I’ve been watching the Ken Burns’ series on the Roosevelts. They were the most influential American political dynasty of the twentieth century, which is something when you consider that we also had the Kennedys and the Bushes.
But Idaho has had its own political dynasty. A family that, by nearly any measure, has been the most influential political family in Idaho’s relatively brief history. Even those who have heard of it are generally not aware of its extent. It is a family tree that, examined in detail, includes such notables as Governors Robert Smylie and Cecil Andrus and Senator Frank Church. It is also a family that, while heavily Democratic, also includes some influential Republicans.
The tree begins with the arrival of Joseph Addison Clark in Idaho in 1885. He became the first mayor of Idaho Falls, serving from 1900-02. He ran unsuccessfully for governor on the Prohibition ticket in 1904. Two of his sons, Barzilla and Chase, also served as mayors of Idaho Falls. He had a third son, David, who did not hold elective office, but needs to be mentioned because of others in his line of the Clark family who did become major players in state and national politics.
Barzilla Clark served two terms on the Idaho Falls city council and was elected mayor in 1913, serving a single term. He was elected governor in 1936 and served a single two-year term. His daughter Lois married Merlin Young, who served as a state district judge before being appointed federal bankruptcy judge for Idaho. The Young’s daughter Patricia, a state magistrate judge, married Byron Johnson, and Idaho supreme court justice.
Chase Clark served two terms in the Idaho legislature representing Custer County. When his brother Barzilla resigned as mayor of Idaho Falls to become governor, Chase succeeded him as mayor. He was elected governor in 1942 and served a single two-year term. Following his term as governor, he was appointed to the U.S. District Court by President Roosevelt. His daughter Bethine married Boise attorney Frank Church, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1956 and served through 1980. The Church’s son, Chase, was married to Kelly Andrus, daughter of Governor Cecil Andrus and they have two children. (more…)