Clement Claiborne Clay
|Confederate States Senator
February 18, 1862 – February 17, 1864
|Preceded by||Constituency established|
|Succeeded by||Richard Walker|
|United States Senator
November 29, 1853 – January 21, 1861
|Preceded by||Jeremiah Clemens|
|Succeeded by||Willard Warner|
December 13, 1816|
Huntsville, Alabama, US
|Died||January 3, 1882
Gurley, Alabama, US
|Alma mater||University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
University of Virginia
Clement Claiborne Clay (December 13, 1816 – January 3, 1882) was a United States Senator (Democrat) from the state of Alabama from 1853 to 1861, and a Confederate States Senator from Alabama from 1861 to 1863. His portrait appears on the Confederate one-dollar note (4th issue and later).
After the war he and his wife Virginia were imprisoned for a time by the United States government at Fort Monroe, on the suspicion of having been involved in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. They were released in 1866. Former president Jefferson Davis was also held there, but was never tried; he was released in 1867. Clay and his wife returned to Alabama where he became a merchant and planter.
Clement Clay was born with a strong political pedigree; he was the oldest son of Clement Comer Clay, a former senator and governor of Alabama. He was also a third cousin of Henry Clay, the noted statesman from Kentucky. Clay attended the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and graduated in 1834. He obtained a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1839 and was admitted to the bar in Alabama in 1840.
Marriage and family
In 1843 he married Virginia Tunstall, who was then 18 years old. They had one child, who died in infancy.
After Clement's death in 1882, Virginia remarried to David Clopton, a judge, and was known as Virginia Clay-Clopton. Virginia wrote Belle of the Fifties, a memoir with New York journalist Ada Sterling, published in 1904 and re-issued in 1905. Belle was one of three memoirs by southern women particularly recommended by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to its membership for serious study. These books became part of the discourse about the Lost Cause and the burnished memories of the antebellum South.
Clay was elected as a member of the Alabama State House of Representatives in 1842, 1844, and 1845. He was appointed as a county judge in Madison County, Alabama, where he served from 1848 to 1850. He ran for the United States Congress in 1850, but was not elected.
In 1853, he was elected by the Alabama legislature to serve in the United States Senate in a term beginning March 4, 1853. Due to the legislature's delay in filling the position, he served from November 29, 1853 to January 21, 1861. He withdrew from the senate when Alabama seceded from the Union in 1861 before the American Civil War. He was subsequently elected by the Alabama Confederate legislature as Senator in the First Confederate Congress. He served there from 1862 until 1864.
Clement Clay and Jacob Thompson were head of the Confederate secret agents. They had employed John Wilkes Booth for some services before he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Due to suspicions that Clay was involved in the assassination plot of Lincoln, he and his wife were arrested and imprisoned in Fortress Monroe in Hampton, Virginia in 1865; they were held for about a year.
- Sarah E. Gardner, Blood And Irony: Southern White Women's Narratives of the Civil War, 1861-1937, University of North Carolina Press, 2006, pp. 128-130
- Clement Claiborne Clay at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2009-04-06
- Short biography on Political Graveyard
- Clay-Clopton, Virginia. A Belle of the Fifties: Memoirs of Mrs. Clay, of Alabama, Covering Social and Political Life in Washington and the South, 1853-66, New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1905, c1904, full online text available at Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina.
- Nueremberger, Ruth Ketring. The Clays of Alabama, Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1958.
|United States Senate|
|United States Senator (Class 2) from Alabama
Served alongside: Benjamin Fitzpatrick
|Confederate States Senate|
|New constituency||Confederate States Senator (Class 1) from Alabama
Served alongside: William Yancey, Robert Jemison
|Notes and references|
|1. Because of Alabama's secession, the Senate seat was vacant for seven years before Warner succeeded Clay.|