James C. Clark


Senator Claude Pepper’s defeat in the 1950 Democratic primary by Representative George Smathers has become one of the most controversial elections in Florida politics. The race between Pepper, a New Deal liberal, and Smathers, a traditional southern conservative, attracted national attention. But Pepper’s popularity actually began to decline in 1944, when he narrowly avoided a runoff election against a field of little-known candidates. The 1944 election indicated some of Pepper’s political weaknesses that Smathers would exploit six years later. Claude Pepper followed an unusual route to the United States Senate. He was born in Alabama in 1900, was graduated from the University of Alabama in 1921, and Harvard University Law School in 1924. After teaching one year at the University of Arkansas Law School, he moved to Perry, Florida, during the 1925 land boom to be an attorney for a land development company. In 1928 Pepper was elected to the Florida House of Representatives from Taylor County, one of the state’s smallest and most politically conservative counties, but was defeated two years later when he sought re-election. In November 1930 Pepper moved to Tallahassee to resume his practice of law.