John Danforth, U.S. Senator and Ambassador to the United Nations

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John Claggett "Jack" Danforth

Current Location:: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Birthplace: St Louis, MO, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Donald Danforth, I and Dorothy Danforth
Husband of Private
Brother of Private; Donald Danforth, Jr. and Private

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About John Danforth, U.S. Senator and Ambassador to the United Nations

John Claggett "Jack" Danforth (born September 5, 1936) is a former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and former Republican United States Senator from Missouri. He is an ordained Episcopal priest. Danforth is married to Sally D. Danforth and has five adult children.

Education and early career

Danforth was born in 1936 in St. Louis, Missouri. He attended St. Louis Country Day School, received his bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1958, and attended both law and divinity graduate schools at Yale University. Danforth is the grandson of William H. Danforth, founder of Ralston Purina. His father was Donald Danforth, a former chief executive of the company. One of his brothers is Dr. Bill Danforth, former chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis.

He is a brother in the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity.

In his first bid to run for public office at any level he was elected in 1968 at the age of 32 to be Missouri Attorney General. On his staff of assistant attorneys general were Kit Bond, John Ashcroft, and Clarence Thomas.

In 1970 Danforth ran for the United States Senate for the first time, against Democratic incumbent Stuart Symington. Danforth was defeated in a close race.

In 1972 Danforth's colleague Bond was elected Missouri Governor at the age of 33, and Danforth was re-elected Attorney General. The two projected an image of Missouri's young Republican wunderkind in a state that traditionally had been Democratic.

Senate races

In 1976 Danforth ran to succeed retiring Senator Stuart Symington. He 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 entire 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. She 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. Woods and Danforth stayed on good terms following her defeat.

In 1988 Danforth easily defeated Democrat Jay Nixon, 68% to 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."

Senate career

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. The bond was further strengthened in that both men had studied to be ordained. Thomas was studying to be a Catholic priest at Conception Seminary College in Nodaway County, Missouri when a racial comment he heard at the college about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. caused him to quit. After leaving the seminary, Thomas attended Episcopal services, and Danforth is an ordained Episcopal priest.

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".

Danforth is a longtime opponent of the capital punishment, as he made clear on Senate floor in 1994.

When Danforth entered 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.

Post-Senate career

Danforth has had a colorful post-Senate career.

Office of Special Counsel - Waco — 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."
Short list of vice president candidates — 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.  Bush secretly met with Danforth at a hotel in Chicago, and three days later Danforth held a press conference stating he would be stepping down from his appointed role in the Waco investigations because an unforeseen political opportunity had suddenly come up. 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.
U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan — 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 July 1, 2004, Danforth was sworn in as the U.S. 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 only stayed at the UN for five 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."

Funerals of Ronald Reagan and Katharine Graham — 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.
Battles with the Christian Right — 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 both pro and con. The Washington Post on February 2, 2006, headlined its article "'St. Jack' and the Bullies in the Pulpit". Danforth is the author of the book Faith and Politics: How the "Moral Values" Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together.

Danforth has received a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Danforth is currently a partner at Bryan Cave.

Danforth is one of the eight directors (not all living) of the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Danforth is currently a Member of the Global Leadership Foundation, an organization which works to promote good governance around the world.

Danforth is an Honorary Board Member of the humanitarian organization Wings of Hope.

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John Danforth, U.S. Senator and Ambassador to the United Nations's Timeline

September 5, 1936
St Louis, MO, United States