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Jordan Edgar Cravens (1830–1914)

Jordan Edgar Cravens was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Third District of Arkansas in the Forty-Fifth, Forty-Sixth, and Forty-Seventh Congresses from 1877 until 1883.

Jordan E. Cravens was born on November 7, 1830, in Fredericktown, Missouri, to Nehemiah Cravens and Sophia Thompson Cravens. He was one of three sons. Seeking new opportunity, the Cravens family moved to Arkansas the year after his birth. Cravens received his early education in the local common schools, but he graduated from the Presbyterian-supported Cane Hill College in Washington County in 1850. Following graduation, he studied the law and was admitted to the state bar in 1854, opening a practice in Clarksville (Johnson County). Cravens then entered the political arena, winning election to the Arkansas House of Representatives. He served briefly in 1860, but with the onset of the Civil War, Cravens instead joined the Confederate army as a private. Cravens was promoted to colonel in 1862, and he fought until the war’s end in 1865.

Cravens resumed the practice of law and also returned to the public arena, serving as the Johnson County prosecuting attorney in 1865 and 1866. He then won election to the state Senate, where he served from 1866 to 1868. Despite his electoral success, he did not seek reelection, instead choosing to focus on his private practice. However, in 1876, in the midst of the political turmoil that marked the end of Reconstruction, Cravens sought election to the House of Representatives, winning the three-candidate race that demonstrated the divided political loyalties of the era. He won only thirty-seven percent of the vote, with fewer than 300 votes more than runner-up John McClure. Cravens, who had been the Independent Democrat candidate, moved into the party mainstream, becoming the Democratic nominee in 1878, when he won a second term. In 1880, again running as the Democratic candidate, he was reelected to a third term, securing almost fifty-eight percent of the vote over former congressman Thomas Boles. But in 1882, Cravens was defeated by local judge John Rogers in a hotly contested race for the party’s nomination.

Cravens returned to Clarksville and again took up the practice of law. In December 1885, his son died suddenly, the apparent result of an accidental poisoning. Cravens was mentioned as a possibility for governor in 1884 and in 1888 when the party, deadlocked at the convention, convened to choose a gubernatorial nominee. In 1886, he was offered the nomination of the Labor Party to run for his old congressional seat, but affirming his loyalty to the Democratic Party, as well as his support for Congressman John Rogers, Cravens dismissed the offer. In 1889, he was nominated to run for judge, and he presided over the local circuit court from 1890 to 1894. He then returned to his private practice.

Cravens died on April 8, 1914, and is interred in Oakland Cemetery in Clarksville.

For additional information:
“The Arkansas Deadlock.” St. Louis Republic, June 4, 1888, p. 4.

“Jordan E. Cravens for Judge.” Arkansas Gazette, September 7, 1889, p. 4.

“Jordan Edgar Cravens.” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=C000885 (accessed May 20, 2014).

William H. Pruden III
Ravenscroft School

Last Updated 6/23/2014

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