KNOXVILLE –- Saying he wants to encourage citizens to take a more active role in government, former U.S. Rep. Bob Clement donated his political papers to the Modern Political Archives, a joint effort of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and the University of Tennessee Libraries.
“We’ve become a nation of spectators rather than participants. I think that’s a tragedy,” Clement said in a call for increased civic involvement at a recent breakfast reception at the University Club.
The Baker Center, which opened in 2003, is a non-partisan center dedicated to creating a better understanding of government and fostering a greater appreciation for the importance of public service. The center offers programs for students, teachers and the public, and houses the Modern Political Archives, which include the papers of U.S. Sens. Howard H. Baker Jr., Estes Kefauver, Fred Thompson and William Emerson Brock III; Govs. Donald Sundquist and Winfield Dunn; U.S. Congressmen John J. Duncan Sr. and Howard H. Baker Sr.; U.S. Congresswoman Irene Baker; and state Sen. Ben Atchley.
“Representative Clement’s papers will form an essential part of our collection,” Baker Center Executive Director Alan Lowe said. Plans are also being developed to conduct an oral history interview with Clement for the archival collection.
Clement said it’s important to educate the public, especially youth, about the role of public service.
He said it saddens him to hear people complain about issues, such as the high price of gasoline, and then dismiss them by saying, “but that’s just the way it is.”
“That’s just the way it is — unless people stand up and speak out,” he said. “In 1976 we celebrated our country’s 200th birthday. If we don’t rededicate and recommit ourselves, we won’t see our 300th birthday.”
Clement said he’s proud of his public service.
“It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve learned a lot,” he said, reflecting briefly on the various elected and appointed positions he’s held.
He recalled how he used to make speeches with his father on the campaign trail, Clement credited his parents with showing him the importance of public service.
“Aren’t we all public servants whether we’re elected or not?” he said.
In addition to 15 years in Congress, Clement has served on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of directors, on Tennessee’s Public Service Commission and as president of Cumberland University.
The son of former Tennessee Gov. Frank Clement, Bob Clement was born and raised in Nashville. He graduated from UT in 1967 and spent 30-plus years in the U.S. Army, first as an active duty officer, then as a member of the Tennessee National Guard. He retired from the Guard as a colonel in 2001.
From 1972 to 1978, Clement represented East Tennessee on the state Public Service Commission, and in 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed him to fill a two-year term on the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors.
From 1983 to 1987, Clement was president of Cumberland University.
In 1988, Clement was elected to represent Tennessee’s 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. During his eight terms in Congress, he served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Railroad subcommittee and the Highways and Transit subcommittee. He also was a member of the International Affairs and Budget committees and formed the Congressional Education Caucus, which he co-chaired.
Since leaving the U.S. House of Representatives, Clement has run a consulting firm. He recently announced the formation of an exploratory committee to raise funds for a potential race for mayor of Nashville.