James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark was born near Lawrenceburg Kentucky March 7, 1850. As a boy he worked on farms in Anderson County. By the time he was 62 years old he was the leading Democratic candidate for president going into the 1912 presidential election.
While working as a farm hand in Anderson county James took every advantage to learn. He read all the material he could he could buy or borrow and debated with anyone that opposed his views.
James left Anderson County attended Cincinnati Law School before becoming president of Marshall College. At age twenty-three, he was the youngest college president in the history of the United States. Eventually he moved to Missouri, married, and was admitted to the bar in 1875.
Champ practiced law for about 10 years before being elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. In 1892 he was elected to be a United States congressional representative and served as its Speaker from 1911 to 1919. His leadership qualities were evident when friends asked him to run for president in 1912.
During his presidential campaign the Lawrenceburg native stopped in his childhood home for a political rally. He was greeted by a crowd of about 5,000 supporters in front of the Lawrenceburg Hotel. The ladies of Lawrenceburg fixed two thousand gallons of burgoo and baskets filled with “good old country grub.”
Going into the 1912 Democratic presidential nomination convention, Champ Clark was the clear favorite to win the nomination. All Champ had to do was to secure his party’s nomination and he would be assured to be the next President of the United States.
The only obstacle in his way was the upstart governor of New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson. The initial balloting at the Democratic convention Champ Clark was the front runner with more than 100 votes over Woodrow Wilson.
During the initial balloting Champ had such a commanding lead the Wilson was willing to concede. Wilson’s supporters urged him to stay in the race and then began garnishing support. After lengthy negotiations over 6 days, with allegations of fraud, influence by special interests, the nomination went to Woodrow Wilson on the 46th ballot.
Author James Chase calls the 1912 presidential election “the election that changed the country.” With such a narrow loss, one cannot help but imagine what might the United States look like today if Champ Clark had become President? Wilson was in favor of creating the Federal Reserve, Clark opposed the Act. Wilson got America involved in World War I, Clark opposed that to. Not too bad for an old Lawrenceburg farm hand.