Clifford Allen
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Clifford Robertson Allen (January 6, 1912 – June 18, 1978) was a
Tennessee Tennessee ( , ), officially the State of Tennessee, is a landlocked state in the Southeastern region of the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is ...
attorney and Democratic
politician A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking an elected office in government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case o ...
.


Early life and career

Allen was born in
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, and graduated from Friends High School (now Sidwell Friends) in
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He graduated from the
Cumberland School of Law Cumberland School of Law is an American Bar Association, ABA accredited law school at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, United States. It was founded in 1847 at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee and is the 11th oldest law schoo ...
in
Lebanon, Tennessee Lebanon is the county seat A county seat is an administrative center, seat of government, or capital city of a county or parish (administrative division), civil parish. The term is in use in Canada, China, Hungary, Romania, Taiwan, and the U ...
in 1931 and was admitted to the Tennessee bar the same year. He was elected to a first term in the
Tennessee State Senate The Tennessee Senate is the upper house An upper house is one of two Debate chamber, chambers of a bicameralism, bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house.''Bicameralism'' (1997) by George Tsebelis The house formally desi ...
in 1948. In 1950 he first ran for
governor of Tennessee The governor of Tennessee is the head of government of the U.S. state of Tennessee. The governor is the only official in Tennessee state government who is directly elected by the voters of the entire state. The current governor is Bill Lee (Ten ...
in the Democratic
primary Primary or primaries may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Music Groups and labels * Primary (band), from Australia * Primary (musician), hip hop musician and record producer from South Korea * Primary Music, Israeli record label Works * ...
against incumbent
governor A governor is an administrative leader and head of a polity A polity is an identifiable Politics, political entity – a group of people with a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized s ...
Gordon Browning and was defeated in a very close election where Allen's main issue was that the state should start providing free school textbooks to all school children. Running again in 1952 he was again defeated, running third ( Frank G. Clement was the winner, with Browning finishing second). Allen was seen by some as the representative of the
urban Urban means "related to a city". In that sense, the term may refer to: * Urban area, geographical area distinct from rural areas * Urban culture, the culture of towns and cities Urban may also refer to: General * Urban (name), a list of people ...
and
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forces as opposed to those whose support was largely
rural In general, a rural area or a countryside is a geographic area that is located outside towns and city, cities. Typical rural areas have a low population density and small settlements. Agriculture, Agricultural areas and areas with forestry ty ...
, such as Clement. He was also a staunch opponent of Boss Crump of Memphis, and was invariably opposed by the Crump
political machine In the politics of Representative democracy, representative democracies, a political machine is a party organization that recruits its members by the use of tangible incentives (such as money or political jobs) and that is characterized by a hig ...
. The rivalry between Allen and Clement was such that on one occasion, health inspectors shut down a downtown
Nashville Nashville is the capital city of the U.S. state of Tennessee and the county seat, seat of Davidson County, Tennessee, Davidson County. With a population of 689,447 at the 2020 United States census, 2020 U.S. census, Nashville is the List of muni ...
restaurant A restaurant is a business that prepares and serves food and drinks to customers. Meals are generally served and eaten on the premises, but many restaurants also offer take-out and Delivery (commerce), food delivery services. Restaurants vary g ...
owned by Allen, who got a court order allowing it to reopen. This was judged by Nashvillians to have been politically motivated, and the restaurant reopened to long lines. Allen was elected to the State Senate again in 1954 where he was a strong advocate for teachers and the public schools. Allen urged enforcement of '' Brown v. Board of Education''. In 1958 he again entered the Democratic primary for governor, losing to Buford Ellington, a Clement colleague who had served Clement both as campaign manager and Cabinet member. During this period of what was essentially one-party rule in Tennessee (by the Democrats in the western two-thirds of the state and by the Republicans in
East Tennessee East Tennessee is one of the three Grand Divisions of Tennessee defined in state law. Geographically and socioculturally distinct, it comprises approximately the eastern third of the U.S. state of Tennessee. East Tennessee consists of 33 County ...
), organized factions within the parties often served the role traditionally served by parties, nominating tickets of candidates who ran together, pooled their resources in
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, and generally ran for office as a unit. In January, 1957 the Tennessee State Senate refused to seat Richard Fulton, who had been elected to the seat formerly held by Allen. Fulton had run for the office in the place of his popular older brother Lyle, who had died of
cancer Cancer is a group of diseases involving Cell growth#Disorders, abnormal cell growth with the potential to Invasion (cancer), invade or Metastasis, spread to other parts of the body. These contrast with benign tumors, which do not spread. Poss ...
shortly after entering the race to succeed Allen, but was several weeks short of having reached the
constitution A constitution is the aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity A polity is an identifiable Politics, political entity – a group of people with a collective identity, who ...
ally required age of 30 prior to the beginning of the
legislative A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted with the Executive (government), executive and Judiciary, ...
session, and Allen was appointed back to this seat again.


Assessor of Property

In 1960 Allen was elected Assessor of Property for
Davidson County, Tennessee Davidson County is a County (United States), county in the U.S. state of Tennessee. It is located in the heart of Middle Tennessee. As of the 2020 United States census, 2020 census, the population was 715,884, making it the second most populous ...
. This position was (and generally still is) widely regarded as an unglamorous administrative courthouse position, little-noticed by the public except when complaints are made about increasing property assessments. However, Allen was to make it his political base for the next 15 years. In 1962, Nashville voters agreed to merge many of the functions of the former City of Nashville
municipal A municipality is usually a single administrative division Administrative division, administrative unit,Article 3(1). country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, constituent state, as well as many similar terms, are ge ...
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and those of Davidson County into a metropolitan government. While the position of assessor of property (popularly referred to as "tax assessor") was retained in the combined government, Allen decided to run for
mayor In many countries, a mayor is the highest-ranking official in a municipal government A municipality is usually a single administrative division having municipal corporation, corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as ...
of the
consolidated city-county In United States local government, a consolidated city-county is formed when one or more cities A city is a human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which ...
. Allen finished second behind long-time rival Beverly Briley, the last county judge (chief executive) of Davidson County. The new Metropolitan Charter required a runoff since no one received a majority, and Briley defeated Allen in the runoff. Allen long had positioned himself as a
populist Populism refers to a range of political stances that emphasize the idea of "the people" and often Juxtaposition, juxtapose this group against "elite, the elite". It is frequently associated with anti-establishment and anti-political sentimen ...
, a defender of the rights of the elderly,
impoverished Poverty is the state of having few material possessions or little , and "average people". He worked to make a certain amount of property held by elderly homeowners with low incomes exempt from
property tax A property tax or millage rate is an ad valorem tax on the value of a property.In the OECD classification scheme, tax on property includes "taxes on immovable property or Wealth tax, net wealth, taxes on the change of ownership of property thr ...
. The issue with which he will be perennially identified in Tennessee political
history History (derived ) is the systematic study and the documentation of the human activity. The time period of event before the invention of writing systems is considered prehistory. "History" is an umbrella term comprising past events as we ...
is undoubtedly that of "Question 3". The
Tennessee State Constitution The Constitution of the State of Tennessee defines the form, structure, activities, character, and fundamental rules (and means for changing them) of the U.S. State of Tennessee. The original constitution of Tennessee came into effect on June 1, ...
had stood unamended from 1870 to 1952, the longest any such document had ever stood such in the world. In part, this was due to the extremely difficult procedure set by the document for amendment. One of the methods permitted allowed the legislature to put on the ballot a call for a limited constitutional convention, one which would be limited to discussion and proposals on only those parts of the constitution named in the call. This procedure was limited to once in a six-year period; beginning in the 1950s conventions began to be held almost as often as allowable, and had made considerable changes in the state's basic document, such as allowing city-county consolidation as alluded to above and also for other updatings such as the extension of gubernatorial and state senate terms from two to four years, allowing legislators to be paid over and above expense money, and other similar modernizations. Allen began to shape the 1971 convention to suit his principal issue. In Tennessee, the rate of assessment to appraisal on property taxes had long varied from county to county, with some counties applying the entire rate (expressed as dollars and cents per hundred of value such as "$1.27") on the entire appraised value of a property; most others applied a percentage of it, which varied wildly (from as low as 25% to as high as 70%). This system was needlessly confusing and arcane, and made comparison of tax rates from one jurisdiction to another very difficult (which some stated was one of the prime reasons for its existence). Allen managed to explain this difficult and confusing issue in such a way as to win a large majority for the holding of a constitutional convention in which it would be discussed. It was known as "Question 3" because the legislature at the same time proposed four other constitutional sections for discussion at the same convention; however these other propositions were all voted down, limiting the scope of the convention solely to the property tax issue. Allen was aided by the existence of the six-year limit between such events; opponents of a state
income tax An income tax is a tax imposed on individuals or entities (taxpayers) in respect of the income or profits earned by them (commonly called taxable income). Income tax generally is computed as the product of a tax rate times the taxable income. Tax ...
were aware that if a convention were to be held and limited to the property tax issue, another one at which an income tax might be proposed could not be held for at least another six years. Having helped pass the call for the convention, Allen then set out to shape it to his ideas, firstly by winning election to it as a delegate while continuing to serve as assessor of property. Allen soon became the leading figure of the convention, and its proposal, which called for an assessment of 25% of appraised value on residential and
agricultural Agriculture or farming is the practice of cultivating Plant, plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of Sedentism, sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of Domestication, domesticated species created food ...
property and 40% on commercial property and even higher on utilities, was essentially Allen's plan, and was subsequently approved by Tennessee voters and remains the law as of 2012 except that the
U.S. Senate The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress The United States Congress is the legislature of the federal government of the United States. It is Bicameralism, bicameral, composed of a lower body, the ...
overrode the higher tax rate on utilities at the urging of Senator
Howard Baker Howard Henry Baker Jr. (November 15, 1925 June 26, 2014) was an American politician and diplomat who served as a United States Senate, United States Senator from Tennessee from 1967 to 1985. During his tenure, he rose to the rank of Senate Min ...
. This victory helped to assuage the defeat which Allen had suffered earlier in the year, when he lost another race for mayor. In this race Allen was shocked to have finished fourth, well short of participation in the runoff (which again was won by Briley over runner-up Casey Jenkins, a former
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projectionist who had gained notoriety largely as an opponent of forced busing for school
desegregation Desegregation is the process of ending the separation of two groups, usually referring to races. Desegregation is typically measured by the index of dissimilarity, allowing researchers to determine whether desegregation efforts are having impact o ...
). Progressives such as Allen in this election were hurt by the busing decision that was announced in the month before the election and fueled massive
white White is the lightest color Color (American English) or colour (British English) is the visual perception, visual perceptual Physical property, property deriving from the spectrum of light interacting with the photoreceptor cells of th ...
turnout for the anti-integration candidates such as Jenkins.


Congressman

In 1975 when Richard Fulton was elected mayor to succeed Briley and resigned as
Congressman A Member of Congress (MOC) is a person who has been appointed or elected and inducted into an official body called a congress, typically to represent a particular constituency in a legislature. The term member of parliament (MP) is an equivalen ...
, Allen entered the crowded Democratic primary field in the ensuing
special election A by-election, also known as a special election in the United States and the Philippines, a bye-election in Republic of Ireland, Ireland, a bypoll in India, or a Zimni election (Urdu: ضمنی انتخاب, supplementary election) in Pakistan, is ...
, and won, beating the incumbent district attorney Thomas Shriver, legislator Mike Murphy, and attorney (later federal Sixth Circuit judge) Gilbert Merritt, largely because of having far more name recognition than any other candidate and because of his populist attack on high rates being charged by local electric and gas utilities. As the Republicans had by this time given up on making serious bids for a district they hadn't won since
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, his victory in the special
general election A general election is a political voting election where generally all or most members of a given political body are chosen. These are usually held for a nation, state, or territory's primary legislative body, and are different from by-election ...
was a foregone conclusion, and he took office on November 25, 1975. Once in Congress, Allen tried immediately to establish a high profile for a freshman legislator, to the consternation of some and the disdain of others. His primary issue was the higher
electricity Electricity is the set of physics, physical Phenomenon, phenomena associated with the presence and motion of matter that has a property of electric charge. Electricity is related to magnetism, both being part of the phenomenon of electromagne ...
rates being charged by the
Tennessee Valley Authority The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a Federal government of the United States, federally owned electric utility corporation in the United States. TVA's service area covers all of Tennessee, portions of Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky, an ...
, primarily in order to finance its ambitious nuclear energy program. Allen called for the adoption by the TVA of "lifeline rates", a low,
subsidized A subsidy or government incentive is a form of financial aid or support extended to an economic sector (business, or individual) generally with the aim of promoting economic and social policy. Although commonly extended from the government, the ter ...
rate for low-income, low-volume electric users who would essentially be subsidized by the utility's major customers. TVA management objected vehemently to Allen's proposal, stating that it violated provisions of the TVA Self-Financing Act of 1959 which required all of the agency's power operations to be self-financing and unsubsidized, and would further dissuade new large customers from moving into its service area as opposed to adjoining areas where they would not be subject to such a scheme. The idea apparently was well received by a majority of Nashville-area voters, however; Allen was elected to a full term in November 1976. However, Allen was regarded by many as increasingly a relic of an earlier era; he tended to address all issues at discursive length in the tradition of Southern country lawyers. In some circles in Washington, he was given the derisive
nickname A nickname is a substitute for the proper name of a familiar person, place or thing. Commonly used to express affection, a form of endearment, and sometimes amusement, it can also be used to express defamation of character. As a concept, it is ...
"The Tennessee Talking Horse", as an indication of his perceived verbosity (a title previously held by former Memphis Congressman Dan Kuykendall). Other politicians felt that Allen might be vulnerable in 1978; several filed to run against him in the 1978 Democratic primary. However, only days before the deadline for withdrawing from the primary race, Allen suffered a massive heart attack. All but one of his opponents then withdrew from the race as they were concerned about the possible repercussions of "kicking a man when he is down". On June 11, the day after the withdrawal deadline passed, Allen died. The only candidate who didn't withdraw from the race a few days earlier, State Senator Bill Boner, thus appeared alone on the Democratic primary ballot. While one of the erstwhile opponents, Elliot Ozment, then tried to conduct a
write-in A write-in candidate is a candidate whose name does not appear on the ballot but seeks election by asking voters to cast a vote for the candidate by physically writing in the person's name on the ballot. Depending on electoral law it may be poss ...
campaign, this proved totally futile, and Boner won the nomination, and in effect, election in November. Allen died at St. Thomas Hospital from complications of a heart attack on June 18, 1978.


References


External links

{{DEFAULTSORT:Allen, Clifford 1912 births 1978 deaths Politics of Nashville, Tennessee Democratic Party Tennessee state senators Democratic Party members of the United States House of Representatives from Tennessee 20th-century American politicians