Clayton Hodgson

Plymouth County Democrats, 4/3/2017 Edition 1, Volume 4

Tell me about your family:

My wife Ardella and I met as students at Westmar College in Le Mars in 1951 and were married April 7, 1962. We have four great kids, Beth, David, Jill, and Doug; nine grandchildren; and 3 great-grandchildren.

Tell me about your hobbies or interests, past or present:

My hobbies include fishing, photography (college annual photographer at Westmar and post photographer at Fitzsimons Army Hospital), camping, cycling (a founding member of the Plymouth County Cyclists and frequent participant of RAGBRAI and other area rides), reading US history books and books about famous people, and actively volunteering with the Plymouth County Democrats.

Tell me about your educational and occupational history:

I spent the first nine years (primary through 8th grade) of schooling at Stanton #5 grade school located six miles south of Le Mars. I was one of the 18 or 20 students there. High school was in the Le Mars Community School, specializing in vocational agriculture. I received a BA degree from Westmar in 1955, earning a divisional major in the natural sciences.

I farmed in partnership with my father, Robert Hodgson, for a couple of years, beginning in 1958. After a few years he and my mother Mary Hodgson retired to Le Mars. I farmed for a total of 17 years. Ardella and I became active volunteers in Berkley Bedell’s campaign for Iowa’s 6th Congressional District for US Congress in 1974. Upon his successful election the Congressman asked me if I would be willing to become a member of his staff as farm advisor. After a great deal of thought and family discussion I accepted his offer and was a member of his staff for 14 years until he retired. The final years with Berkley my staff responsibilities were broadened and I was named Director of his Iowa offices in addition to continuing my duties as farm advisor.

Upon learning Berkley was retiring in 1986 I ran as the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, the office he previously held. My opponent was Fred Grandy from Hollywood, California. Mr. Grandy won by less than a 51 percent margin. I then worked on the staff of Senator Tom Harken for two years.

I entered retirement in 1995 after five years as sales representative for Gateway Computers, working at their home office in North Sioux City, South Dakota.

Tell me about your involvement with the Democratic Party:

I feel strongly that activity in a political party is a normal ongoing responsibility of all citizens who vote. Anyone who only shows up on Election Day is no different than a person who professes to be a Christian and yet only attends church services on Christmas and Easter.

Tell me about your involvement on any boards, with clubs, etc.:

While farming I served as a member of the Plymouth County Extension Service County Council, also a member of the Plymouth County Farm Bureau, Merrill-Stanton Evangelical Church, Plymouth County Cyclists, Plymouth County Democrats, United Methodist Church of Le Mars, National Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE), American Red Cross disaster volunteer, 4-H, and 4-H photographer leader.

Tell me about any awards or commendations you’ve received:

Sharp shooter award (US Army), 4-H and vocational agriculture ribbons at the Plymouth County Fair, named one of three outstanding Plymouth County young farmers in 1967, named outstanding agriculture promoter in 1979 by the Le Mars Chamber of Commerce, outstanding Red Cross disaster services volunteer (I even have the coffee cup to prove it), and honored by being awarded the Distinguished Service Award from Westmar University Alumni Association in 1997.

Tell me something not many people know about you:

Lifestyles invariably change as couples move into their retirement years. Our lives have changed a great deal. The thirty years of Ardella’s diabetes has, among other things, caused her to lose her vision and much of her endurance. I am the new cook and bottle washer (with an electric dishwasher hand dishwashing is pretty much old hat). Cooking has been a new developing skill, and I kind of enjoy it, with mostly good results. I even trade recipes with the girls.

Tell me what you’re most proud of:

This has to be family. It’s awesome for two people to marry, form a union and produce, over the years, four wonderful and healthy children, and then watch that process repeat again and again, intrigued that each child, grandchild, and great-grandchild inherited some of their physical characteristics from both of us.

Who is your biggest hero, past or present? Berkley Bedell has been my greatest hero since the day he honored me with an invitation to be part of his Congressional staff. I have watched him close-up, now consider him a good friend, and even at 95 years of age and deteriorating health he has a continuing passion to make our nation a better place, his latest project working with similarly aspiring college age youngsters, encouraging them to consider government service as an honorable career.

How long have you been active in your favorite causes and/or community in Iowa?

When I was in the sixth grade during the autumn of 1944 World War II was every American’s fight. Speed limits were 35 mph, and anyone seen driving faster was deemed a bad citizen. The war effort even recruited rural students in all the one-room schools in Iowa. We were informed that kapok, the material used in flight jackets of Army Air Force pilots, was in short supply and an alternative material that would float was desperately needed. Milk weed pods were chosen as the perfect material to replace kapok. Thousands of burlap bags were distributed to rural students all across Iowa and we were asked to hunt mature milk weed pods, store them in the bags, and allow them to dry out. That fall we spent three to four hours every week walking through corn fields searching for the lifesaving pods. The filled bags were counted and schools in each township competed to be the winner. Stanton #5 received the award in our township. We were one proud school.

Were there any significant hurdles or fears you had to face over the years?

The years of World War II were a desperate time, and even though a young child (in third grade when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941), we were all expected to do our part. We were given the silhouetted designs of the German and Japanese airplanes, both fighters and bombers, and told to study them repeatedly until we had the shapes of those planes well in mind. Then we were asked to keep our eyes on the skies and to report any sightings immediately.

Having the Air Force base in Sioux City (presently the 185th Air National Guard) brought thousands of US war planes to the area during the war, and we became accustomed to the sound of dull drones of squadrons overhead. Many of the larger squadrons often numbered 50 to 100 planes, and we quickly learned the models of all those fighters. I think my schoolmates would agree that the P-38 was our favorite.

Tell me your favorite quote:

“It’s nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.”

– Tip O’Neil, Speaker of the US House of Representatives 1977-1987.

To meet Clayton and many other interesting Plymouth County Democrats, come to our monthly meetings, held the 3rd Monday of the month (locations announced via email, on KLEM 1410 AM, and in the Le Mars Daily Sentinel)

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