In this series, we profile remarkable people from Garden City who went out into the world and made their mark on history. We want to be sure their stories are not forgotten.
Clifford R. Hope was one of the most influential and respected politicians ever to emerge from western Kansas, serving more than 30 years in the United States Congress. Despite his many years in Washington, he never lost touch with his Kansas roots — and he never forgot those he was representing.
In a Forth Worth Star-Telegram column reminiscing about the virtuous former congressman, Hope was described as a man in the “finest tradition of the party of Lincoln… straightforward and never evasive, ambiguous, or patronizing.”
Hope spoke out about issues based on principle, even if it was unpopular at the time. As far back as the early 1920s, he criticized the Ku Klux Klan. He also supported several measures from across the political aisle including Harry Truman’s civil rights initiative and Truman’s removal of General MacArthur from his post.
Those who knew him, including political rivals, described him as the “perfect gentleman,” committed to the farmers he represented in western Kansas. Here is a short summary of the life of this exemplary man.
Clifford Ragsdale Hope was born in Birmingham, Iowa, on June 9, 1893. Unlike many of his future colleagues in Washington, Hops attended public schools in his youth. At the age of 13, Hope moved with his family to Garden City, Kansas, a place he would call home for the rest of his life.
In 1917, Hope graduated from Washburn Law School in Topeka, then promptly achieved admission to the bar. However, fate put his law career on hold. The same year, the United States entered World War One. Motivated by a sense of duty, Hope volunteered to join the American military effort gearing up to fight in Europe.
World War One
As was common with university-educated men, Hope was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. He first served with the 35th Infantry, a newly mobilized National Guard division populated with troops from Kansas and Missouri.
The 35th Division arrived in France in May 1918, and remained engaged in Europe throughout the war. Hope also served in the 85th division, a unit based in Michigan. In all, Hope served around two years in Europe before finally returning home after the conclusion of the war, eager to carry on with his life.
Career in Kansas
Following his discharge from active military service in 1919, Hope returned to Garden City to begin practicing law. While he loved the law and found the work fulfilling, he knew he had more to offer his fellow Kansans.
In 1921, Hope won election to the Kansas State House of Representatives, beginning his long and illustrious political career. In 1923, he was chosen to serve as the Speaker Pro Tempore of the house and in 1925, he was elected Speaker. At the time, he was the youngest man in Kansas history to serve as Speaker of the House.
Despite these successes, Hope still felt he could do more to serve his country and his fellow citizens. Now firmly established in Kansas politics, he set his sights on winning national office.
United States Congress
In 1926, Hope was elected to represent the 7th district of Kansas in the United States Congress. While Kansas currently has only four electoral districts, it had eight at the time of Hope’s election. Later, Hope would represent the 5th district. He maintained his congressional seat until he retired in 1957.
Shaped by the virtues and ideals of Kansas rural life, Hope was a standout congressman throughout his career. He genuinely believed he was in Washington to represent the ideals of the western Kansas farmers and families that were his friends and clients.
Hope served on the House Agriculture committee for his entire 30-year congressional career, including two stints as chairman in 1947-1948 and 1953-1954. He championed many efforts designed to stabilize agricultural prices, conserve soil and water, and provide support for farmers across the country.
Hope was known as a prolific letter writer. He never polled his constituents, instead relying on letters he received to garner information about his district. He responded to every letter he received, answering questions or explaining his decisions — whether you wanted his reply or not!
Throughout his tenure in congress, Hope was almost universally respected as a man of great courage and professionalism. He always put principles above party, never forgetting that he was in Washington to serve others, not himself. After thirty years of service in Congress, Hope decided to retire to his beloved home of Garden City.
Even after retiring from Congress, Hope spent his time focused on agricultural issues in western Kansas. He wrote a weekly column for the Salina Journal and the Hutchinson news, focused on issues important to farmers.
Hope also served as President of Great Plains Wheat, Inc., a cooperative organization designed to support farmers in Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado. Later, many other agricultural states joined the organization. With his Washington connections and a lifetime of experience supporting farmers, Hope was the obvious choice to lead the organization. He held the post from 1959 to 1963.
Never one to sit idle, Hope also served as President of the Kansas Historical Society.
Clifford R. Hope passed away on May 16, 1970 and was buried at Valley View Cemetary in Garden City. He left behind a son, Clifford Jr., and a daughter, Mrs. Frank West. These days, it’s hard to imagine a politician that is universally renowned by both his colleagues and his constituents, but it seems Hope achieved this rare feat.
When he began writing for the Hutchinson News in 1964, he was introduced to readers as a man who had achieved great success in politics with one of the “most distinguished careers of public service in the history of Kansas politics.” You can’t get a much better introduction than that.
Inspired by his father’s commitment to public service, Clifford Jr. also served in politics for most of his professional life. Additionally, he wrote a detailed biography about his father titled Quiet Courage, which can be found here.
Of all the great Americans that have emerged from America’s heartland, Clifford R. Hope certainly stands out for his contributions to Kansas and to the United States.