Clarence Andrew Cannon (1879-1964)

Clarence Cannon ca. 1940
C.A. Cannon ca. 1940

During his 41-year service as a United States Congressman, Clarence Cannon had become a legend in Missouri and Washington, serving as Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations for ten Congressional sessions, tenures broken only when the Republicans captured control of the House. (It is the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations that controls all spending by the Federal Government and is considered one of the most powerful in Congress.) He was also author of parliamentary procedures manuals for the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic National Convention, one of which, Cannon's Precedents , is published on the internet by the GPO:

These volumes present a comprehensive study of the precedents of the House from 1908 to 1936 by Clarence Cannon, Clerk at the Speakerís Table. These documents supplement the earlier work by Asher C. Hinds published in 1907.
When Clarence Cannon died unexpectedly in May of 1964 at age 85, he was the oldest member of Congress and had announced his intent to run for re-election in November. Then-sitting President Lyndon B. Johnson attended the funeral in Elsberry. A plaque commemorates the pew in the Elsberry Baptist Church where President Johnson sat.

But in addition to his day job as Powerful Congressman, Clarence Cannon was an avid historian and genealogist, having written a number of family history books in addition to the History of Elsberry 1673-1955 that is transcribed in full in this website. Those that I was able to find citation for (Worldcat) follow. All except one [noted] are available at the Library of Congress and number of libraries [shown parentitically] reported by WorldCat All the family history books are also available at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin at Madison.

All the following Cannon Books have now also been scanned and posted online as PDF files at: "The Clarence Cannon Manuscripts"

These family history books are located in the various libraries which can be found through WorldCat I did not list them here, because changes could occur. There are multiple copies of most, if not all, of his books in the Genealogy Room cabinet at the Palmer Memorial Library in Elsberry; however, I do not believe they are available for check-out. There may also be copies at the public library in Troy.

I could not find Clarence Cannon's own ancestry complete in one place on the internet. Piecemeal versions:

Clarence Cannon himself had substantial impact on the history and current status of Elsberry. Despite his overall reputation as a bugdet-slashing fiscal conservative, he was a strong supporter of parity payments to maintain farmers' incomes, low-interest farm loans, soil conservation, flood control projects, agricultural research and the rural electrification program. He believed in in the virtues and values of small-town America. As he said in the closing to this History of Elsberry:

Elsberry will never be a big town with slums and police control and all the problems that beset great centers of population. We should be thankful for that. But it will always be one of the delightful residence towns of the state, where we know our neighbors and our neighbors know us and where daily association develops a fellowship and community of interest to be achieved in no other way. We live in a rapidly changing world. Miracles are just ahead. And in that expanding future Elsberry and Elsberry people have their special part and place.

More about Clarence Cannon:

More photos:

Clarence Cannon 1941 Clarence Cannon Clarence Cannon Official Portrait

Biographical Notes

Clarence Andrew Cannon was born 11 April 1879 at Elsberry, Lincoln County, Missouri, son of John Randolph Cannon (1856-1923) and Ida Glovina Whiteside (1856-1941). He married 30 August 1906 to Miss. Ida Dawson Wigginton. She was born 1 June 1885, daughter of Reuben T. Wigginton (1841-1916) and Couchie Dawson (1858-1895); died 10 June 1975 at Elsberry, Lincoln Co., Missouri. Clarence Cannon died 12 May 1964 in hospital at Washington D.C. of heart failure.

Clarence and Miss Ida had two daughters:

The Cannon's and Pixley's are buried in a row at the Elsberry City Cemetery, Lincoln County, Missouri on a hill overlooking the cemetery.

The following biographies and obituaries contain sufficient summaries of his professional career.

The following biography from Biographical Directory of the United States Congress:

CANNON, Clarence Andrew, a Representative from Missouri; born in Elsberry, Lincoln County, Mo., April 11, 1879; was graduated from La Grange Junior College, Hannibal, Mo., in 1901, from William Jewell College, Liberty, Mo., in 1903, and from the law department of the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1908; professor of history, Stephens College, Columbia, Mo., 1904-1908; was admitted to the bar in 1908 and commenced practice in Troy, Mo.; in 1911 became a clerk in the office of the Speaker of the House; parliamentarian of the House of Representatives in the Sixty-fourth, Sixty-fifth, and Sixty-sixth Congresses, 1915-1920; parliamentarian of the Democratic National Conventions 1920-1960; author of “A Synopsis of the Procedure of the House (1918),” “Procedure in the House of Representatives (1920),” and “Cannon’s Procedure (1928),” subsequent editions of the latter being published periodically by resolutions of the House until 1963; editor and compiler of “Precedents of the House of Representatives” by act of Congress; regent of the Smithsonian Institution 1935-1964; elected as a Democrat to the Sixty-eighth and to the twenty succeeding Congresses and served from March 4, 1923, until his death in Washington, D.C., May 12, 1964; chairman, Committee on Appropriations (Seventy-seventh through Seventy-ninth Congresses, Eighty-first and Eighty-second Congresses, and Eighty-fourth through Eighty-eighth Congresses); interment in Elsberry City Cemetery, Elsberry, Mo.


Fulkerson, William M. “A Rhetorical Study of the Appropriations Speaking of Clarence Andrew Cannon in the House of Representatives, 1923-1964.” Ph.D. diss., Michigan State University, 1969; Jarvis, Charles A. “Clarence Cannon, the Corn Cob Pipe, and the Hawley-Smoot Tariff.” Missouri Historical Review 84 (January 1990): 151-65.

From American National Biography:

CANNON, Clarence Andrew (11 Apr. 1879-12 May 1964), congressman, was born in Elsberry, Missouri, the son of John Randolph Cannon, a farmer and merchant, and Ida Glovina Whiteside. Reflecting his family's influence and his rural, border-state background, Cannon maintained a lifelong devotion to the Southern Baptist faith and the Democratic party. He also possessed a firm belief in the superiority of the agrarian lifestyle and small-town values.

Intelligent, ambitions, and articulate, Cannon earned high marks at two Missouri junior colleges before obtaining a B.A. (1903) and an M.A. (1904) from William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. After working as a high school teacher and principal, he served as an instructor of history at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri (1904-1908). Though he retained a lifelong interest in the American past and wrote several books on family and local history, Cannon deemed the academic life too sedentary. Accordingly, he studied law at the University of Missouri while teaching at Stephens College. He earned an LL.B. and joined the bar in 1908. He established a law practice in Troy, Missouri, but soon transferred it to his home town of Elsberry.

In 1906 Cannon married Ida Dawson Wigginton; they had two daughters. The couple formed a close working relationship. Ida Cannon became her husband's most trusted political adviser. Starting in the 1920s she traveled extensively over the back-country roads of northeastern Missouri campaigning for her spouse, while he remained at his congressional desk in Washington, D.C.

Cannon eagerly sought elective office, but his first two campaigns, for county school superintendent and state representative, ended in defeat. His political fortunes changed after his congressman, Champ Clark, hired him as a confidential secretary in 1911. When Democrats elected Clark Speaker of the House that year, Cannon found himself near the center of power in Washington.

Enjoying Clark's patronage, Cannon advanced to the positions of House journal clerk (1914-1917) and House parliamentarian (1917-1920). A quick study, he rapidly established himself as a leading authority on parliamentary procedure. His skills proved so impressive that the Republicans retained him after winning the House in 1918. In 1920 he became parliamentarian of the Democratic National Convention, a position he held through 1960. Cannon exercised lasting influence over the workings of Congress through publications such as Procedure in the House of Representatives 1920 and Cannon's Precedents of the House of Representatives (1936).

After resigning as House parliamentarian, Cannon returned to his law practice in Elsberry. In 1922 voters in Clark's old congressional district elected Cannon to his mentor's seat in the House of Representatives. Popular with his constituents, he repeatedly won reelection, often without opposition, until his death.

Heeding the concerns of his rural district, Cannon emerged as a leading advocate of agricultural interests. He supported parity payments to maintain farmers' incomes, low-interest federal farm loans, and soil conservation and flood control projects. The latter two were of special concern in Cannon's district, and one of the congressman's most enduring legacies involved securing federal funding for what eventually became the Clarence Cannon Dam and Reservoir in northeastern Missouri. Cannon also played a major role in the establishment of the rural electrification program and in obtaining government funds for agricultural research. "No farm legislation was approved by Congress during the Cannon years," a contemporary observer noted, "that did not bear the impress of Cannon's knowledge of parliamentary procedure and his influence in Congress."

With the notable exception of farm supports, the Missourian primarily gained a reputation as a budget-slashing fiscal conservative, especially after he became chair of the House Appropriations Committee in 1941. Cannon retained this powerful position, except for four years of Republican control, until his death. He urged a quick reduction in military expenditures immediately after World War II, denounced foreign aid as waste, and ridiculed the space program as "Moon- doggle." Cannon's desire to hold tight the nation's purse strings grew with the years. In 1962 he bitterly denounced the first "$100-billion Congress" in a much-publicized speech on the House floor, angering House Speaker John W. McCormack and other fellow Democrats.

Always outspoken, sometimes irascible, Cannon earned a reputation for pugnacity. He once lampooned a fellow House member, "Of all the 'piddlin' politicians that ever piddled 'piddlin' politics on this floor, my esteemed friend, the gentleman from Wisconsin, is the greatest piddler that ever piddled." During an argument in 1945 Cannon punched in the face Representative John Taber of New York, the ranking Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee. Cannon noted gleefully that Taber ran out of the room with a bleeding lip. In 1962 Cannon engaged in an unseemly and well-publicized dispute with Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona, another octogenarian Democrat, over obscure matters of parliamentary precedent.

Cannon's irascibility extended beyond the halls of Congress. In January 1964 Jacqueline Kennedy wrote to him expressing her appreciation for his help in establishing the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, adding, "I know the fight was not easy." Cannon barked back to the recently widowed first lady: "You say the fight was not easy, but on the contrary, we had cooperation from everyone. It was done practically by acclamation."

Cannon died in Washington, D.C., remaining an active Congressman to the very end of his life, as he had wished. He had already announced his intention to seek reelection later in the year. His lengthy service in Congress made him an influential if somewhat contradictory representative. During his 41-year congressional career, he served well his rural Missouri constituents, securing passage of farm supports and funding for local projects that some critics denounced as "pork barrel" politics. At the same time, he advocated stricter fiscal responsibility in other branches of the federal government. Beyond the scope of legislation, Cannon's publications on congressional procedure have achieved the status of holy writ for successive generations of lawmakers. His contributions to agricultural and appropriation policies and parliamentary procedure, enhanced by his colorful personality, have ensured him a place as one of the major congressional figures of the twentieth century.

Cannon's papers are deposited at the Western Historical Manuscripts Collection, University of Missouri, Columbia. In addition to his volumes on parliamentary procedure, Cannon wrote at least a half-dozen works of genealogy and local history, the most significant of which is History of Elsberry, 1673-1955 (1955), a study of his hometown. C. Herschel Schooley, Missouri's Cannon in the House (1977), contains a welter of poorly organized facts and anecdotes. More scholarly is Stephen Ray Lilley, "The Early Career of Clarence Cannon, 1879-1924" (M.A. thesis, Northeast Missouri State Univ., Kirksville, 1976). Useful for various aspects of Cannon's career are William M. Fulkerson, "A Rhetorical Study of the Appropriations Speaking of Clarence Andrew Cannon in the House of Representative, 1923-1964" (Ph.D. diss., Michigan State Univ., 1969); Charles A. Jarvis, "Clarence Cannon, the Corn Cob Pipe, and the Hawley-Smoot Tariff," Missouri Historical Review 84 (1990): 151-65; Lilley, A Minuteman for Years: Clarence Cannon and the Spirit of Volunteerism," Missouri Historical Review 75 (1980); 33-50; and Michael D. Shulse, "The History and Development of the Clarence Cannon Dam and Reservoir, 1957-1968" (M.A. thesis, Northeast Missouri State Univ., Kirksville, 1975). Obituaries are in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12 May 1964; the New York Times, 13 May 1964; Time, 22 May 1964; and Newsweek, 25 May 1964.

American National Biography; Oxford University Press; 1999; Volume 4, pages 329-330.

L. B. J. Says Congress-
man Leaves Distin-
guished Imprint
Representative Praised
for Influence on
Fiscal Policies

Washington (AP)-Presi- dent Johnson said yester- day Rep. Clarence Cannon (D-Mo.) "left a distinguished imprint upon the decisions and policies of our times."
"As a parliamentarian, Con- gressman Cannon made a unique and lasting contribution in the functioning of our legis- lative process," Johnson said in a statement.

Helped Direct Policies
"As a committee chairman and leader himself of the House of Representative through a long and vigorous career, he left a distinguished imprint upon the decisions and policies of our times.
"We shall miss his counsel, his candor and the courage with which he held steadfastly to his convictions about what was right and best for America."
Moving up to the chairman- ship of the powerful House ap- propriations committee is a tall, quiet-spoken Texan who is known for his even temper and ability to get along with people.
He is George H. Mahon, Dem- ocrat, a man who looks much younger than his 63 years. First elected to Congress in 1934, he represents a sprawling 20- county West Texas agricultural district centered around Lub- bock.
Names Close Colleagues
The House speaker, John Mc- Cormack (D-Mass.), named as the committee to represent the House at the funeral in Els- berry, Mo., Thursday, all members of the Missouri House delegation and members of the appropriations committee.
Sen. Stuart Symington and Sen. Edward V. Long of Mis- souri will represent the Senate at funeral services.
The House sergeant-at-arms announced that a plane carry- ing Cannon's body will leave Andrews Air Force base near here at 10 o'clock today and arrive at Lambert Air field, St. Louis, at about 2 o'clock CST. The funeral party will leave there for Elsberry by sur- face transportation.
Accompanying the body on the plane will be the widow, Ida Cannon, the Cannons' two daughters, Mrs. H. B. Hacket- thorn of Houston and Mrs. Wil- plam Pixley of St. Louis, and their husbands; Miss Isabel Gladney, Cannon's secretary; Kenneth Sprankle, clerk of the House appropriations commit- tee, and Carson Culp, a com- mittee aide.
Flag From Capitol
The casket will be draped with the flag that flew over the nation's capitol yesterday. An Air Force escort officer will ac- company it.
The official funeral party will leave Andrews Air Force base in an Fir Force plane at 8 o'clock tomorrow and arrive in St. Louis at 12:30 o'clock, Senator Long said "The peo-
(Continued on Page 6)



(Continued from Page 1)
ple of Missouri, the nation, and the world have lost a de- voted champion in Clarence Cannon," and added:
"I have lost an old and dear friend and mentor. He will best be remembered for his cham- pionship of te the House appropria- tions committee and his mone- tary policies, for his many at- tempts to put this country on a sound fiscal program."
Rep. Leonor K. Sullivan (D- Mo.): Clarence Cannon knew at 85 that his days were num- bered, so in view of his achieve- ments of his long career, in view of the fine life he led and the happiness he enjoyed with his belived wide, Ida, and his fam- ily, we shed no tears for Clar- ence Cannon. Instead we shed tears today for Mrs. Cannon and the children and also for our- selves. How tenderly he loved his wife was a secret most of us were able to share, for he wore his heart on his sleeve."
For Wise Spending
Rep. W. R. Hull, jr. (D-MO): "He was a great statesman. As chairman of the House appro- priations committee during a period when government budg- etary requirements increased tremendously, he fought a con- stant fight to keep spending at a rational level. He was not afraid to say no to the bureau- crats. It if were not for his prudence, I feel sure this coun- try would be in a much worse financial conditions that it is to- day."
Rep William J. Randall (D- Mo.): "All of us in the House have lost a friend in the pass- ing of the chairman of the ap- propriations committee. He has saved the country many mil- lions of dollars by elimination of non-essential expenditures, yet he was never penny wise and pound foolish. His almost 50 years of unselfish service to his country will forever stand as an enduring monument."
Word to Dalton
In Frankfurt, Germany news of the death of Cannon reached Gov. John M. Dalson, who is heading a Missouri business del- egation to Europe.
The governor commented:
"Many people regarded Clar- ence Cannon as the number two man in American government. The nation has suffered a great loss, and Missouri has lost an outstanding citizen. We all ex- press our sympathy with his family and his beloved widow, Miss Ida."

- Kansas City Star; May 13, 1964; Page 1.

Lawmaker Cannon Dies at 85

Missourian Was Member of House for 41 Years

Daily News Wire Services

        WASHINGTON -- Crusty Clarence Cannon, powerful chairman of the House Ap- propriations Committee and second oldest member of Con- gress, died unexpectedly Tues- day. He was 85.
        The Missouri Democrat, a member of the House for 41 years, died at Washington hospital center. Death was at- tributed to con- gestive failure, defined medi- cally as a com- plication of progressing heart disease.
        Cannon was one of the most powerful mem- bers of Congress as head of the committee which must pass first on all spending bills to come before Congress.
        In spite of his advanced age, Cannon maintained a full schedule. He was at work on up to the end of last week.
        After working Saturday, he complained of feeling ill the next day. The hospital said he was admitted Sunday morning.
        CANNON HAD been a member of the House Since [sic] March 4, 1923. He served as chairman of the appropri- ations committee starting in 1941.
        He held the post since then except during the 80th and 83d sessions when Republicans con- trolled Congress.
        He presided over appropria- tion of more than a trillion dol- lars--more than any man in history. But he was proudest of the billions he had helped chop out of requests.
        As a parliamentarian it was conceded Cannon was top man in the House. In face he wrote most of the rules--"Cannon's Procedure of the House of Representatives" is a legislative bible.
        AND IN THE sometimes rowdy Democratic conventions over which the late speaker Sam Rayburn presided, he was Rayburn's strong right hand when the procedural going got rough. Rayburn once said pri- vately he didn't know where Cannon got all the precedents he cited, and had his doubts they really existed except in

Turn to Page 10,
        Column 5

Cannon's agile mind. But they helped Rayburn keep conven- tions under control.
        Cannon will be buried Thursday in his home town, Elsberry, Mo. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. at the Elsberry Baptist Church.
        Cannon is survived by his widow and two married daugh- ters.
        Prior to being elected to Contress, Cannon worked on Capitol Hill, serving as an aide to the late Speaker Champ Clark of Missouri, and as par- liamentarian to the House.
        Cannon once got into a fistfight with the late Sen. Ken- neth McKellar (D-Tenn.), then chairman of the Senate Appro- priations Committee.

        A SMALL MAN, wizened by the years, he walked the corridors of the Capitol with his eyes downcast, speaking to no one. He ran his committee with an iron hand.
        In 1962 he tangled with 86- year-old Sen. Carl Hayden (D-Ariz.) in a protocol battle that tied up the appropriations machinery almost throughout the session. Neither man would allow his committee to walk to the other end of the Capitol for a conference to work out a compromise measure.
        The argument was finally settled when the committees met in a room in the exact center of the Capitol, at a con- ference table that straddled the middle line.

        CANNON, A representative from Missouri's 9th District, was born in 1879. He observed his 85th birthday April 11.
        He was the first parliamen- tarian of the House to serve under borh Democratic and Re- publican administrations. He was elected to the 68th Con- gress in 1922 and was re- elected every two years since then.
        Cannon obtained a law de- gree from the University of Missouri but turned to teach- ing history at Stephens College in 1904-08 nefore switching to politics.
        Under the seniority system, Rep. George H. Mahon (D- Tex.) would be expected to succeed Cannon as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The Chicago Daily News
        May 12, 1964 (probably Evening Edition)
        Page 1, right column.

Cannon, 85,
Veteran in
House, Dies

WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. Clarence Cannon, oldest member of the House, chairman of its Appropriations Committee and one of its most rugged individuals, died Tuesday.
    Death came to the 85-year-old Missouri Democrat at Washington Hospital Center. He entered the hospital Sunday after an attack of what was thought was nausea, but which was the forerunner of heart failure.
    The House convened at noon and adjourned 11 minutes later out of respect to the man President Johnson described as a parliamentarian who "made a unique and lasting contribution to the functioning of our legislative process."
    Mr. Johnson said in a statement that Cannon "left a distinguished imprint upon the decisions and policies of our times," and added:
    "We shall miss his counsel, his candor and the courage with which he held steadfastly to his convictions about what was right and best for America."
    Speaker of the House John W. McCormack named a 43-member committee to attend the funeral. The committee represents members of both parties and consists mainly of members of the Appropriations Committee and the Missouri congressional delegation.
    The services will be held Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Elsberry Mo., Baptist Church of which Cannon was a lifelong member. Burial will be in Elsberry, the little town in which Cannon was born on April 11, 1879.
    The tough little man who fo 20 years held a tight grip on the federal purse strings died without ever coming face to face with the one national catastrophe he said he dreaded. He often expressed the fear that "in my lifetime, the federal government may go broke if we don't stop unnecessary spending."
    Cannon was the fourth of a group of powerful congressional oldtimers removed by death from Capital Hill influence during the past few years. The others were Sam Rayburn of Texas, Francis E. Walter of Pennsylvania and Thomas J. O;Brien of Illinois, all Democrats. Unlike Cannon. all of them had been ill for some time.
    Democratic state chairman Jonn John McIlroy said on Bowling Green. Mo., that Gov. John M. Dalton probably will call a special election to fill Cannon's unexpired term, which runs through the rest of this year.
    Cannon had filed for re-election and was expected to face only token opposition.
    The wiry, 140-pound chairman presided at a meeting of his committee last Friday. Aides described him as "chipper and in good spirits" when he came to his office Saturday. His widow, the former Ida Dawson Wigginton whom Cannon married 58 years ago, said he felt nauseated Sunday and decided to go to the hospital for a checkup.
    Besides his widow, Cannon leaves two daughters, Mrs. Linda Hackathorn of Houston and Mrs. Ida Pixley of St. Louis, and five grandchildren.

- uncited newspaper clipping
February, 2009

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