Clinton P. Anderson was born in Centerville, South Dakota, on October 23, 1895, the son of a farmer. He was educated in the public school system there and attended Dakota Wesleyan University from 1913 to 1915 and the University of Michigan from 1915 to 1916. Anderson then had to quit college to support his family after his father broke his back in an accident. Diagnosed with tuberculosis after trying to enlist in the Army during World War I, Clinton moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1917, one of many thousands of tuberculosis victims who flocked to the arid Southwest during the first decades of the twentieth century. After recovering his health by 1919, he became Executive Secretary of the New Mexico Public Health Association. He there raised money to fight tuberculosis, established county health programs, and was instrumental in founding the state public health department. In 1922, he left that position to begin his own insurance company.
After achieving success in the business field, Clinton Anderson was appointed the chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party in 1928, and in 1933 was elected State Treasurer. He successfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1940, 1942, and 1944, and then the U.S. Senate in 1948. He served in the Senate until January 3, 1973. Clinton Anderson died in Albuquerque on November 11, 1975, at the age of eighty.
Anderson, a Democrat, was New Mexico’s sole representative to the Seventy-seventh through Seventy-ninth Congresses, serving from January 3, 1941, until his resignation on June 30, 1945. He then served as Secretary of Agriculture from June 30, 1945, until he left that post on May 10, 1948, to run for the United States Senate. He was successful in his senatorial bid and was re-elected to the Senate in 1954, 1960, and 1966, serving from January 3, 1949, to 1973. Anderson was an influential member of the Eighty-eighth through Ninety-second Congresses and was one of the most effective proponents of the space program during the 1950s and 1960s. Senator Anderson took a lead role in bringing the benefits of space exploration to the classroom.
Clinton Anderson’s career as a Senator was highlighted by his position as a champion of the space program. He was instrumental in funding NASA while leading the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences from 1963 to 1973. As chair of the committee during America’s most active period of space exploration, and the climax of the “Space Race” with the Soviet Union, Anderson held a key policy-making role in Washington and was one of NASA’s greatest advocates.