Meet the craziest Congressman in Livingston County history, Kit Clardy

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Congressman Kit Clardy

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the craziest Congressman ever to represent Livingston County in Washington, D.C.

Kit Clardy.

I fancy myself a Livingston County political junkie, but I’d never heard of Kit Clardy until last week. Shame on me. I wish I had known about him years ago, because he sounds like a real pip.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately poring over old Livingston County newspapers online, in particular looking at old political ads. I was looking through an old Livingston County Press from 1954, and that’s when I found him.

Crazy Kit Clardy.

As you’ll see from his ad, Crazy Kit didn’t like Communists or anyone he thought might be associated with Communists. The list of Things Kit Clardy Didn’t Like also included Red China, Alger Hiss (look him up), and left-wing columnists and commentators

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You don’t hear much about Communists these days (insert your own Bernie Sanders joke here), but as this old ad shows, the Red Scare was a big deal back in the 1950s. Kit Clardy apparently built his entire political career on it.

It will not surprise you to learn that Kit Clardy was an acolyte of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the famed Communist Hunter of the time. Clardy, in fact, was known as “Michigan’s McCarthy,” and served on the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), where he helped McCarthy root out Communists. Clardy gained great fame in 1954 when he held a hearing in Lansing that looked into the supposedly Commie activities of three University of Michigan faculty members.

He didn’t stop there.

According to Wikipedia:

In May 1954 he conducted another HUAC hearing in Flint, Michigan, in which he reportedly “not only abused the witnesses but incited violence against them.” Recalling how in 1937 college youths had thrown union organizers for the UAW-CIO into the Red Cedar River. He said, “I was proud of those kids. They should also have tossed into the river the then Governor, the late Frank Murphy.” Reportedly, “Clardy’s conduct of the hearing contributed to the lynch spirit which swept the city. A number of workers were dragged from their jobs in automobile plants by lynch gangs and beaten; hostile witnesses were evicted from their homes; their families had to go into hiding to escape the fury of mob hoodlums; the office of the lawyer for the witnesses was smeared with red paint.”

Quite a charming guy.

Clardy was our Congressman for only one term. A Republican, he was elected in 1952 to represent Michigan’s 6th District (which included all of Livingston County). He then lost his re-election bid in 1954. According to his Wikipedia bio, he moved to California in 1956, and died there in 1961.


 

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Longtime Livingston County journalist Buddy Moorehouse is director of communications at the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.