birth and Early Life

Earle Chester Clements was born on October 22, 1896. One of six children born to Aaron W. and Sallie Anna (Tuley) Clements, he was raised in Morganfield, KY. Following his education in the Morganfield public schools, Clements enrolled in and attended the University of Kentucky from 1915-1917.

1915-09-01 00:00:00

Earle Clements, University of Kentucky Student

Clements enrolled at the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture. In 1915 and 1916, he played center on the football team, and was named to the "All-Southern Team" in 1916. He was also a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

1917-07-09 00:00:00

Military Service in World War I

Clements began his service by enlisting as a private with the U.S. Army in 1917. Following his stateside service as a trainer and instructor, he was discharged with the rank of captain.

1922-04-21 00:00:00

Union County Sheriff and Football Coach

After working in the Texas oil fields and returning to Kentucky to farm and coach football, Clements succeeded his father as Union County Sheriff (following his father's death) in 1922.

1926-01-01 00:00:00

Union County Clerk

From 1926-1934, Clements was elected to and served as Union County Clerk.

1927-01-18 18:12:57

Father and Husband

On January 18, 1927, Clements married Sara M. Blue. In 1933 the couple had a daughter, Elizabeth whom they called Bess. The family lived on a farm near Morganfield, Kentucky and often entertained there.

1934-01-01 00:00:00

Union County Judge

From 1934-1941, Clements served two terms as Union County Judge. While in this position, Clements improved fiscal and administrative policy through rural road improvements, building projects, and government debt reduction.

1942-01-01 00:00:00

State Senator for Kentucky

Clements was elected to the Kentucky State Senate in 1942. By 1944, Clements was appointed as the Democratic Majority Floor Leader.

1945-01-03 00:00:00

United States House of Representatives

Clements was elected as a Democrat to the 79th and 80th Congresses, as a Representative from Kentucky. During this time, Clements pursued legislation concerning agriculture, civil service, economic stabilization, and rural development (primarily through electricity utility development). He resigned from this position to serve as Governor of Kentucky.

1948-01-07 00:00:00

Governor of Kentucky

Following his election to Governor in 1947, Clements resigned from his term as U.S. Representative to begin his new position, which was to last until 1951. During his term as governor, Clements continued rural road development policies, improved the state education budget, developed the Kentucky park facilities, organized the first State Police Department, and assisted with the integration of the Kentucky colleges and universities. Clements resigned on November 27, 1950, following a special election where he was elected to be a United States Senator.

1950-11-28 00:00:00

United States Senator for Kentucky

Following a special election on November 7, 1950 to fill the Senate seat left by Alben W. Barkley, Clements was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. Senate. This election also elected Clements to a six -year term. During his term, Clements served in many leadership roles, including the Acting Majority Leader while Senate Majority Leader and close friend Lyndon B. Johnson was ill.

1955-01-01 09:18:11

United States Senate Re-election Campaign

Clements attempt at re-election to the U.S. Senate was unsuccessful in 1956. He was defeated by Thruston B. Morton in a close race.

1955-06-01 10:42:27

Friendship with Lyndon B. Johnson

As highlighted by Clements stepping in to be Senate Majority Leader for Johnson, the two men shared a close friendship throughout their political careers and later life.

1957-02-01 00:00:00

Democratic Campaign Committee Director

From 1957-1959, Clements served as the director for the Democratic Campaign Committee for the United States Senate.

1960-01-01 01:49:16

Highway Commissioner of Kentucky

In 1960, Clements was appointed as the Kentucky Highway Commissioner under Governor Bert T. Combs. Some controversy occurred between Clements, Combs, and the media as a result of an attempted purchase of dump trucks for the state.

1961-01-01 01:49:16

Consultant and President of Tobacco Institute, Incorporated

From 1961-1963, Clements served as a consultant for the Merchant Marine Institute. Following this, from 1964-1976, he served as consultant and, eventual, President to The Tobacco Institute.

1964-01-01 00:00:00

Post-Political career

Following an unsuccessful re-election campaign in 1956 and his position as Consultant to the President, Clements never ran for political office again. However, he continued to have an active public life and career.

1971-10-22 02:10:53

Back home in Kentucky

Although he remained busy after office with organizations and various civic campaigns, Clements was a family man and friend to many. He also maintained his farm house in his hometown, Morganfirld, Kentucky.

1977-04-16 12:03:29

Clements joins the Job Corps

Beginning during the Nixon administration the Breckinridge Job Corps Center, operating in Muhlenberg, Ky, faced shut-down due to political mix feelings. In the 1960s and 1970s the center taught workers skills for land reclamation at previously strip mine sites. In April 1977 Clements visited, supported and advocated the mission of the Job Corps Center and in 1980 it was renamed the Earle C. Clements Job Corps Center.

1985-03-12 13:44:42


In 1981, Clements retired and returned to Morganfield, KY. A few years later, on March 12, 1985, Clements died and was buried in Morganfield.

From the Court House to the White House: Earle C. Clements

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