C. Douglass Buck

C. Douglass Buck
C. Douglass Buck
United States Senator
from Delaware
In office
January 3, 1943 – January 3, 1949
Preceded by James H. Hughes
Succeeded by J. Allen Frear, Jr.
Governor of Delaware
In office
January 15, 1929 – January 19, 1937
Preceded by Robert P. Robinson
Succeeded by Richard C. McMullen
Personal details
Born March 21, 1890(1890-03-21)
New Castle, Delaware
Died January 27, 1965(1965-01-27) (aged 74)
New Castle, Delaware
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Alice du Pont
Residence New Castle, Delaware
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania
Profession engineer
Religion Episcopalian

Clayton Douglass Buck (March 21, 1890 – January 27, 1965) was an American engineer and politician from New Castle Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware. He was a veteran of World War I and a member of the Republican Party, who served two terms as Governor and one term as U. S. Senator from Delaware. He was known by his middle name.


Early life and family

Buck was born at "Buena Vista" near New Castle, Delaware, son of Frances N. and Margaret Douglass Buck. His father was from Philadelphia and his mother was descended from U.S. Senator John M. Clayton. He married Alice du Pont, daughter of U.S. Senator T. Coleman du Pont, and they had two children, Clayton Douglass, Jr. and Mrs. Dorcas Van Dyke Farquhar. They were members of Immanuel Episcopal Church in New Castle. He was educated at the Wilmington Friends School and the University of Pennsylvania Engineering School, serving some in the U.S. Army during World War I.

Professional and political career

By the early twentieth century the Du Pont Company had become one of world’s major corporations, bringing enormous wealth to its owners and providing employment and other opportunities to their native state. One of the three key owners of the company was T. Coleman du Pont, a capable, energetic and ambitious man, who was also Buck’s father-in-law. Du Pont had a vision of a super highway running the length of Delaware, and the ambition, talent, and money to make it a reality. Construction began in 1917 and in that same year a new State Highway Department was established to oversee the work. Nevertheless, du Pont continued to pay the bills, amounting to $4 million by 1924. With his engineering education and family connections, Buck was assigned to work on the project, becoming Chief Engineer in 1921 and remaining in the role until 1929.

Governor of Delaware

Buck was elected Governor of Delaware in 1928, defeating Democrat Charles M. Wharton. During this term the New York Stock Market crashed, signaling the beginning of the Great Depression. Fortunately, about the same time, Alfred I. du Pont had begun an effort to provide financial relief to those in the most need. Having failed to get such relief enacted by the Delaware General Assembly, on November 1, 1929 du Pont began mailing out personal checks of $16 to some 800 people. After spending some $350,000 of his own money, du Pont, appointed by Buck as Chairman of the Old Age Welfare Commission, persuaded the General Assembly to take over the program in late 1930. As the economic situation continued to worsen, Buck called the General Assembly into session in November 1932 and also persuaded them to pass a $2 million emergency relief measure.

Buck was elected to a second term as Governor in 1932, defeating Landreth L. Layton, the Democratic candidate, thereby becoming the first Governor to be reelected under the Delaware Constitution of 1897. In doing so he was one of only two Republican Governors elected that year, while Delaware was one of only five states voting to reelect U.S. President Herbert Hoover. In June 1932, Delaware became the seventh state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages. Governor Buck appointed State Tax Commissioner Pierre S. du Pont to head up a new State Liquor Commission to manage and tax the new products.

Buck continued to seek relief for the distressed state and in October 1933 called the General Assembly back into session to consider borrowing money from the Federal government. Once it was clear the General Assembly would never reach agreement on this measure, Buck took the unprecedented step of adjourning their session. Shortly thereafter teachers and state employees began taking reductions in their pay. In 1935 Buck had the State Highway Department assigned responsibility for the roads in the state that had formerly been maintained by the counties.

Delaware General Assembly
(sessions while Governor)
Year Assembly Senate Majority President
pro tempore
House Majority Speaker
1929–1930 105th Republican William A. Simonton Republican Charles W. Messick
1931–1932 106th Republican William A. Simonton Republican Bud Coy
1933–1934 107th Republican William A. Simonton Democratic Julian T. Robinson
1935–1936 108th Republican Levi G. Maloney Republican Harry V. Lyons

United States Senator

Several years later, in 1942, Buck was elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating Democrat E. Ennalls Berl, a Wilmington lawyer. During the 80th Congress he was Chairman of the District of Columbia Committee. Buck lost his bid for a second term in 1948 to Democrat J. Allen Frear, Jr., a businessman from Dover, Delaware. From 1953 until 1957 he was the Tax Commissioner of Delaware, another position held frequently by a member of the Du Pont family.

Death and legacy

Buck died at Buena Vista near New Castle and is buried in the Immanuel Episcopal Church Cemetery at New Castle.

Remaining a conservative Republican to the end of his life, he backed Ohio U.S. Senator Robert Taft and Arizona U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater. His home, Buena Vista, was donated to the State of Delaware and is now used as a conference center. There is a Buck Road, in Greenville, Delaware.


Elections are held the first Tuesday after November 1. The Governor takes office the third Tuesday of January and has a four year term. U.S. Senators are popularly elected and take office January 3 for a six year term.

Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
Governor Executive Dover January 15, 1929 January 16, 1933
Governor Executive Dover January 16, 1933 January 19, 1937
U.S. Senator Legislature Washington January 3, 1943 January 3, 1949

United States Congressional service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/District
1943–1944 78th U.S. Senate Democratic Franklin D. Roosevelt District of Columbia class 2
1945–1946 79th U.S. Senate Democratic Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
District of Columbia class 2
1947–1948 80th U.S. Senate Republican Harry S. Truman District of Columbia class 2

Election results
Year Office Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1928 Governor C. Douglass Buck Republican 63,716 61% Charles M. Wharton Democratic 40,346 39%
1932 Governor C. Douglass Buck Republican 60,903 54% Landreth L. Layton Democratic 50,401 45%
1942 U.S. Senator C. Douglass Buck Republican 46,210 54% E. Ennalls Berl Democratic 38,322 45%
1948 U.S. Senator C. Douglass Buck Republican 68,246 48% J. Allen Frear, Jr. Democratic 71,888 51%


  • Carter, Richard B. (2001). Clearing New Ground, The Life of John G. Townsend, Jr.. Wilmington, Delaware: The Delaware Heritage Press. ISBN 0-924117-20-6. 
  • Cohen, Celia (2002). Only in Delaware, Politics and Politicians in the First State. Newark, Delaware: Grapevine Publishing. 
  • Hoffecker, Carol E. (2004). Democracy in Delaware. Wilmington, Delaware: Cedar Tree Books. ISBN 1-892142-23-6. 
  • Hoffecker, Carol E. (2000). Honest John Williams. Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press. 
  • Martin, Roger (1997). Elbert N. Carvel. Wilmington, Delaware: Delaware Heritage Press. ISBN 0-924117-08-7. 
  • Martin, Roger A. (1984). History of Delaware Through its Governors. Wilmington, Delaware: McClafferty Press. *Munroe, John A. (1993). History of Delaware. Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press. ISBN 0-87413-493-5. 
  • Sobel, Robert; J. Racino (1988). Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States 1789-1978. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-930466-00-4. 


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