By Ashley Roth
NASHVILLE, TN — New book tells the political and personal narrative of former United States Congressman.
Bob Clement’s President, Kings, and Convicts began on Clement’s bucket list. He says, “I had started the book years back, but was always too busy. Two years ago I decided to get out the old book and found two other people to help me stay on track and to make it readable.”
Clement’s memoir opens with his childhood in the governor’s mansion. His father, Frank Clement, was governor during a pivotal time in Tennessee history—one where commerce shifted from agriculture to industry, and one where civil rights tensions were particularly high. Frank Clement supported the integration of schools, a position that led to several death threats.
Frank Clement’s views shaped his son’s political lens, as did the interesting company that visited the governor’s mansion. Several key figures made lasting impressions—particularly the rehabilitated convicts employed by his father. Clement recounts, “I was just a fly on the wall, but my parents let me sit and watch. I appreciate that—so many parents tell their kids to get out while the adults do the talking.”
The convicts and Clement were joined by a young Elvis Presley when he came to visit the mansion early in his career. “Elvis’s manager lived in Nashville and called my father. He then called the penitentiary who sent out the Prisonaires—a band that included the singer Johnny Bragg who wrote, ‘Just Walkin’ in The Rain.’ Elvis got so caught up, he stayed until three in the morning. Every time Elvis came to town, he asked if could play with the Prisonaires. I have no doubt that’s where ‘Jailhouse Rock’ came from.”
Clement pursued his own political journey as an adult. He served in Congress from 1988 until 2003 and ran for the Senate and for the Nashville mayoral race in 2007. He wishes younger generations saw the good in politics and hopes his book conveys how important their voice is in our political zeitgeist. “Don’t shy away from politics,” he urges, “It’s an honorable profession and we need you.”
Clement understands why many potential voters find politics to be polluted, and offers several solutions to our political problems. He says, “I talk a lot about congress and how to fix it, how to fix America. There isn’t any problem we can’t solve by working together. We need to have respect each other. We can have a difference of opinion, without a difference of principal.” Compromise and respect are crucial factors in a functioning and healthy government, as Clement saw in his years both as a politician’s son and as a Congress member himself. He watched parties disconnect and lose the team mentality. Clement remembers, “When I served, you could reach across the aisle for help and support. Now they don’t even talk to each other.”
Money threatens our political climate too, Clement says. “It used to be you earned an election. It used to be a regular person could run and win.”
Clement hopes readers will be charmed by fond memories, but also provoked to incite change in our government, to employ politics for positive purposes. Clement’s aunt had a saying that he’s made a constant in his own vernacular and thread: “Politics build roads, builds schools, helps crippled children walk. Politics create compromise.”