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Bill Clay: A Political Voice at the Grass Roots
Book cover of Bill Clay: A Political Voice at the Grass Roots
Bill Clay: A Political Voice at the Grass Roots

As Democratic ward committeeman for more than 20 years (a position that controlled many patronage jobs), Bill Clay Sr. was forced to endorse candidates in primary elections, even in the most contentious and divisive contests. This committee post was concurrent with his congressional responsibilities, putting the committeeman-congressman at the epicenter of most local political storms. Clay recounts his 42-year odyssey through a career filled with controversy, conflict, and confrontation. He challenged both the established rule of the white St. Louis power structure and the black "don't rock the boat" political and civil rights advocates. In the process, he changed the face of a racially discriminatory economic, political, and social system. Clay's struggle to gain power and to keep it was not confined to fights with other politicians and business executives, however. It also involved an ongoing fight for his political survival with the media. One daily newspaper waged a publicly declared campaign to ensure his loss in every election. Without compromising his principles or softening his attacks on racists and racism, Clay battled back. He won re-election 15 consecutive times, and the newspaper eventually folded. In the end, Clay, using his tremendous vote-getting apparatus, became one of Missouri's most powerful political voices in controlling election-year issues and determining the success of candidates' campaigns in both citywide and statewide elections.

"A fuller and fascinating story about the man who shaped black politics for several decades."
-Robert Joiner in
the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

344 pages, 40 ills., index
ISBN: 1-883982-52-9, $32.95, hardcover
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