Former Congressman Clem Rogers McSpadden died Monday night. Congressman McSpadden gained fame as a rodeo announcer. (He was the first American citizen to ever announce the Calgary Stampede Rodeo.) He was the grandnephew of Will Rogers, and being related to Will is a good thing to be if you want to go far in Oklahoma politics, especially during McSpadden's generation. He served in the Oklahoma State Senate from 1955 to 1972. In 1972 he was elected to the United States Congress and served one term before he decided to run for governor.
That's where I come into the story, sorta. The year was 1973, and I was a 3rd year student at Bethany Nazarene College. A young Oklahoma representative named David Boren came my government class to talk about his campaign. Boren and McSpadden were both running against incumbent Oklahoma governor, David Hall. Hall was facing corruption charges that eventually would land him in prison. Boren was a rather unknown candidate except for the fact that his father Lyle Boren had been a US Congressman during the 30's. I was impressed with Boren, and decided to work for his campaign even though I was a registered Republican at the time.
Boren was a huge underdog, but his campaign caught fire. His campaign symbol was a broom since he was promising a "Clean Sweep" reform as governor. Boren came in 2nd during the first round of voting to McSpadden, but he quickly seized the initiative when McSpadden made some very ill-advised personal attacks on Boren.
That was my first big foray into Oklahoma politics. It was also the doorway for my into the Oklahoma Democratic Party. The governor's election in 1974 was one of those "generational" races between the old and outgoing and the young and up and coming. Now we have another such race on the presidential level. We will see if now as then, youth will have its day.
McSpadden's life, accomplishments remembered