Raymond Clapper (1892-1944)
Raymond Lewis Clapper was born on May 30, 1892, in La Cygne, Kansas. Even as a child, Clapper demonstrated passion for the news. As a grade school student he not only read newspapers, but also kept a large file of clippings. After completing his elementary education, he went to work for the local printer, who encouraged his interest in art and politics. Inspired by his role model, Kansas editor William Allen White, a seventeen-year-old Clapper enrolled in high school and balanced his printing duties with schoolwork. In 1913, he married Olive Vincent Ewing and both enrolled in the University of Kansas where Raymond Clapper took journalism classes, became editor of the school newspaper, and covered the campus for the Kansas City Star. In 1916, they moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where Clapper joined the Star's staff.
Raymond Clapper's journalism skills were soon noticed by the United Press (UP) whose staff Clapper joined later that year. Determined to be a political reporter based in Washington, Clapper took whatever assignment he could to enhance his political portfolio. In 1923, UP rewarded his work and sent him to cover politics in the nation's capital. Soon, his coverage of the White House and Congress impressed both UP and his readers, and, in 1929, UP promoted Clapper to manager of its Washington branch.
His objective writing style and his ability to explain the politics and policies of Washington for the average reader made Clapper one of the most influential reporters in Washington. Infuriated by political corruption, Clapper devoted a great deal of his energy to calmly exposing back room deals. His investigations drew national attention in 1933 when his exposé, "Racketeering in Washington," appeared. The Washington Post recruited Clapper later that year and in 1934 he began a daily column, "Between You and Me," which Scripps-Howard syndicated among its 176 newspapers.
Although Clapper supported FDR and many of the New Deal initiatives, he opposed FDR's decision to run for a third term, and argued early on that America should defend Europe against fascism. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Clapper began to report on World War II and traveled with the United States Navy in the South Pacific. During the invasion of the Marshall Islands, Clapper was killed when the navy fighter-bomber carrying him broke formation in order to give him a better view of the bombed airfield and collided with another plane in the air.
The New York Times eulogized Clapper as a journalist who produced "what were generally accepted as among the most objective, tolerant and understanding views on national and foreign affairs."
American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, 907-8.
"Clapper Killed in Plane Crash," The New York Times, 4 February 1944.