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James A. McClure

Sen. James McClure: A Life of Leadership

From Here We Have Idaho, University of Idaho Magazine, Summer 2009

Jim McClure talking on the phone at his desk
Representative Jim McClure in his office in the Longworth Office Building.

When future history books are written about Idaho, Senator James A. McClure ’50 will be regarded as one of the state’s very best citizens. University of Idaho is proud to count him and his wife, Louise ’50, among its most treasured alumni. 

The McClure political biography is impressive enough: Payette County prosecuting attorney, Idaho state senator, three-term member of Congress representing the First District of Idaho and three times elected to the United States Senate. Chronologically, he served as a U.S. Representative from 1967 to 1973 and as a U.S. Senator from 1973 to 1991. His committee assignments included the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee; Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which he also chaired from 1981 to 1987; Interior Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee; Senate Rules Committee; Senate Steering Committee; Helsinki Commission on Human Rights and Senate Republican Conference chair from 1981 until 1985. In 1987, he served on the Senate Select Committee to investigate the Iran-Contra Affair. Senator McClure donated his Congressional papers to U of I's Library Special Collections upon his retirement in 1991.

Among the accomplishments of Jim McClure’s career were his leadership in the Senate that led to the creation of the federal Department of Energy and his bipartisan work with then-Governor Cecil Andrus to create the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. 

He approached his high-profile profession with passionate dedication to Idaho and the nation, but always in a calm, reasoned and factual manner. He could be tough, but never nasty; opinionated, but never unwilling to listen to another point of view.

Jim McClure testifying in court
Senator Jim McClure testifies on a natural resource issue.

But there is more to the McClure story than the long years of distinguished service to Idaho and the nation. Jim McClure had always been a fully engaged citizen and one of the most thoughtful people in the area of public policy. Through hard work, study and desire, Jim McClure became an expert on natural resource and energy issues. From 1981 to 1987, when he chaired the United States Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he was widely regarded as the preeminent expert in Congress regarding national and international energy issues. Republicans and Democrats alike took notice — and action — when the senior senator from Idaho spoke on the connections between energy and national security and the need for smart policy about nuclear energy and controlling nuclear weapons.

Jim earned his law degree from U of I's College of Law in 1950, was a member of the Vandaleers and a member of Sigma Nu fraternity. In 1974, he was inducted into U of I’s Alumni Hall of Fame and in 1995, received the university’s Distinguished Idahoan Award, the highest alumni honor. 

Senator Jim and Louise McClure
Senator Jim and Louise McClure attend the Senatorial Trust at the U.S. Department of State.

The McClures served on the U of I Foundation and the College of Law Advisory Board. They were members of the university’s College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences Advancement Council and the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival Advisory Board. In 2001, they established the James and Louise McClure Endowment for the Sciences and Public Policy. In 2005, they received the U of I President’s Medallion in recognition of their contributions to the cultural, economic, scientific and social advancement of Idaho and its people, and their exceptional service to the state and nation. In October 2007, they served as grand marshals for the university’s Homecoming parade. Also that year, U of I recognized the McClures for their significant contributions to the university, state and nation by renaming its Bureau of Public Affairs Research as the James A. and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research.

The McClure's passion for service recalls a comment by President John Quincy Adams who said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

McClure Center

Physical Address:

Capitol Annex Ste. 116

Mailing Address:

James A. & Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research
Capitol Annex
514 W. Jefferson Street
Boise, ID 83702

Phone: 208-364-4549