Babies Named for Political Figures

I know people who were named for a revered family member or someone they greatly admired, but have you ever known anyone named after a political figure?

When Clabe and Leora Wilson’s second son was born, in September 1916, it was an election year. They waited until after the election to choose baby Donald’s middle name. Woodrow.

Incumbent Democratic President Woodrow Wilson defeated “Pussyfoot” Hughes, according to Leora Wilson’s memoirs, referring to former Governor of New York Charles Evans Hughes, the Republican candidate.

Donald, Clabe, Leora, and Delbert Wilson August 3, 1917, Guthrie County, Iowa

This wasn’t the first time a family member was named for a politician. A generation earlier, before Leora was old enough to go to school, the Goff family tried to make a go of farming in Knox County, Nebraska.

Leora father, M. S. “Sherd” Goff, was a fan of Nebraska’s William Jennings Bryan, an orator and politician. Because of his faith in the wisdom of the common people, this populist was often called “The Great Commoner.”  At the 1896 Democratic National Convention, Bryan delivered his “Cross of Gold speech” which attacked the gold standard. The Democratic convention nominated Bryan for president, making Bryan the youngest major party presidential nominee in U.S. history.

When Sherd and Laura Goff’s third son was born in January 1896, they named him Jennings Bryan Goff.

J. B. Goff was one of the three Goff brothers drafted for WWII and shipped to France. All three survived.

The Goff’s “went bust” in Nebraska and returned to Guthrie County, Iowa. According to Leora Wilson’s memoirs, she and two brothers wore Bryan caps to school at Stuart.

Probably only people interested in history would have any idea that these two relatives were named for admired politicians. As an adult, Jennings Goff went by “J.B. Goff.”


  1. I suspect that naming children after prominent political figures was done more in the past than today. My grandfather was named Garfield Blaine shortly after James Garfield and James G. Blaine were big names in national politics, but I don’t know for sure that he was named for them. It is, however, an interesting possibility. (I wish I had asked more questions about such things when I was a kid!)

  2. I have more examples of that than I can count! Starting with George Washington, to James Knox Polk, to Grover Cleveland. I think that trend pretty much died off in the 20th Century, though.

  3. I love that first photo of Clabe, Leora, and the two boys, all dressed up in the bright sunshine with their jaunty hats. It looks as though they were at a train station?

  4. I love it. I’d never heard Ch Evans Hughes gag name of PussyFoot but sounds like one of the reasons he lost to Wilson, who after all, looked like the professor he had been. Love that your great uncle had Wm Jennings Bryan name. The Prairie Populist. You’re right. Only us history geeks would get a kick out this. :o)

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