Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,300

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,300


This is the grave of James Colgate Cleveland.

Born in Montclair, New Jersey in 1920, Cleveland grew up pretty rich and attended Deerfield Acacdemy, the elite boarding school. In fact, his sister was the actress Patience Cleveland, who was mostly in minor film roles but did tons and tons of TV appearances. Then he was on to Colgate University (named for the same ancestor as his middle name) and Yale Law. He took time off from law school to fight in World War II, serving with honor in the Philippines, and he was a captain of field artillery by the time of his discharge in 1946. He went back to Yale, finished up there in 1948, and was admitted to the bar in 1949.

Cleveland moved to New Hampshire to practice but he almost immediately got involved in politics. Unfortunately, he was a Republican. He was elected to the New Hampshire state senate in 1950. The family had long connections in elite New Hampshire circles, so I don’t know why they were in New Jersey when he was born. He went back to the Army in 1951 to fight in Korea and he was a legit soldier, winning the Bronze Star. He was there until late 1952, not resigning his seat. He went right back to it upon his return, became majority leader, and then stayed in office until 1962.

That year, he ran for Congress. He claimed it was because there just wasn’t anyone else, so he would sacrifice to do it. But this is such an old 19th century ruse–the man who won’t campaign and doesn’t really want to do it, but he’s a good republican American and thus must do what is necessary before returning to his farm like Cincinnatus. OK Cleveland. Anyway, he was in Congress through 1980. He was noted for sending out questionnaires to his constituents and then voting what they wanted rather than what he wanted. I don’t know how valid this claim really is, but it is one he made.

Cleveland was something of an expert on transportation issues in Congress, but what he really did was make sure that his district got a whole lotta pork. That was his basic goal and so he served on the infrastructure based committees to make that happen. He also moved to the right over the years. In the state legislature, he was known as a liberal, but as he served time in Congress, he moved way to the right on economic matters and became known as a cost-cutting conservative later in his career. Of course he made exceptions for himself in his complaints about Congress and pork.

When Cleveland finally left office in 1981, he was replaced by Judd Gregg, a name that makes me want to vomit in my mouth. Cleveland went back to his law practice, based in the town of New London, New Hampshire.

I don’t know why I find it so interesting that Cleveland named one of his children Cotton Mather Cleveland, but I do. Who names their kid Cotton in the mid 20th century? What are you doing to the kid? Also, who names their kid after Cotton Mather period? Sad to say he did not name his other kids after Increase Mather. He should have gone all the way.

Cleveland died in 1995 of a stroke. He was 75 years old. Incidentally, his wife Hillary became a leader among anti-Iraq War Republican women. The Clevelands and the Bushes were good friends, but she was so horrified by George W. Bush that she turned against him and tried to organize Republicans to oppose the war. Not much success in that, but worth noting. In truth, this makes her more interesting than him. But hey, a grave is a grave.

James Colgate Cleveland is buried in Old Main Street Cemetery, New London, New Hampshire.

If you would like this series to visit other Republican congresscritters of the 60s and 70s, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. For the 89th Congress, Gerald Ford was Minority Leader, who I have already covered. Leslie Arends, the Minority Whip, is in Melvin, Illinois, and Melvin Laird, who was Republican Conference Chairman, is in Arlington. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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