John Danforth


“Jack Danforth has been called attorney general, senator, special counsel, special envoy, and reverend. Today, I am very proud to name this good man and superb public servant America’s next ambassador to the United Nations.”

—President George W. Bush (July 1, 2004)

John C. “Jack” Danforth is one of the most respected politicians to ever come from the Show Me State. He is known as a man that is able to get along with anyone in any environment or political situation. His ability to bridge gaps between parties is one key to his rise in politics that eventually led to his appointment as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Location of Clayton in MissouriTHE EARLY YEARS

John Claggett Danforth was born on September 5, 1936, to a wealthy and influential family in St. Louis. His upbringing brought him into contact with many influential business and political leaders through his family’s company, Ralston Purina. He was a fifth-generation Missourian that grew up in Clayton and attended Country Day School.

After completing his secondary education, he headed for the Ivy League. Danforth graduated from Princeton University then attended Yale’s Law and Divinity Schools. He was admitted to the New York bar but decided it was time to head back to Missouri where a career in law and politics awaited him.


Danforth didn’t waste time climbing the business and political ladder once he arrived back in the Show Me State. He set up office as an attorney, but soon after he served as Missouri Attorney General from 1969–1976. During his tenure, he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1970, but eventually he won a term to the Senate six years later.

During his time in Washington, D.C., Danforth made a name for himself for his ability to find a consensus among party leaders. He took advantage of that talent by negotiating the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court.


For many people, a high-profile position in the U.S. Senate would be the top of the ladder. Danforth, however, continued to make his mark on national and world events, starting with an appointment to investigate how the FBI conducted a raid on the Branch Davidian religious compound near Waco, Texas. During that investigation, there was speculation that George W. Bush was going to pick Danforth to be his vice presidential running mate in the 2000 election. That speculation never came true, but a few years later, President Bush appointed him as special envoy to the famine and war-stricken country of Sudan. He once again rose to a high-profile position in 2004 by being appointed the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

His expert ability to negotiate and bring two sides together continues to win praise from people on all sides of the political spectrum. He has also used his high-profile career to bridge gaps between religious faiths. He continues to be one of the most influential political and religious leaders in the country while continuing to call Missouri his home.


*Danforth received honorary degrees from more than a dozen universities from across the country.

*Danforth presided over the funeral of President Ronald Reagan.

*He is an Episcopalian priest.


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Famous People From the Show Me State