James Beauchamp Clark (March 7, 1850 - March 2, 1921), was a prominent American politician in the Democratic Party from the 1890s until his death, and was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 1912. He served as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1911 to 1919.
Clark was born in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky to John Hampton Clark and Aletha Beauchamp. Through his mother he was the first cousin twice removed of the famous lawyer turned murderer Jereboam O. Beauchamp. He graduated from Cincinnati Law School and moved to Missouri in 1875, and opened a law practice the following year. He eventually settled in Bowling Green, Missouri, the county seat of Pike County, from where he was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1892. After losing in 1894, he won again in 1896, and remained in the House until shortly before his death.
Clark ran for House Minority Leader in 1903, but was defeated by John Sharp Williams of Mississippi. After Williams ran for the Senate in 1908, Clark ran again for the position and won. When the Democrats won control of the House in 1911, Clark became Speaker.
In 1912, Clark was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, coming into the convention with a majority of delegates pledged to him. But he failed to receive the necessary two-thirds of the vote on the first several ballots, and after lengthy negotiation, clever management by his supporters, and widespread allegations of influence by special interests, New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson received the nomination instead.
Clark's Speakership was notable for two things: First, Clark's skill from 1910 to 1914 in maintaining party unity to block William Howard Taft's legislation and then pass Wilson's; and second, Clark's splitting of the party in 1917 and 1918 when he opposed Wilson's decision to bring the United States into World War I.
In addition, Clark opposed the Federal Reserve Act, which concentrated financial power in the hands of eastern banks (mostly centered in New York City). Clark's opposition to the Federal Reserve Act is said to be the reason why Missouri is the home of two Federal Reserve Banks (one in St. Louis and one in Kansas City).
Clark was defeated in the Republican landslide of 1920, and died shortly thereafter in his home in Washington, DC.
Clark's son Joel Bennett Clark served as a United States Senator from Missouri from 1932 to 1945.