Thomas B. Curtis

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Thomas Bradford “Tom” Curtis

United States Representative for
Missouri's 12th (and later 2nd) Congressional Districts
In office
January 3, 1951 – January 3, 1969
Preceded by Raymond W. Karst
Succeeded by James W. Symington

Born May 14, 1911
St. Louis, Missouri
Died January 10, 1993 (aged 81)
Allegan, Michigan
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Susan Ross Chivvis Curtis (married c. 1941–1990, her death)[1]
Children Allan Curtis
Charles Curtis
Jonathan Curtis
Elizabeth Curtis Allen

Edward Glion and Isabel Wallace Curtis

Alma mater Dartmouth College
Washington University in St. Louis
Westminister College
(Fulton, Missouri)
Occupation Attorney
Religion Unitarian[2]

Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1942–1945
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Battles/wars World War II

Thomas Bradford Curtis, known as Tom Curtis (May 14, 1911 – January 10, 1993), was a Republican United States Representative for suburban St. Louis County, Missouri from 1951 to 1953 in congressional district 12 and from 1953 to 1969 in district 2.[3] Curtis was an early backer of the pivotal Civil Rights Act of 1964, having long defended the constitutional rights of African Americans though he represented a heavily white constituency.[4]

After leaving Congress, he served in the administration of U.S. President Richard Nixon as the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from 1973 to 1974 but left the post in a dispute. Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford named Curtis the first chairman of the Federal Election Commission, but he resigned thirteen months later in another dispute with the administration.[5]


Born in St. Louis, Curtis was a son of Edward Glion Curtis (1882–1940) and the former Isabel Wallace (1881–1964).[6] He attended public schools in suburban Webster Groves, Missouri, and in 1932 received an A.B. degree from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, at which he was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa. He was admitted to the Missouri bar in 1934, the year before he obtained his L.L.B. degree from Washington University in St. Louis. Much later in 1951, he obtained a Master of Arts from Dartmouth and a Juris Doctorate in 1964 from the private, Westminster College[5] in Fulton, Missouri, where Winston Churchill delivered his 1946 "Iron Curtain" speech.

Curtis served in the United States Navy in World War II from 1942 to 1945. He was discharged as a Lieutenant Colonel.[5]

Political career

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 originated in Curtis' office in 1962. He and fellow Republican legislator, William Moore McCulloch of Ohio, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, effectively forced President John F. Kennedy to deliver a somewhat hesitant message on civil rights in April 1963. Curtis' defense of civil rights was rooted partly in the Lincoln tradition of the GOP, but more simply in the belief that civil rights were at the base of the American philosophy of government and Judeo-Christian morality.[4]

Curtis did not sign the 1956 Southern Manifesto, the means by which mostly southern Democrats in both houses of Congress voiced opposition to the Brown v. Board of Education opinion, rendered two years earlier by a unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court. He supported civil rights legislation in 1957,[7]1960,[8], 1964,[9] 1965 (Voting Rights Act),[10] and 1968, which authorized an end to racial discrimination in the sale and rental of housing.[11]

Rep. Curtis voted against the 24th Amendment which outlawed poll taxes at the federal level and was later applied to the states.[12]

Curtis did not seek a tenth term in the House in 1968; instead, he polled 49 percent of the vote in the United States Senate election against the Democrat Thomas Eagleton.[13] Curtis polled 845,144 votes; Eagleton, 880,113. In 1974, a Democratic year nationally, Eagleton in a rematch defeated Curtis by a considerable margin, 735,433 (60 percent) to 480,900 (39 percent).[14]

Curtis was a noted economist and a strong supporter of free trade despite protectionist strength in Missouri.[4]

Later years

Curtis was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1964, 1976, and 1980. He served as vice president and general counsel of Encyclopædia Britannica from 1969 to 1973. He was a consultant for the National Association of Technical and Trade Schools.[5]

Curtis left Missouri and relocated to the resort area of Pier Cove, Michigan. He died at the age of eighty-one in nearby Allegan, Michigan. His burial site is unknown.[6]


  1. Susan Ross Chivvis 1918-1990 - Ancestry®, accessed November 12, 2021.
  2. Curtis. The Political Graveyard. Retrieved November 12, 2021.
  3. Missouri Biographical Dictionary - Jan Onofrio - Google Books, 2001, pp. 187-188, accessed November 12, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Geoffrey Kabaservice (March 15, 2010). Thomas Curtis: Free Trade and Civil Rights. Retrieved on November 12, 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Thomas B. Curtis is dead at 81; Missouri Republican defied Nixon. The New York Times (January 14, 1993). Retrieved on November 12, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Thomas Bradford “Tom” Curtis (1911-1993) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed November 12, 2021.
  7. HR 6127. Civil Rights Act of 1957.. Retrieved on November 12, 2021.
  8. HR 8601: Passage of Civil Rights Act of 1960. Retrieved on November 12, 2021.
  9. H.R. 7152. Passage of Civil Rights Act of 1964. Retrieved on November 12, 2021.
  10. To Pass H.R. 6400, the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Retrieved on November 12, 2021.
  11. Civil Rights Act of 1968. Retrieved on November 12, 2021.
  12. S.J. Res. 29. Constitutional Amendment to Ban the Use of Poll Tax as a Requirement for Voting in Federal Elections. Retrieved on November 12, 2021.
  13. MO US Senate Race - Nov 05, 1968. Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 12, 2021.
  14. MO US Senate Race - Nov 05, 1974. Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 12, 2021.

External links

  • Profile at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress