Claude Kitchin
Claude Kitchin.jpg
House Minority Leader
In office
Preceded byChamp Clark
Succeeded byFinis Garrett
Leader of the House Democratic Caucus
In office
March 4, 1921 – March 4, 1923
Preceded byChamp Clark
Succeeded byFinis J. Garrett
House Majority Leader
In office
Preceded byOscar W. Underwood
Succeeded byFrank W. Mondell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1901 – May 31, 1923
Preceded byGeorge H. White
Succeeded byJohn H. Kerr
Personal details
Born(1869-03-24)March 24, 1869
Scotland Neck, North Carolina
DiedMay 31, 1923(1923-05-31) (aged 54)
Wilson, North Carolina
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materWake Forest College

Claude Kitchin (March 24, 1869 – May 31, 1923) was an American politician who served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from the state of North Carolina from 1901 until his death in 1923. A lifelong member of the Democratic Party, he was elected House majority leader for the 64th and 65th congresses (1915–1919), and minority leader during the 67th Congress (1921–1923).

As World War I shifted the federal government's focus to foreign policy, Kitchin became increasingly alarmed by the prospect of U.S. becoming a combatant. In April 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany, Kitchin delivered an impassioned speech on the House floor and then voted no.

Early life

He was born in 1869, near Scotland Neck, in Halifax County, North Carolina in 1869, the third of 11 children born to William H. and Maria Arrington Kitchin.

Kitchen attended Wake Forest College, graduating in 1888. Afterward, he read law and served as assistant registrar of deeds in the county. He was admitted to the bar in September 1890.

During the 1890s, Kitchin helped mobilize the Red Shirts, armed groups of militant white supremacists who rode through rural communities dissuading blacks from voting. These groups functioned as an arm of state's Democratic Party, and it was his effectiveness during the run-up to the 1896 and 1898 elections that gave rise to his congressional career.

In 1898, Kitchin helped lead the Wilmington insurrection of 1898, a violent coup d'état by a group of white supremacists. At a November 1 rally in Laurinburg, Kitchin was cheered by a crowd of several thousand whites when he proclaimed, "We cannot outnumber the negroes...And so we must either outcheat, outcount or outshoot them." He announced that any black constable attempting to arrest a white man would be lynched.[1] On the day after the election, white citizens of Wilmington expelled opposition black and white political leaders from the city, destroyed the property and businesses of black citizens built up since the Civil War, including the only black newspaper in the city, and killed an estimated 60 to more than 300 people.[2]

Congressional career

Kitchin was first elected to Congress from North Carolina's 2nd district in 1900. He was re-elected 11 times, serving until his death.

In Congress, he served on the House Ways and Means Committee, chairing the Committee from 1915 to 1919. From 1915 to 1919 he was House majority leader; from this position he opposed the Wilson administration's "Preparedness" crusade, seeking unsuccessfully to hold down the growth in size of the army and navy.

He was among the few members of Congress who voted against the U.S. declaration of war on Germany in April 1917 (approved in the House 373–50 by the House, and 82–6 by the Senate). Afterward, he fully supported the war effort, though he remained a critic of some of the administration's war policies, especially regarding taxation policies. He championed an "excess profits" tax that was steeply progressive over a policy of selling Liberty Bonds that shifted the financial burden of the war onto future generations.

Family and death

He married Kate Mills in 1890; they had ten children. His brother William Walton Kitchin was governor of North Carolina from 1909 to 1915.

After giving an impassioned speech in March 1920 he suffered a severe stroke, from which he never fully recovered. During the winter of 1922–23 he contracted influenza and pneumonia, and, died from complications on May 31, 1923. He is buried in Scotland Neck, North Carolina at the Trinity Episcopal Cemetery.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Zucchino, pp. 137
  2. ^ "RACE QUESTION IN POLITICS:North Carolina White Men Seek to Wrest Control from the Negroes". New York Times. October 24, 1898.
  3. ^ "Trinity Episcopal Cemetery in Scotland Neck, North Carolina - Find a Grave Cemetery". Find a Grave.


U.S. House of Representatives Preceded byGeorge H. White Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina's 2nd congressional district 1901–1923 Succeeded byJohn H. Kerr Preceded byOscar W. Underwood Alabama House Majority Leader 1915–1919 Succeeded byFrank W. MondellConnecticut