Senator Clingan Jackson (1907-1997)
Part I. His Political Career

It has been 22 years since Mr. Clingan Jackson, extraprofessional reporter, retired from writing for the Youngstown Vindicator. Today most middle-aged and senior citizen readers can still recall seeing his political columns in the Vindicator. It can be said that he had a way of making Youngstown’s politics interesting reading. However, it can also be said that not every voter in Poland, Ohio shared his views of the Democratic Party. Clingan would also write about Youngstown’s history and gave his readers many little known facts from the past. Mr. Jackson has been dead eight years, but for all of his 90 years in theYoungstown area he made quite a name for himself. Few men have met and talked to more U.S. presidents, senators, congressmen and governors than Clingan Jackson. Here is the beginning of his life’s story. More will follow in the next issues.
Clingan Jackson was born on March 28, 1907, and raised on a farm on the east side of Youngstown. We are told that his ancestors had settled in this part of the Western Reserve long before John Young arrived with his party of surveyors to design the town which now bares his name. Today the farm house where Clingan Jackson grew up is located on Jacobs Road just south of the bridge which crosses McKelvey Lake. The McKelvey Dam was built in 1925 or six years after the Jackson family moved to the Hillsville, Pennsylvania, area. Clingan attended high school in Lowellville and graduated in
1929 from the University of Colorado, where he majored in history and english. He returned to Youngstown and began working in September as a reporter for the Vindicator. The next month saw the stock market crash and by the end of the year of 1929 Clingan was notified he had one more week to serve with the newspaper. He gives the following account. “When I went to turn in my key to the Vindicator Building William Maag asked, ‘Do you have another job?’ ‘No’ I said, ‘but I’ll be looking for one.’ ‘Just stay here until you locate another job,’ Maag replied, and I stayed for 54 years.”
At the age of 25 Clingan Jackson entered politics by being elected to the Lowellville Village Council. Two years later he ran for the Ohio General Assembly with the Democratic Party’s endorsement. This was 1934 and, although the Republican voters out numbered the Democrats, President Roosevelt’s New Deal had caught hold and Mr. Jackson won over the incumbents with a majority of 20,000 votes. From Clingan’s election to now the Democratics have been the predominant party in Mahoning County.
In 1936 Clingan Jackson decided to be a candidate for the U.S.Congress. Mike Kirwan won the nomination and would continue in that office for the next 34 years. Mr. Jackson’s next attempt for a government office occurred in 1944 when he ran and was elected Ohio state senator. For the next six years he was active in postwar issues and was credited with bringing more efficiency into Ohio’s conservation efforts. In the 1947-48 session of the Ohio Senate Mr. Jackson proposed the Strip Mine Act which returned the soil to a gentle rolling surface with quality planting.
Early in 1958 Mr. Jackson was asked to be a candidate for the office of Ohio Governor. Since he had been a state representative, senator, and a member and chairman of a number of state commissions, it seemed that he was highly qualified. He went through the motions of a candidate and did well in Mahoning County but poorly statewide. He lost to Michael V. DiSalle, who had been mayor of Toledo.

Part II. His Newspaper Career

On May 26, 1997 Clingan Jackson died in the Northside Medical Center at the age of 90. His death ended a career that took him to the Ohio General Assembly as a senator and state representative. However, he is best remembered as Youngstown’s politics editor for 47 years. As editor Mr. Jackson was involved in or witnessed most of the major events of the greater part of the 20th century from the Depression years, then on through World War II, to the iron-workers’ labor struggles, and finally to the industrial decline here in Mahoning County.
“Without question, he is the most knowledgeable political historian in the entire state of Ohio,” said Don L. Hanni Jr., former longtime chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party.
“This man was a walking history book.” Much of what Sen. Jackson experienced was written down in his autobiography, “Clingan’s Chronicles,” published and editted in 1991 by Andrea Wood of the Business Journal. (Andrea is a resident of Poland, Ohio.)

In July of this year Mrs. Susan Ehas, Jackson’s daughter, who is now living in Waverly, Ohio, arrived at Poland’s Red School House on Route 224. She brought 4 large cardboard boxes filled with memorabilia collected by Sen. Jackson during his lifetime at The Vindicator. The Poland Township Historical Society accepted the collection and now has the task of cataloguing these newspaper clippings and photographs. Also included in the boxes are most of the historical articles written by Mr. Jackson over the course of his newspaper career. Poland is very fortunate to have this extensive and valuable collection of local history in its possession.

In his autobiography Sen. Jackson writes about the most important event of his life’s career, becoming The Vindicator’s political editor in 1936. He thanks Mr. Maag, publisher, for having the courage to permit him to actively serve in the political arena while writing about politics. Mr. Maag was greatly criticized by other Ohio newspaper editors who believed anyone writing about politics should not be affiliated or taking an active part in politics.

Part of Mr. Jackson’s duties as political editor was to develop a poll that picked the winners in advance of an election. His poll was based on taking a cross secton of the voters rather than relying on those who returned straw ballots. Mr. Jackson’s poll proved very accurate in predicting President Truman’s 1948 victory. George Gallup’s poll was so inaccurate that the renouned pollster chose Sen. Jackson to attend a conference to establish new and effective ways of polling elections.

Part III. His Family

I once had the privilege to talk with the Senator in the 1980s. At that time I was working for the Ohio Water Service Company and he was seeking to enlarge the Jackson Family Cemetery in Coitsville Township. The Water company owned much of the land adjacent to the cemetery. We talked on the telephone, at length, about the possible sale of a portion of the McKelvey Lake property. I called him back some weeks later to say that the company felt that grave sites next to the Lake might jeopardize the quality of this major water supply to the City of Campbell.

The Jackson Family Cemetery was very special to the Senator. Many of his old neighbors and family members were buried there. Fronting on State Route 616 (Youngstown-Hubbard Rd.) and opposite the Coitsville Presbyterian Church were the graves of his father and mother. A few feet away is the grave of his older brother, Thomas Lamar, who died in 1987. If you visit this cemetery today you can easily find the standing tombstone marking the Clingan Jackson’s grave. He is buried next to Thelma Rex, his second wife of 45 years.
In the book “Clingan’s Chronicles” Mr. Jackson talks of his three marriages. His first marriage was to his high school sweetheart, Virginia Fenton. She was a pretty blonde who grew up on a Poland Township dairy farm north of Lowellville. The wedding occurred in 1932 and the couple moved into a small house at 277 Walnut Street in Lowellville, Ohio. The marriage ended a year later when Virginia died from an infection caused by stepping on a straw stubble in her father’s barn yard. To overcome his sadness, Clingan Jackson threw himself into politics.
In July of 1935 Mr. Jackson remarried. This time to an attractive brunette named Thelma “Billy” Rex. Billy, as everyone called her, had been a bookkeeper and then secretary to the Mill Creek Park commissioner. This marriage lasted until Billy suffered a stroke and died in July 1980. During their marriage the couple raised two daughters, both of whom were adopted as infants. The eldest daughter was Susan who later graduated from Miami University of Ohio and who now lives in Weaverly, Ohio with her husband, Allen Ehas. Maryann, the second daughter, arrived in 1947 and was nine years younger than Susan. She married Charles Hall and worked in Washington D.C. until her death in 2004. At the last count there are 5 grandsons and one great-grandson to this marriage.
Some time after Billy’s death the Senator married for the third time. His third wife’s name was Loretta Fitch. She was the sister-in-law to his brother. Loretta had one son, three granddaughters and six great-grandchildren. She also had the Loretta Fitch Florist Shop at the corner of Route 616 and 422. Clingan Jackson is quoted in his book as saying, “If it were not for my wives, I would be less than what I am and if it not be much, it certainly is not their fault.” He is also quoted as saying, “What a man knows in the great display in the universe is very comparable with what most animals understand. The squirrel looks to his comfort and much of man’s efforts is spent in the same way.”