|24th United States Ambassador to the United Nations|
July 23, 2004 - January 20, 2005
|President||George W. Bush|
|John D. Negroponte|
|John R. Bolton|
|United States Senator|
December 27, 1976 - January 3, 1995
|37th Attorney General of Missouri|
January 13, 1969 - December 27, 1976
|Governor||Warren E. Hearnes|
|Special Counsel for the|
United States Department of Justice
September 9, 1999 - c. July 23, 2000
|Deputy||Edward L. Dowd Jr.|
|Position not in use|
John Claggett Danforth
September 5, 1936
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
|Education||Princeton University (BA)|
Yale University (JD, MDiv)
John Claggett Danforth (born September 5, 1936) is a retired American politician who began his career in 1968 as the Attorney General of Missouri and served three terms as United States Senator from Missouri. In 2004, he served briefly as United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Danforth is an ordained Episcopal priest.
Danforth was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Dorothy (Claggett) and Donald Danforth. He is the grandson of William H. Danforth, founder of Ralston Purina. Danforth's brother, Dr. William Henry Danforth, is former chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis.
Danforth attended St. Louis Country Day School and went on to Princeton University where he received his bachelor's degree in Religion in 1958. He received degrees from Yale Law School and Yale Divinity School in 1963. Danforth practiced law at the New York law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell from 1963-1968
Before Danforth entered Republican politics, Missouri was a reliably Democratic state with both its U.S. Senators and Governors regularly being Democrats. Prior to Symington, Danforth's seat in the Senate was held by Democratic Party heavyweights Thomas Hart Benton and Harry S. Truman.
Danforth was elected in 1968 at the age of 32 to be Missouri Attorney General, the first Republican elected statewide in 40 years. On his staff of assistant attorneys general were Kit Bond, John Ashcroft, and Clarence Thomas. Danforth was reelected in 1972.
In 1976 Danforth ran to succeed Symington, who was retiring. Danforth ran in the Republican primary with little opposition. The Democrats had a three-way battle among Symington's son James W. Symington, former Missouri Governor Warren Hearnes and rising political star Congressman Jerry Litton. Litton and his family were killed when the plane taking them to their victory party in Kansas City crashed on take off in Chillicothe, Missouri. Hearnes, who had finished second in the primary far behind Litton, was appointed to challenge Danforth. Danforth easily won even though Jimmy Carter of Georgia won Missouri in the presidential election.
Danforth was narrowly re-elected in 1982. His Democratic opponent was Harriett Woods, a relatively unknown state senator from the St. Louis suburb of University City, Missouri. She was active in women's rights organizations and collected union support and was a cousin of Democratic Senator Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio. Her speeches denounced Ronald Reagan's policies so vigorously that she ran on the nickname, "Give 'em Hell, Harriett" (a play on the famous Truman phrase). Danforth won 51% to 49%. Woods' pro-choice stance was said to be the reason for her defeat.
In 1988 Danforth defeated Democrat Jay Nixon, 68%-32%. Danforth chose not to run for a fourth term and retired from the Senate in 1995. He was succeeded by former Missouri governor John Ashcroft. Nixon would later be elected to Danforth's former post as Missouri Attorney General, and in 2008, Governor of Missouri.
In January 2001, when Missouri Democrats lined up against John Ashcroft to oppose his nomination for U.S. Attorney General, Danforth's name was invoked. Former U.S. Senator Tom Eagleton reacted to the nomination by saying: "John Danforth would have been my first choice. John Ashcroft would have been my last choice."
During the 1991 Senate hearings regarding U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, Danforth used his considerable clout to aid the confirmation of Thomas, who had served Danforth during his state attorney general years and later as an aide in the Senate.
A political moderate, Danforth was once quoted as saying he joined the Republican Party for "the same reason you sometimes choose which movie to see -- [it's] the one with the shortest line."
On July 1, 2004, Danforth was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, succeeding John Negroponte, who left the post after becoming the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq in June. Danforth is best remembered for attempts to bring peace to the Sudan but stayed at the UN for just six months. Danforth was mentioned as a successor to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Six days after the announcement that Condoleezza Rice was going to take the position Danforth submitted his resignation on November 22, 2004, effective January 20, 2005. Danforth's resignation letter said, "Forty-seven years ago, I married the girl of my dreams, and, at this point in my life, what is most important to me is to spend more time with her."
In 1999, Democratic U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Danforth to lead an investigation into the FBI's role in the 1993 Waco Siege. Danforth appointed Democratic U.S. Attorney Edward L. Dowd Jr. for the Eastern District of Missouri as his deputy special counsel for Waco. He also hired Bryan Cave law firm partner Thomas A. Schweich as his chief of staff. Assistant U.S. Attorney James G. Martin served as Danforth's director of investigative operations for what became known as the "Waco Investigation" or "Danforth Report."
In July 2000, Danforth's name was leaked as being on the short list of potential vice presidential nominees for Republican candidate George W. Bush, along with Michigan Governor John Engler, New York Governor George Pataki, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, and former American Red Cross President Elizabeth Dole. Just one week before the 2000 Republican National Convention was to be held in Philadelphia, campaign sources said that Dick Cheney, the man charged with leading the selection process for the nominee, had recommended Danforth to Bush for the position. However, despite growing speculation that Danforth was Bush's final pick, Bush selected Cheney himself for the position. Bush wrote in his autobiography Decision Points that Danforth would have been his choice if Cheney did not accept.
In September 2001, President Bush appointed Danforth a special envoy to Sudan. He brokered a peace deal that officially ended the civil war in the South between Sudan's Islamic government and Christian-backed Sudanese rebels, but elements of that conflict still remain unresolved (as has the separate Darfur conflict). The Second Sudanese Civil War ended in January 2005, with the signing of a peace agreement. Due to the Islamic-dominated North's military superiority, most of southern Sudan was decimated and the Christian rebels, and thus Danforth, achieved little for their efforts.
On March 30, 2005, Danforth wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times critical of the Republican party. The article began: "By a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians...". The article by an ordained Episcopal priest (followed by a June 17, 2005 piece headlined "Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers") ignited considerable debate.[why?]The Washington Post on February 2, 2006, headlined its article "'St. Jack' and the Bullies in the Pulpit".
Contributing to the anthology Our American Story (2019), Danforth addressed the possibility of a shared American narrative and focused on the "great American purpose" of "hold[ing] together in one nation a diverse and often contentious people." He encouraged continued work "to demand a functioning government where compromise is the norm, to integrate all our people into one indivisible nation, and to incorporate separated individuals into the wholeness of the community."
Danforth married the former Sally Dobson in 1957. They have five children and 15 grandchildren.
As an ordained Episcopal priest, Danforth officiated the funeral services of former president Ronald Reagan on June 11, 2004 at the Washington National Cathedral although Ronald Reagan was not an Episcopalian. He did the same for Washington Post executive Katharine Graham in 2001, also at the National Cathedral. He also officiated the funeral services of former United States Senator Harry Flood Byrd Jr. of Virginia at Christ Episcopal Church in Winchester on August 3, 2013. He also officiated at the funeral services of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich in March, 2015.
Media related to John Danforth at Wikimedia Commons
| Attorney General of Missouri
|Party political offices|
Jean P. Bradshaw
| Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Missouri
1970, 1976, 1982, 1988
| United States Senator (Class 1) from Missouri
Served alongside: Thomas Eagleton, Kit Bond
| Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee
| United States Ambassador to the United Nations