Saturday, December 1, 2012

Lodovica Ramage Clements (1851-1939)

   During a long life that extended nearly nine decades, Lodovica Ramage Clements was a native Ohioan who migrated to Iowa at a young age and later found distinction in the realms of business and politics. Long prominent in Marion County public affairs, Clements was elected to the Iowa State House of Representatives in 1936 at the age of 85, the oldest man ever to be elected to that body in its history. The rare portrait of Clements shown above was discovered via the Iowa Legislature's Historical Legislator database and many of the facts contained herein were located in his 1939 obituary in the Pella Chronicle newspaper.
   Lodovica Ramage Clements was born in Morgan (some sources say Belmont) County, Ohio on November 6, 1851, one of five children born to John Ray (1824-1888) and Malinda Ramage Clements (1825-1914). Why John and Malinda decided to bestow the unusual name "Lodovica" upon their third born son has been lost to history, and sources have also been located that give two alternate spellings of his first name as "Lodovico" and "Lovodica". The middle name Ramage originates from Mrs. Clement's maiden name.
    The Clements family relocated from Ohio to the county of Jasper, Iowa in November 1855 and later settled in the village of  Newton. Lodovica Clements attended schools local to Newton and Wittenburg, Iowa, and as an adolescent enrolled at the Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. He married in October 1875 to Angeline Jacobs (1852-1907) a native of Mt. Carroll, Illinois. Four children were eventually born this couple and are listed as follows: Lena R. (1877-1901), Josephine (1881-1969), Pearl (born 1882) and Harold (born 1892). Lodovica and his family moved to the city of Des Moines in 1881 and soon after arriving became involved in the manufacture of furniture. He continued in this line of work for a number of years and later became a producer of excelsior (wood wool) at plants in Cainsville, Missouri and Harvey, Iowa. Clements' Pella Chronicle obituary also records him as being involved in the timber industry. 
   In 1907 Angeline Jacobs Clements died at the age of 55 and Lodovica never remarried after her death. In 1917 he was named as the deputy clerk for the district court of Marion County and served in this post until 1921. He was reappointed to this position in 1930 when he was 79 and was the incumbent until 1935. In the following year Clements became a Democratic candidate for the Iowa State House of Representatives from Marion County, and in November won election to the legislature at the advanced age of 85!

From the 1936 Pella Chronicle.

   Taking his seat in January 1937, "Lode" Clements was the oldest member of the Iowa legislature serving in that session and also holds the distinction of "being the oldest man to have served as an elected member of that body", according to the Pella Chronicle. During his brief term of service Clements held seats on the committees on Agriculture; Banks and Banking; Commerce and Trade; Labor; Public Utilities; Railroads and Roads and Highways. He also served as chairman of the committee on Mines and Mining. Clements ran for reelection in 1938 against Republican candidate Carroll Johnson (1913-2001), a man nearly 60 years his junior! Clements was unsuccessful in his attempt for a second term, and one can wonder if his age may have been a factor in influencing the electorate to vote for the younger Republican candidate!

Portrait courtesy of the Iowa Legislative database.

    Despite losing his seat, the 87-year-old Clements still maintained an active schedule, being a parishioner at the Newton Presbyterian church, a member of the local Odd Fellows Lodge (for over 56 years!) and was the last surviving charter member of the Center Star Lodge #588 of Des Moines. The Pella Chronicle notes that Clements was an "extensive reader and was unusually well informed about matters of public welfare and progress; and, not withstanding his advanced age, he retained his mental faculties and memory as perfectly as in his earlier years, and did not lose interest in public affairs." 
   Lodovica Clements died on December 16, 1939, at a hospital in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He was 88 years old at the time of his death and was subsequently interred alongside his wife at the Newton Union Cemetery in Newton, Iowa. He was memorialized in the Pella Chronicle as having "keen insight into the affairs of today, and their solution often gave him ideas far in advance of his time."

Lodovica Clement's obituary from the December 1939 Pella Chronicle newspaper.

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