Clair Burgener

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Clair Burgener
Clair Burgener.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from California
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1983
Preceded byNew Constituency (Redistricting)
Succeeded byRon Packard
Constituency42nd district (1973–75)
43rd district (1975–83)
Member of the California State Senate
from the 38th district
In office
Preceded byThomas M. Rees
Succeeded byJohn Stull
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 76th district
In office
Preceded byLeverette D. House
Succeeded byPete Wilson
Personal details
Sinclair Walter Burgener[citation needed]

(1921-12-05)December 5, 1921
Vernal, Utah, U.S.
DiedSeptember 9, 2006(2006-09-09) (aged 84)
Encinitas, California, U.S.
Political partyRepublican

Sinclair Walter "Clair" Burgener[citation needed] (December 5, 1921 – September 9, 2006) was an American Republican politician and member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1973-1983.

Early life[edit]

Clair Burgener was born in Vernal, Utah, and grew up there and in Salt Lake City. He served in the Pacific in the Army Air Corps during World War II as a navigator. He attained second lieutenant and was awarded the Air Medal in 1945. Later, he was recalled for Air Force service during the Korean War.[1]

Burgener graduated from San Diego State College with a BA in liberal arts. He was a realtor in the early 1950s with his brother. In 1951 Burgener was on the stage of the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park, playing Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey for a 33-day run.

Burgener was a Latter-day Saint.[2]

Political life[edit]

At a cocktail party one evening, as related by Lionel Van Deerlin, an oilman from Texas said, "I like the cut of your jib, young fella." He continued, "If you do go into politics, I'd like to help. Here's a check for five thousand dollars. Cash it whenever you decide to run." A few months later, Burgener ran for a city council vacancy, but returned the check, writing, "Thank you very much, but I feel it would be improper to accept so large an amount from a single out-of-state contributor."[citation needed]

Burgener was elected to the San Diego City Council in 1953, serving until 1957. On the city council he pushed for the development of Mission Bay Park. Burgener later recalled the office as "the job I enjoyed the least".

Burgener was then elected to the California State Assembly 1963–1967 and California State Senate, 1967–1973. Burgener later said his time in the State Capitol constituted his most productive and rewarding years. He was most proud of state legislation he pushed through in 1963 that mandated classroom training for the intellectually disabled.

Burgener was elected to five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1973 to 1983. He had a mostly conservative voting record, but often crossed party lines to work with Van Deerlin, a Democrat, to further San Diego interests.

In 1980, Ku Klux Klan leader Tom Metzger won the Democratic primary in Burgener's district, at that time the most populous Congressional district in the country. The Democrats, from Gov. Jerry Brown on down, disavowed Metzger and endorsed Burgener, clinching his election to a fifth term.[3] Burgener dug up and publicized Metzger's frequent, ill-conceived statements and won the election with 86% of the vote, breaking a 40-year-old record for votes received in a House race.[4] In 1982 he did not seek reelection and retired.

Post-political life[edit]

Burgener remained active in civic and political affairs after his retirement. He was a Regent of the University of California during 1988–1997. After Burgener's son Rod was diagnosed as developmentally disabled, Burgener became a champion of mentally-disabled children. He has done much work for, and has headed various associations and committees helping retarded children, including the Clair Burgener Foundation for the Developmentally Disabled.

After his retirement, Congressman Burgener lived at Rancho Santa Fe, California with his wife Marvia when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Burgener died in 2006 in Encinitas, California. He and his wife were survived by two sons, John and Greg.[4]


Named for Burgener are the Clair Burgener Academy, Oceanside, California, the Clair Burgener Clinical Research Diagnostic Unit, University of California, San Diego.


  1. ^ Vassar, Alexander C. (2011). Legislators of California (PDF). Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  2. ^ The Political Graveyard: Mormon Politicians in Utah
  3. ^ "Democrats Disavow Nominee From Klan" (Article abstract; payment or subscription required for full article). The New York Times. June 6, 1980.
  4. ^ a b "Clair Burgener dies at 84". North County Times. September 10, 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29.

External links[edit]

California Assembly
Preceded by
Leverette D. House
California State Assemblyman, 76th District
Succeeded by
Pete Wilson
California Senate
Preceded by
Thomas M. Rees
California State Senator, 38th District
Succeeded by
John Stull
U.S. House of Representatives
New district Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 42nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Lionel Van Deerlin
Preceded by
Victor Veysey
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 43rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Ron Packard